In preparation for the two elections taking place in October 2019 (the first, for the mayor of the Plateau, scheduled October 6, and the second, for members of Parliament, scheduled 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. It was a 3-day 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, was in the continuity of this 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. The report Tisser le Plateau created after this process is a useful tool for raising awareness of the neighborhood issues. “A nous le Plateau” is also inspired by the openspace on actual urban practices and struggles “From Below” (Ravir la ville) organized by Dare-Dare art center in 2010.
The objective of the “À nous le Plateau!” initiative is to:
- Mobilize citizens Create an action-oriented citizens’ movement that includes people not currently participating in the activities of existing community organizations.
- Create a forum where citizens can meet, discuss, build relationships and create networks. Develop a citizens’ movement with civic values, the confidence to make a real change and a political force.
- Develop a grassroots political program. Involve citizens in the development of a grassroots program, independent of political parties and government, based on concrete proposals, through consultations and existing research (Tisser le Plateau, reports on gentrification, on Airbnb, municipal consultations, IRIS reports,…).
- Develop a permanent citizens’ assembly. One medium term goal following the upcoming fall elections is to begin regularly hosting citizens’ assemblies involving multiple levels of government — federal, provincial, municipal, and school boards.