Occupy the Sud-Ouest!

The red square movement ain’t over yet.

Yes, Parti Québécois Premier-elect Pauline Marois has promised not to raise university tuition and yes, it seems the student “strike” accomplished that goal.

But red squares are about a lot more than student strikes. The same energy students and community activists put into red square demos is being used to create community neighbourhood assemblies and keep the movement going. Arguably in Montreal a lot of this activism and community engagement began when people joined the Occupy movement.  Ideas from Occupy took form, evolved and continued with the red square movement (or at least that’s what happened with the creation of APAQs around the city, for instance, NDG’s Automous Neighbourhood Assembly).

For an idea of what I mean, this weekend residents and community groups in Montreal’s southwest (sud-ouest) sector will “occupy” their neighbourhoods by getting to know one another, exchanging knowledge and building better communities by gathering together to think up ways to improve the quality of life in their neighbourhoods.

St. Henri (Saint-Henri), for instance, was the working class setting for Gabrielle Roy’s novel Bonheur d’occasion (The Tin Flute). Lately though there’s been plenty of gentrification as industrial lofts become condos and office spaces and hip restaurants, pubs and cafés dot the main streets. But many low income residents can’t afford to participate in the new St. Henri.

The rebuilding of the Turcot includes the demolition of existing (and badly needed) housing. Many in the neighbourhood also feel the Turcot reconstruction project doesn’t adequately address safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists. Social housing, environmental and food security initiatives for low income people would help in the fight against poverty and green the neighbourhood.

Starting today at 10 a.m.,  the Sir George-Etienne-Cartier Park near St-Henri metro will feature:

  • free, all-day vegan BBQs
  • a marketplace of kiosks dedicated to activities, projects, groups, and local concerns like the Turcot reconstruction, environment/food security, and social housing.
  • 2-hour workshops will be held from 11h-18h, followed in the evening by music and movie screenings
  • a play area for children

A detailed schedule is available here

Organizers say “anyone interested  is warmly invited to hold a workshop, kiosk, or activity, and we’re happy to help you set it up.”

I worked in St. Henri for a few weeks last month and snapped some “red square” photos on my way to the metro.

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