Hard, hard, land!

Look at four cases of citizen mobilization in urban and region, as well as the challenges surrounding the inclusion of citizens in all stages of decision making.

Guts and patience, the Roman Alliance does not lack. Like the Community Action Issue Table Guardian of Pointe-Saint-Charles, the Urban Ecology Centre of Montreal and the St. Lawrence Coalition of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. In their different ways, these four pressure groups actively defend the principle of democratization of the city, the river and the river. Despite the long hours spent waiting in the antechambers of the municipal, provincial and federal, they demonstrate that it is possible for citizens to exchange the status of spectator against the decision maker.

60 football fields to citizens

The citizens of Pointe-Saint-Charles are involved in the CN site folder since the closure of factories Alstrom in 2003. The eyes of residents and developers turned to the huge industrial wasteland equivalent in size to 60 land football. According to Geneviève Grenier, Project management in the round table Action-Gardien de Pointe-Saint-Charles, the CN lands are part of the history of the neighborhood and the families of the residents worked there. This partly explains why such a large part of the population mobilized on this issue.

“How to improve the neighborhood while avoiding the trap of gentrification?”

“At the close of workshops Alstrom, we saw the center-ahead, says Geneviève Grenier. How to improve the neighborhood while avoiding the trap of gentrification? From the start, we set our priorities on the redevelopment of the land: keep our parks, build on community housing, open a cultural and community center. ”

Since the CN lands were sold to Groupe Mach and citizens negotiate farm to reach an agreement that does not will disadvantage the environment, economy and heritage of the municipality. Residents were able to participate in popular development operations run by Action Watchdog in 2004 and 2007, and public consultation controlled by the Montreal Public Consultation Office (COMP) in 2008 and 2009.

In June 2010, a development agreement was signed between the developer and the Sud-Ouest Montreal. But at the time of writing, Action-Gardien patiently awaiting news of the Executive Committee of the City, which has postponed the adoption of the agreement at an unspecified date.

“Our inevitable demands were met on paper, but we have not yet achieved concrete gains, says Geneviève Grenier. Why the time they are so long? Our requests have gone unanswered. Better communication of information would be desirable. After 8 years, we would be ready to take another step … ”

Ms. Grenier welcomes, however, perseverance and loyalty of the residents of Pointe-Saint-Charles to the cause. “It’s pretty amazing, it is a folder that does not advance quickly, but citizens remained involved throughout the process. ”

At this point, Action-Gardien is afraid to have to start work if the sponsor withdraws. “We are worried about losing our assets,” said Ms. Grenier.

“We must cultivate our garden” – Voltaire

Still in Montreal, another public consultation is being prepared, this time on the state of urban agriculture. The Working Group on Urban Agriculture (GTAU) collected more than 25,000 signatures in favor of a policy review on gardening in the city. At the time of filing the petition on November 15, the GTAU became the first group to use the right of initiative 1 . To be valid, the petition on standardized form by the City of Montreal must be signed by a minimum of 15 000 citizens aged 15 and over.

Why such success? “We worked hard! “Says Luc Rabouin Urban Ecology Centre of Montreal (MUEC), a member agency GTAU. “Agriculture is a hot topic, but what makes a real difference is undoubtedly hard work of volunteer citizens.” They roamed the streets for 90 days of the 19 boroughs of Montreal.

In the opinion of Mr. Rabouin, different forms of gardening permitted or tolerated in the city (green roofs, balconies, community gardens, islands of greenery) are not grouped in a strategic vision of the city.”The purpose of the consultation is to establish clear regulations that promote the development of urban agriculture rather than the brake.”

The GTAU also sent a letter to elected officials of Montreal asking them to show their support for a consultation overseen by COMP. According to the pressure group, the Board is the only body able to gather the resources required and to organize itinerant sessions spread throughout the City. The consultation is a collective process of reflection which will emerge a clear and shared vision of the place must have urban agriculture in Montreal tomorrow.

Is the citizen the pinion gear, the little wheel that triggers all? Undoubtedly, believes Luc Rabouin, “Change comes from citizens. They are always rendered further than politicians, who must follow them.And at the dawn of the Master Plan of Montreal, which will be revised in 2013, the major challenge will be thinking of ways to democratize the city. “Montrealers, an appointment not to be missed …

Haro on Harry

In the Maritimes, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, which is the subject of a debate on the concept of sustainable management. The St. Lawrence Coalition, whose headquarters is located in the Magdalen Islands, advocates for participatory measures increased in the folder “Old Harry”, but only to succeed at the Federal Ministry of Environment. After a long wait, the Coalition has however been able to succeed at the game.

Old Harry is a potential accumulation of petroleum or natural gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Corridor Resources Inc. holds the rights to explore and wants to go ahead with a first exploratory drilling in 2012. But members of the Coalition of St. Lawrence have claimed “Wait a minute! ”

“During the summer of 2011, we asked the federal Environment Minister Peter Kent to establish a real review panel, independent and impartial, says the spokesman of the Coalition, Danielle Giroux. Mr. Kent refused, but has in exchange mandated in that the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador, which has opted for a public hearing procedure. Despite the limited scope of this, we can say that citizen mobilization has paid off. ”

Limited in scope because the hearings will be conducted over a short period and in a half dozen cities only (two in Quebec), while the Gulf waters wet the coasts of five Canadian provinces and the natural resources they home concern over 400 coastal communities.

chemical pollution, restriction of fishing areas, migration of marine wildlife and oil spills are a few scenarios to consider, the David Suzuki Foundation and the St. Lawrence Coalition. “Newfoundland wants to drill, well it looks at us. The deposit is 6 km from the Quebec border, we could be affected, “says Danielle Giroux. That is why the Coalition has sought the intervention of public hearings on the environment (BAPE) on this issue and the establishment of inter-provincial mechanisms to achieve integrated management of Gulf resources. In the meantime, a moratorium is needed, argues the Coalition.

“To increase our mobilization force, we are constantly looking for allies in the five provinces. You know, we have real power. We have the support of elected officials, citizens, fishermen, municipalities, First Nations. Not just environmentalists! “Concluded Ms. Giroux.

It is adjusting its strategy in context, believes Luc Rabouin. “Sometimes act as partners elected, sometimes as a pressure group. “

The thunder roars in the Mingan

When discussing the topic of citizen mobilization with the spokesman of the Alliance Roman, Christopher Scott, he asserts that the conflict which exists between “idealistic environmentalist of the city” and the region is employed in a “caricature “and he intends to prove it as part of a tour in the Mingan in February 2012.

The Alliance Romaine actively protested against the construction of a hydroelectric complex of four dams on the Romaine River. A delegation will travel to North Shore to meet fishermen in Rivière-au-Tonnerre, a municipality Archipelago Mingan. Together with local partners, Christopher Scott wants to collect the signatures of hundreds of fishermen who ask to stop work on construction sites of three of the four dams. “In Minganie, several fishing communities may lose their livelihoods once the Romaine River will be harnessed. ”

While the construction of a dam n o 2 is well underway, why pursue claims? “After a period of depression following the opening of the 2009 site, activists have found the taste to fight with the release of the documentary” Seeking the Current “in 2010.” The team of developers and researchers behind the movie argues that it would cost less to public finances to implement energy efficiency measures or to produce biomass, solar, wind and geothermal that going ahead with the complex La Romaine, who may borrow Quebec.

“Do not hide it. Everything is going to play the next provincial election, “said Mr. Scott. “I tell all activists: it’s now or never to reopen the debate and participate in the efforts. It is still politically possible to stop the construction of three more dams and reduce damage. Above the dam n o 2, the ecosystem would remain intact, and downstream, big falls and salmon breeding areas would not be affected. ”

He continues: “If we had 10 more people within the Alliance, we could make the weight to the armies of PR practitioners who broadcast the arguments of the other side. We need ambassadors who feel emotionally challenged to bring the case. If we can convince the government with logical arguments, we must work differently. That citizens become active agents! ”

The task is not easy according to him, but if a project of this size and complexity was arrested by the force of a citizen movement, it would be the beginning of a series of successes. When asked how to become an active agent, Christopher Scott replied: “Go to the candidates in their offices the next election, and ask them if there is a place for energy efficiency measures in their election platform.”

A volunteer architect to enlarge the offices of elected officials?

Citizens and politicians are therefore the links of the same chain. It is adjusting its strategy in context, believes Luc Rabouin. “Sometimes act as partners elected, sometimes as a pressure group. ”

A wish of the four interviewed: that citizens are cordially invited to all stages of decision making. If pressure groups adjust their strategies and make government more inclusive of their land use policies and urban development, bet that there will be change in the years to come!