“Community therapy” needs a legal arm

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Two news items just arrived from different sources covering similar subjects: MRC

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Two news items just arrived from different sources covering similar subjects: MRC
Pontiac’s plans for a 2020-2030 Strategic Planning Update, followed by an invitation from l’Institut du Nouveau Monde for a “Citizens Constitutional Forum”, with West Quebec’s forum on February 18 in Wakefield. Could the Pontiac do both – for the Pontiac (not for Québec)?
The MRC’s plan is for “community therapy”, an interesting idea in itself, which would set Pontiac’s largely economic priorities for the coming decade. The INM’s forums, in 11 sites across Québec, appear to cover more legalistic than economic matters – how to draft and create a “constitution” for the province.  Each INM session has 6 workshops covering subjects from citizens’ rights and responsibilities to government’s functions and jurisdictions.
These two community therapy-sessions are not mutually exclusive; couldn’t they each function better if, here, they were held together?
And since the INM operates on broader territory, wouldn’t
it be interesting to frame the Pontiac plan as not only economic planning, but
something as eye-catching as a “Pontiac Constitutional Forum”?  That sounds dangerously political, but we recall this is solely for the Pontiac, and our history has sidestepped the strident political conflict elsewhere.  Couldn’t a “constitution” for the Pontiac be therapeutic, stimulating and cooperative?
First, as a political statement, one directed to higher governments, not in terms of creating new jurisdictions, but in terms of making Pontiac’s concerns and ambitions unavoidably clear within the political gamesmanship of federal and provincial domains. Second, as our statement in case of emergencies – from a renewed independence movement to any horrendous disaster. More than flooding — something like the disaster scenario sketched in the Journal’s Christmas story (December 19, 2018), or the possible Chernobyl-sized disaster from Chalk River’s proposed radioactive dump.  And, third, more manageable, for promotion and recruitment of investment: a “Pontiac Constitution” could clearly state our region’s principles and values — everything from the rights of female, Indigenous, and rural working peoples to our environmental and human-resource values.  The document would become our go-to statement for managing social questions or disputes.
We can easily imagine how more social cohesion and a greater sense of community could help us develop – along the lines we ourselves favour, not necessarily those that generate profit for distant corporate boards. Imagine the time and energy we could save by sidestepping the usual bickering and blanket-pulling every time a project arises.
The process of creating a Pontiac Constitution could generate a real sense of
ourselves – a feeling that we share more with our neighbours than those elsewhere. We often hear how we can help our local economy by shopping at home, just that, and this new sense of ourselves as one big community might make such efforts easier and more pleasurable than today’s ritual of driving out of the Pontiac.  This process could mobilize Pontiac people to think of our own collective future, a cooperative one.
A Pontiac Constitution could help us protect our resources by, minimally, paying better attention to them before we find them shipped away. We’d value the beauty, the richness and fruitfulness of our resources, schools and shops, workshops and garages.  Appreciating what we have may help uncover the talent here which is divided up by our official designation as a pocket of 18 small municipalities, occasionally more hostile to each other than helpful.
As the world moves closer together, we must pay attention and assess our strengths and assets to avoid being further atomized into the billion tiny shoppers which an Amazon-designed world is driving us toward.  Pontiac is more than shoppers, more than recipients of decisions from higher regimes. Let’s make our case – and celebrate it with a name, the Pontiac’s Constitution.