In preparation for the two elections taking place this October (for the mayor of the Plateau on October 6 and for members of Parliament on October 21), a group of community organizations in Montreal joined together to initiate a series of citizens assemblies under the umbrella known as From the Ground Up, or À nous les Quartiers. The first event was an international conference held at the Canadian Center for Architecture in June 2019. The citizens assembly taking place on September 28, 2019, À nous le Plateau, is the coalition’s second event.
The collaborators aim to provide a space for participatory democracy, where citizens will meet, discuss issues and propose solutions that the electoral candidates and elected representatives will be invited to address afterward. It is the opposite of a candidates’ debate in which the audience is expected to passively listen. The inspiration for this type of meeting arose from a March, 2019 visit the Citizens’ Committee of Milton Park (CCMP) made to a number of town meetings in Vermont, to learn about their 400-year-old tradition of direct democracy.
The “A nous le Plateau!” Initiative is also a follow-up to the “Tisser le Plateau” social development process initiated in 2018 by the Community Development Corporation Action Solidarité Grand Plateau (CDC ASGP). This process involved consultations and coffees between community-based organizations and citizens, resulting in a report of the same name. Tisser le Plateau is a useful tool for raising awareness of neighborhood issues.
The objectives of the “À nous le Plateau!” initiative are to:
- Mobilize citizens Create a citizen action movement that includes people not currently participating in activities of existing community organizations.
- Create a forum where citizens can meet, discuss, build relationships and create networks. Develop a citizen movement with civic values, the confidence to make a real change and a political force.
- Develop a political program by the grassroots Involve citizens in the development of a grassroots program, independent of political parties and government, based on concrete proposals, using existing research and consultations (Tisser le Plateau, reports on gentrification, on Airbnb, municipal consultations, IRIS reports,…).
- Develop a permanent citizen assembly. A medium term goal following the fall elections is to regularly host citizen assemblies with multiple levels of government — federal, provincial, municipal, and school boards.