"The day is short, the agenda is long, the work continues and
the dream shall never die."-
The past several months have been an extremely busy and gratifying time for us that saw dramatic results on issues covering the breadth of the agenda of social justice that we have committed ourselves to. We have launched or concluded some half dozen societal initiatives. Our website has been updated to include reviews of these events and this letter will give you a compelling overview. I urge you to take a few moments to read it.
1. We concluded an agreement with several corporations in the food industry and their respective unions to fund in-perpuity donations to the Québec Moisson food bank network that will allow it to substantially increase the number of people it serves from the current 300,000. We have already started shipping some 50,000 pounds of meat a month and when all companies come on board that figure should be up to 100,000 pounds. By freeing up other resources in the Moisson network it could mean that an additional 100,000 people will be helped each year in Québec alone. We are now negotiating a national agreement of the same type through the Canada Meat Council. No government money was requested in this effort and not one single cent of administrative costs was added to the Moisson network's current costs.
Please see "To Afflict the Comfortable and Comfort the Afflicted" at
2. We brought together a coalition of union funds and private investors willing to put up money at below 10% returns in order to construct the largest affordable social housing projects ever attempted in Montreal. Habitations Louis-Laberge I & II will see some 2000 units constructed in the two poorest districts on the island---Cote des Neiges and Hochelaga Maissoneuve. We are well into the negotiations with Municipal authorities on all the permits and zoning necessary and hope to begin in the spring. These projects will be among the largest non-transport infrastructure projects in Montreal in some twenty years. The scope of what we are attempting has caught the interest of the new Ontario government and we will soon be meeting with Public Works Minister David Caplan to discuss the feasibility of a similar project for Toronto.
Please see "Habitations Louis-Laberge: 2500 Social Housing Units for Montreal" at
3. We launched the Institute's Centre for Democratic Development with a remarkable evening with Irshad Manji. This Centre will actively lobby the Canadian government for a foreign policy geared clearly at a more active engagement in the expansion of freedom in the international order in partnership with our traditional allies. It will seek to chart a new course toward unequivocal support for the strengthening of democratic institutions and movements the world over and away from Canada's policies of moral relativism and multilateralism. We have already had initial meetings with members of the new Martin government and are preparing a position paper for submission to DFAIT and Cabinet. The Centre will also make Canadian experts available to go abroad. Social justice does not stop at our borders and is not a clarion call on the domestic agenda alone.
You can see a brief review of the opening event on the Front Page section of our website and we would invite you to read
"Democracy Without Borders" at
4. The Institute was approached to intervene in an extraordinary number of cases of abuse of power by government agencies over the past six months. These cases also involved infringement of privacy protection guarantees now on the books. This led us to compile drafts of amending legislation for both the Provincial and Federal levels. We are in discussions on the Quebec side and will soon be sending proposed amendments to existing privacy protection laws to the Federal Department of Justice. For an overview of the problem and our involvement please see
"State Rape: The Scandal of Public Intrusions into Private Lives" at
5. As many of you know we act as advisors to several international unions in the FTQ. We were never prouder of our involvement with organized labor than when we participated in some of the co-ordinating meetings for the recent "Days of Disruption". Due to our prior commitments to the launching of the Institute's Centre for Democratic Development we could not play a larger role, but we firmly believe that at a time when the agenda of social justice demanded activist character and conscience in place of pious excuses for inaction, labor met that demand. As much on the issues of the quality of workers' lives and the self-respect of Quebecois as on the quantity of their paycheques and the political differences with the current government.
Please see "Days of Rage: The People March" on the Front Page of our website as well as Janet Bagnall's "Unions=Justice" at
6. Israel and Québec are two of the most socially progressive jurisdictions on the planet. Yet there has been a great deal of misunderstanding between the two societies notwithstanding Marcel Chaput's seminal "Guide des Patriotes" that lauded Israel as a model society. We were proud to organize and host the first ever "table de concentration" between Israeli diplomats, including the head of the North American section of Israel's Foreign Ministry, and leaders of every sector of Québec civil society. Henri Massé, President of the FTQ ,attended as did the Vice-Rectrice of the Université de Québec a Montréal, André Pratte of La Presse, Guy Bouthillier, former President of the St.Jean Baptiste Society, and many others including representatives of the Caisse du dépot, Montréal International, Hydro-Québec, and the Société generale du financement. The private sector was represented as well most notably by SNC-Lavalin. We are currently working with several of the participants on unique initiatives in the education and labor fields between Israel and Québec. As we said earlier in this report, social justice does not stop at our borders and we can all learn from each other in this global village.
For a full report of this historic encounter, in English and French, please view the Front Page section of our website as well as the text of the opening address,also in both languages,
"Pourquoi Israël?-Why Israel?" at
Beryl P. Wajsman