• Nick Zacharias

Reimagining society post-pandemic


Très-Saint-Rédempteur resident Katherine Massam is part of a group of 170 citizens from across the two regional MRCs of Vaudreuil-Soulanges and Beauharnois-Salaberry who have put the pandemic isolation period to good use by drafting a series of proposals to various levels of government to improve our quality of life. The proposals were delivered October 13 to area mayors, MRC Prefects, MNAs, and Members of Parliament including the office of MP Peter Schiefke (above).

The global pandemic has given us daily bad news – from deaths, to increased case counts, to seemingly never-ending shifts in what activities are and aren’t allowed as we struggle to balance minimizing risk for the most vulnerable while not newly endangering others through isolation or economic hardship. If there is a silver lining to all of the upheaval, it is that the overburdened planet got a chance to breathe, and a group of citizens from Vaudreuil-Soulanges took notice.

Thinking forward

The group of about 170 people, which spontaneously formed over Facebook, is made up of citizens from all sectors including former politicians, students, policy experts and non-experts, and parents who want to see a safer and more sustainable world for the future at large. Their goal was to take the time given by six months of confinement to reflect, and to come up with concrete solutions for social and environmental problems in a post-COVID world.

They’re calling it a social project worthy of the 21st Century.

“We were struck by the impact of the containment on air quality and nature,” said Très-Saint-Rédempteur resident Katherine Massam, one of the project’s participants. “At the same time, the pandemic reminded us of the fragility of our system. So we began to imagine a world with less pollution, where our food would not travel thousands of kilometres before ending up on our plate.”

Anne Minh-Thu Quach, who served for eight years as NDP Member of Parliament for Salaberry-Suroît, is another member of the group. Said Quach, “We wanted to offer concrete and positive proposals to help our elected officials to take courageous decisions favourable to the common good.”

Targeted solutions

On October 13, members of the group hand delivered copies of their recommendations to all levels of government, including area mayors, members of federal and provincial parliament, and the offices of the Municipalité régionale de comté (MRC) for Beauharnois-Salaberry and Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

The recommendations focused on agriculture, gardening, energy, family and more, and the packages were put together to target officials specifically on areas over which they have jurisdictional control.

Of the many pages of recommendations, from the local to the national level, some highlights include:

  • That municipalities allow the raising of chickens and the cultivation of vegetables in front of houses

  • That municipalities reserve green spaces for community gardens, and that day camps teach children how to cultivate them

  • That municipalities favour contractors who demonstrate energy efficiency

  • That Quebec adopts policies favouring family farms, and promotes the availability of communal greenhouses heated with hydroelectricity

  • That Quebec refuses the LNG terminal project in the Saguenay Fjord for the liquefaction of shale gas

  • That Canada adopts a strategy to decarbonize the economy and replace fossil fuels with more sustainable alternatives

  • That Canada adopts a policy of buying local food

  • That Canada and Quebec analyze the work and the value of unpaid work by women and caregivers, and that a way be established to remunerate this work

A lot to think about

The highlights above (and others) are presented in the documents in greater detail, including substantial supporting evidence and specific strategies.

"We sincerely hope that elected officials appreciate this work, that they enter into a dialogue with citizens and that they listen to proposals,” said Marianne Renauld Robitaille, who helped draft the recommendations. “Above all, we hope that this work will be the catalyst for the implementation of public policies and initiatives that will promote environmentally friendly and economically responsible behavior changes. We have to wake up and make a 180-degree turn to avoid heading straight into a wall. There are solutions, and that’s what we have offered to our decision makers. The ball is in their court.”