French-only meet keeps farmers in the fields
Last week the MRC Valley Gatineau convened a meeting of farmers in Low to commence discussions regarding a future five-year Agriculture Development Plan. Rarely does the MRC or our municipality consult with the people so this was a positive idea, yet it totally failed because of its divisive and discourteous approach.
Most farmers in Low never knew about the meeting. And the few who did know did not come because the meeting was advertised to be presented in French only.
Registration was obligatory using the “QR” code not understood by most farmers. Low’s unconcerned mayor Carol Robert had approved the whole approach.
At the meeting, an “English” table was separated from about eight “French” tables. Four English farm owners, one bilingual, were seated at the English table with two bilingual ladies, one of whom was to interpret the speaker’s presentation for us. This proved to be impossible as she could not keep up with the speaker without interrupting the meeting. Frustrated with this and with virtually no attendance of Low farmers, two of us at the “English” table walked out.
A councillor from Kazabazua, where there are also many English farmers, told us that he had not been aware of the meeting. No English farmers from Kazabazua attended.
No councillors from Low or Kazabazua attended. Low’s mayor had looked on voiceless. At the door, the MRC prefect Chantal Lamarche, who does not speak English and who was accompanied by a policeman, looked upon the two of us with disgust. Low is designated as a bilingual municipality.
Since the meeting, several angry farmers compiled a list of all of the farm land owners we could think of whose land is situated in Low. These total over 150 with less than 10 per cent being primarily French-speaking, yet bilingual. These numbers do not include the many, mostly English Kazabazua farm land owners. Many of the francophones at the other tables were not from Low.
Simply put, almost all of the vast number of Low farmers were excluded from the consultation. The MRC and our mayor/council will nevertheless declare the outcome a success.
This month the MRC has scheduled two public meetings to discuss waste management including door-to-door composting. All French presentations. For more than a century, the wonderful English and French people of Low and District have lived in harmony. We do not want the MRC and our mayor to interfere with this.
Steve Connolly is an engaged resident in Low who is frustrated with French-only municipal meetings.