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The 10th anniversary of "commando-bouffe": A different kind of food fight

A different kind of food fight

Poverty in Quebec isn't going away
illustration: Eric Drooker

As the freezing winds of winter settle in across Quebec, the lives of the poorest in the province undoubtedly become more difficult, with freezing temperatures making life on the street uninhabitable and potentially deadly for the thousands of homeless in Montreal. Though faced with growing poverty rates in Quebec, Jean Charest’s Liberal government has instituted no major increases to public spending on social programs for the poor of the province.

To mark the 2007 holiday season, local anti-poverty collective Le Comité des Sans Emploi is organizing "commando-bouffe," a protest and direct action to highlight poverty in Quebec, modelled after a similar action a decade ago. Ten years ago, hundreds of activists converged on the Queen Elizabeth Hotel to "re-appropriate" or "steal," depending on whose point of view, an entire buffet in order to share it with homeless and low-income protesters participating in the protest, making headlines across Canada.

"The economic and political scene in Quebec has changed a great deal in the last 10 years," according to François Giguere, spokesperson for Le Comité des Sans Emploi. "A decade ago both the provincial and federal governments were fighting the deficit, which provided a great deal of justification for cutting social programs mainly benefiting the poor. Now, however, as deficits have been cut and governments have balanced their budgets, the situation of the poorest in society is not improving despite claims from government officials that it would."

According to Le Comité des Sans Emploi, life for the poorest in Quebec hasn’t improved, as an estimated 275,000 families per month use food banks in Quebec and 16 million meals are served on an annual basis by 971 community organizations on the island of Montreal. Staggering statistics, which have led Le Comité des Sans Emploi to organize the 10-year anniversary action of "commando-bouffe," set for Dec. 4, starting at 11:30 a.m., 1710 Beaudry.

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  2 comments

  • by Reuven De Souza - November 30, 2007, 5:06 pm

    Normally I think that this is the sort of thing that is essentially public mischief except that I can clearly remember the action a decade ago at the Queen Elizabeth. It got the required media coverage and did indeed bring attention to the problem of poverty in Quebec. It does not take a sociologist to see that things have gotten much worse in the past decade. The disparity between the haves and have-nots has greatly increased especially with the shrinking lower middle class. So I say good for Le Comite des Sans Emploi and their commando tactics to wake people up to this problem. Sometimes such actions are necessary to open people’s eyes to the issues at hand!

  • by Martin Dansky - December 5, 2007, 11:14 pm

    Every now and then you do need reminders about re-integrating less fortunate citizenry back into the gates of society. This is mentioned after having read this article and having again a report on missing women of the night in Vancouver’s poor East Side.The problem will never go away and hopefully are ability to react swiftly and efficiently won’t disappear either.

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