• Stephanie O’Hanley

TQSOI launches first-ever collective action plan


PHOTO BY THALIA CHRONOPOULOS

Citizens and community stakeholders pose for a group photo at the end of a CelebrAction event organized by the Table de Quartier Sud de l’Ouest de l’Île. The gathering celebrated the launch of the first-ever Territorial Action Plan for Social Development created collectively by the southern West Island community for the community.

It was a culmination of 40 meetings but on October 20 the Table de Quartier Sud de l’Ouest de l’Île (TQSOI) held a “CelebrAction” event at Pointe Claire’s Chalet Arthur-Séguin to launch the first-ever Territorial Action Plan for Social Development created by the southern West Island community for the community.

“We invited the community to decide the five priorities we want to focus on in the next five years,” TQSOI Director Alena Ziuleva told a roomful of people seated together at tables to discuss the different priorities. Attendees included citizens and representatives from local community groups, public organizations, city staff, and elected officials. The non-profit organization unites citizens and community stakeholders to enhance citizens’ quality of life and promote social development. Cities in its territory include Baie D’Urfé, Beaconsfield, Dorval, Kirkland, Pointe Claire, Ste. Anne de Bellevue and Senneville.

The priorities? Food security, transportation, housing, access to health and social services, and poverty and social exclusion.

In 2013 the TQSOI began collecting information and data, doing research and organizing citizen forums and discussion groups with vulnerable populations. Its social development committee analyzed findings and identified 26 community needs which 80 community members whittled down to five priorities at a meeting last year.

“Over 40 community members met at the Agents of Change meeting on March 18, 2016, where they collectively agreed to work on the first-ever social development action plan for the south West Island,” said Ziuleva. “...they held over 40 meetings to elaborate the social development action plan we are presenting today.

“Today... we’re going to move to the next stage, its implementation.” Ziuleva said. “We’re going to work on it for the next five years, all of us, because it’s our collective action plan.”

“Our vision is improved and timely access to health and social services in our section of the West Island,” said Tessa Trasler, a Pointe Claire resident who represented the Access to Health and Social Services committee. “We came up with a general objective, which is to support citizens’ viewpoints, hear what the problems are and see how we can help.”

“I think we can spend a lot of time working to fix things, but if we don’t come together as a community and give of ourselves and give our ideas, it’s not going to happen,” Trasler said.

With about 9 per cent of the population - 8,925 people - in TQSOI’s territory considered low income, the Poverty and Social Exclusion committee aims to dispel the myth that people living in the West Island are always well off. Along with helping people break the cycle of poverty, the committee’s goals include a “Making the invisible visible” public awareness campaign.

“The obstacle is if we want to make change, people have to understand there is a reality in the West Island,” said committee representative Dina Souleiman, who is Community Initiatives Director for the West Island YMCA. “We have single parent households, we have seniors living on their own, we have unemployed people, we have recently arrived immigrants.”

With food insecurity being a problem, especially for people with low incomes because of a lack of good quality, affordable food, and few grocery stores within walking distance, the Food Security committee plans to promote food security initiatives in the southern West Island. This includes supporting an initiative to tackle food waste. “You’ve heard of ugly vegetables?” asked Food Security committee rep Valérie Toupin-Dubé, who heads up the non-profit Corbeille de Pain / Bread Basket Lac-Saint-Louis. “They’re ugly but they can be loved.”

The committee talked about building a partnership around successful initiatives that includes networking and raising awareness, said Food Security committee rep Susan Weaver, who lives in Pointe Claire. “People can talk with their neighbours, with the woman at the checkout counter and make people more aware of food insecurity.”

Housing is a growing concern for young families, people with low incomes and “seniors who find it hard to keep up with their large homes,” said Housing committee rep Uzma Gilani, a resident of Beaconsfield. The committee, “found there were a lot of very creative solutions that can be replicated,” Gilani said. “Our main objective is to create a 50-year plan for the West Island to show changing demographics, as well as changing needs. All of this will require a collective effort, which would involve all stakeholders, which is the municipality, the builders, the architects, the community groups and the citizens, who have to work together.”

Representing the Transportation committee, Anne-Marie Angers-Trottier of the Concertation Ouest-de-l’Île, said, as a Pointe Claire resident without a car, she has plenty of experience with public transportation and bike paths.

“Our vision is to improve transportation in the southern West Island. A key goal? Create “…an integrated network of trains, buses and bike paths,” Angers-Trottier said.

For more information about TQSOI, consult tqsoi.org. To join a committee, phone Alena Ziuleva at (438) 938-7764 or email info@tqsoi.org.

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