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.