February marked the culmination of an interesting project developed over the last few months in the province of Québec. Launched in September, the initiative called Faut qu’on se parle (Let’s talk), organized regional consultations and kitchen-table style conversations in different regions of Québec. The initiative was aimed at examining the direction Québec seems to be headed, and to allow the province’s citizens to be involved in identifying the issues and solutions.
The group who spear-headed the initiative includes some high-profile names, but was careful to brand itself as non-partisan. It included: former student movement spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, playwright Véronique Côté, Indigenous rights activist Maïté Labrecque-Saganash, civil rights activist Will Prosper, and several other activists and public personalities.
While the tour scheduled 10 regional public consultations, the panel also encouraged the population to invite them over for kitchen-table conversations with smaller groups. The panel thought they would schedule roughly 50 of these events, but they ended up holding more than 170 across the province.
There were 10 primary questions that panel wanted to get answers to as a way of starting conversation with the people of Québec:
- Democracy: how can we take back power? 2. Economy: how can we develop a Québec based on our priorities? 3. Regions: how can we make our communities more vibrant? 4. Independence: how can we move forward? 5. Education: how can we make sure everyone can reach their full potential? 6. First Nations: how can we build solidarity? 7. Diversity: how can we live together without racism or discrimination? 8. Culture: how can we ensure a vibrant artistic creation and make sure everyone has access to it? 9. Health: how can we take care of everyone? 10. Climate: how can we kick-start the transition?
They have compiled the highlights of what they heard during the process in a new book called Ne renonçons à rien (Let’s not concede anything). It’s an essay that showcases the testimonies from the tour, and casts an optimistic look at what Quebec can and should be. The title is meant to remind people that even in hard times, people must remember where we came from, not concede anything we have gained, and not concede our hopes for the future in the battle for what we can become as a nation.
The process was innovative, led by citizens instead of political parties, and lays the foundations for a grassroots political program for the coming years in Québec.