Community development in Quebec and Canada
 The Quebec's policy of recognition and support of community action concluded, in the summer of 2000, a two years consultation process made in the Quebec province and will be the frame of the financial support for thousands of community organizations in the province. The policy is titled : Community action: A crucial contribution to the exercise of citizenship and the social development of Québec (2 Mo. pdf).

The Canada Volunteerism Initiative has produced an Accord, signed in december 2001. In October 2002, a Minister responsible for the Voluntary Sector has been appointed. Three new Centres were announced in December 2002.

We should say that the debate surrounding this accord was not as wide and profound as the one in Québec about the Recognition policy... Probably because the provincial government is a lot more important to the financing of the community organisations.

I will brush a quick landscape of the community development movements of the last thirty years (particularly in Québec) followed by a short description the institutional developments that responded, accompanied and sustained these social movements. One of these institutional being the professional training programs accessible to the community developers and activists.

Finally I should conclude this paper with some personal insight about the issues confronting the CD in Quebec, now.

A quick outlook at the development of community movement in Québec

During the seventies, support came principally from the federal (Canadian) government to the grassroots initiatives through job creation programs.

Some of these initiatives were financed repetitively for years – some of them seeding the development of public services (provincial public services ). This was the case for the day care centres; some of home care services… 

This period have seen the growing of the firsts CLSC (community local health centres) where community organizing was (in the beginning at least) seen as essential as nursing, social work and medical services. We should come back on this later.

With the eighties, reaganomics and tatcherism gain the Canadian society with the Conservative electoral victory (at the federal level) of 1984. Job creation liberal programs were slashed and replaced by “employability” development programs for the jobless.

This period saw nonetheless the rise of the new social economy where the value of  economic insertion and production incentives were more recognized by some grassroots, as also began the process of measuring the intrinsic value of the specific inputs and manners of community practices and organisations.

This is not to say that these years were not difficult : lots of grassroots closed their doors; most had a rough time adapting; but also the eighties saw rise of new sensibilities and movements : environmentalists gained in public recognition; a network of women shelters were financed on a medium term; the alternative mental health services, created in the process of desinstitutionalization (getting the fools out of the psychiatric hospitals) were among the most innovative and visible part of the community movements. Some local initiatives that would later give rise to national networks began their adventure during the eighties : les cuisines collectives (collective kitchens); economic insertion collectives; domestic care services…

In 1992, the health and social services reform (la Réforme Côté, from the name of the health minister of the time) confirmed what have been gained inch by inch during the past decennia : the services given by community organisations are essential and those organisations should be recognized as partners of the public sector.

This was the first moment of the battle of the community movements to obtain recognition without losing their autonomy.

Other defining moments of the nineties were the Bread and Roses Women national March (1995); the Quebec Summit on employment and social economy (1996); and finally, the adoption of the Community movement recognition policy, in 2000. For an « État de la situation » on the government financing of community organizations in Quebec, see this document (October 2002).

The institutional counterparts of the community movements

The community movements described were not acting in an empty space… most were coloured by the national question (particularly in the 70’) but also by the institutional and political settings which the social movement tried sometime to change, sometime to maintain or build upon… 

This is not the place to dig so deep the factors explaining the nature and purpose of the Québec national fabrics that are making the distinction between Canadian and Québécois societies. Suffice to say that national movements as well as political and civil society’s institutions are to be taken into account if we want to understand the social movement itself.

The sixties have seen a Quiet Revolution in Quebec : this was the name given to the rapid expansion of the Quebec’ state apparatus. In part as a way of gaining on a general lag the Quebec of the 50’s has cumulated in the economic sector as well as social, intellectual… The Quiet Revolution was freeing the province from a catholic and conservative governance that had constrained the development for too long. A movement of modernization that coincide with one of national affirmation : the schools and hospitals that were under the religious authority were laicised and nationalized as well as electricity was also nationalized during these years. National collective economic tools were also developed, notably through the public pension funds that were kept in the provincial hands where in other Canadian provinces it was administered by the federal government.

So this was the institutional and national context of the creation of one of the most original and sustaining effort in community development from the part of Quebec government : the CLSC’s (centre local de services communautaires) network.

Conceived as a multidisciplinary institution, where social services, community organization services and health services are delivered on a small local territory facilitating community participation, empowerment and social development.  Should we emphasize the fact that this was the early 70’s : quite an innovative move, was it.

Yes, so innovative that it took 15 years to complete the initial plan, after lots of watering down… particularly on the side of medical services, where doctors did not liked very much the salaried status they had in the CLSCs… so they developed private medical clinics (always 100% publicly financed) independent of the other, more state controlled network.

During the last 30 years, the CLSCs employed a network of 450 professional community organizers who were working at the local level, in the field of health, understood in a wide sense : as well local housing as children care facilities, or environmental and community development issues were seen as part of the “global and preventive health conception” that was promoted by CLSCs. (For a more elaborate presentation on CLSC)

Beside CLSC, often with the help of the their community organizers, other institutional networks were built : alternative mental health resources, women centres, youth centres, children daycares were developed during the eighties; the nineties saw the development of the network of local development centres as a result of the regional and local development policy, network of community development centres... There is 2785 community organizations (french only) in the directory of the SACA (Secrétariat à l'action communautaire autonome). These are those only organizations that are being financed by one or the other department (ministère) of Québec's government.

As well as government agencies networks (local development centres, local health centres...) autonomous community networks were developed being ways of supporting local groups, initiatives and community actions. As I said at the beginning, the community the Quebec's policy of recognition and support of community action is the result of pressures from thousands of community groups and networks to gain recognition and financial on a more stable basis than before.

The price to pay for that ?  Probably more planned and centralized processes. But also something that is still not clear in the outcomes : will recognition and financial stability be the opening of an institutionalization process that could reduce the innovative and flexible qualities of the community movement ? Even if this would be true this could not be a too high price to pay for quality jobs in the community organizations where real expertise could be built. And this question of the risks of "bureaucratization" associated with stability of financing is not new !

Issues confronting the community development professions

Let's be clear on a point : even if thousands of jobs have been created in community groups and organizations, all of these are not in community development ! Most of them are still unqualified jobs. Most of community organizations have been defined and financed until now on a quite narrow field of intervention... and this process is not to be inversed by the 'departemental rattachment' engaged under the recognition policy's implementation.

One of the challenge of the years to come for the CD professionals : how to sustain the "good" institutionalization of the community sectors (better jobs, better recognition, better services) without reducing the democratic participation and innovative capacity that have qualified the community ressources and organisations untill now.

Community and local organisations will have to learn to deal with more plans and evaluations; more qualified personals; more permanent employees... Public sector is more and more integrating the community ressources (as well as those from the "social economy")  in his planifications.

Even if these developments are challenging the traditional way of community practices, they are probably supported by workers of the sector as well as by the citizens-users.

This evolution is a gain in term of services offering and working conditions. It should be also a gain in term of capacity (democratic, personnal expression, local development...) for the locality (or social group).

Certainly people excluded and left out from these development will have to be supported and accompanied to express their will, their needs... changing and  challenging the rules.

Changing and challenging the rules will also be the duty of those "included" in the new institutional or para-instutitional settings : new rules should be elaborated in cross-departemental collaborations; in the roles and powers devoluted to the users...

The training of community organizers

Most of the universities have their Social Work departement or Social Services School. Most of these  departements have a Master degree in SW. One of the universities have a Doctorate degree in Community organizing (Laval University, in Quebec city). See the RUFUTS directory. See also the report on Social work in Canada.

The fact that community organization is an end of first degree specialization : mostly students are following the same path - individual services social worker as well as community organizers - just at the end, for the field practices, and probably through some of the non-mandatory academics -  the collective practicionner is distinguishing his curse.

Other centres of training in CD are also important :

Also, some centres in cooperative management, or other, have been seminal and instrumental in important recent developments, on the "new social economy" notably

(to be continued)