The Carré Casgrain, vacant lot at the end of a green alley in the Rosemont-Petite-Patrie borough in Montreal, is appropriated by a committee of residents from neighboring streets to meet up, garden together and organize events. .
Mission and purpose
The residents of the neighborhood came together around the greening project of a vacant lot, the Casgrain square, in Montreal. The layout of the space meets several objectives:
- remove dirt and danger;
- use the space for urban agriculture and greening;
- create beauty and link between neighbors, unite around a project and open it up to the city [i].
The place bringing together permaculture mounds, rest areas and a street library has been appropriated by the neighborhood and activities are organized there to liven up the space. By meeting citizens around the space, exchanges are created within the district. The place thus occupies several functions: that of garden, of public place but also of concertation of the life of the district.
Origins and development
- Vacant lot: a public health problem
The Carré Casgrain land was originally a triplex that burned down a few years ago in Montreal, in the Rosemont-Petite-Patrie borough, and the private land has remained vacant since. Several citizen complaints concerning the cleanliness of the land have been filed with the City since the early 2000s.
- Creation of a green lane committee (2015-2016)
In June 2015, a collective of citizens created a green lane committee between rue Bellechasse and rue Beaubien, adjoining the land. The green lane committees are citizen initiatives supported by the boroughs of the city of Montreal, so that residents of the neighborhood can appropriate the public space and more particularly, implement projects for greening the riparian strips of public roads. The borough of Rosemont-Petite-Patrie in which this project is taking place is the borough with the largest number of green alleys in Montreal in 2019 [ii].
The procedures with the borough lead to an authorization granted at the beginning of 2016 and flower beds dug in the lane by the Rosemont-Petite-Patrie borough in October 2016. In parallel with these activities in the lane, the committee ruelle verte, now established, is regularly called upon by the residents of the district to invest the space of the vacant land, identified as a public health problem.
- First steps in the field (2016-2017)
In the spring of 2016, a resident of the neighborhood approached the Green Lane Committee, motivated to invest the land and take care of it. A meeting is organized in the field, then workshops to create gardening tubs are conducted during the year. In the summer of 2017, a field cleaning operation is organized by the residents of the district, allowing the first season of square gardening. The green lane project therefore gained momentum when part of the committee decided to appropriate the vacant land adjacent to the lane. No official authorization has been requested from the landowner or the City for the occupation of the space. The development and greening of space positively modify the relationship of residents to vacant space [iii].
- Developments (2017-2020)
- The Casgrain square, a gardening space
Gardening is carried out in tubs, the first year, then on permaculture mounds in 2018 and finally in soil cultivation in 2019, following backfilling of the land. Landscaping was carried out in 2018, establishing cultivation spaces and facilities were installed on the ground: street library, table and benches, etc. In the philosophy of permaculture, ornamental plants and edible plants come together. Collective activities are organized and punctuate the year: from sowing, to planting and closing the garden. The place is seen as a space for urban agriculture within the district. The harvests and the space are accessible to everyone, gardener and passer-by. The group is organized in a flexible and horizontal way, with the participation of all depending on the wishes and availability. Since the space belongs to an owner, citizens of gardeners sometimes come up against issues linked to the occupation of the land.private property. Equipment is thus installed on the space by the owner or tenants, such as advertising panels or clothing recovery boxes. The latter hamper the practice of gardening and the collective mobilizes and calls on the public authorities to ensure their withdrawal. In 2019, in reaction to a land reserve status for end of park granted by the City, the owner of the land bulldozed the Casgrain square.
b. The Casgrain square, a public square [iv]
The purpose of the Casgrain Square space is to foster social ties in the community. Exchanges are created between gardeners and passer-bys, but also between residents of the neighborhood. There are many examples of spontaneous occupation of space, from dinners to improvised parties or even work meetings. To promote the reappropriation of the public space by the residents of the district, activities are regularly organized at the square Casgrain.
In 2017, musician jams are offered by an involved gardener, then many activities are organized in 2018. Improvised and spontaneous, the activities are mostly informal and involve a few participants in the project as well. only neighbors. Note in this regard the evening of Midsummer's Day which brings together residents and friends around a barbecue, but also an event of corn roast for example. In 2019, the cultural project is gaining momentum: many events are organized in the square. With the growing notoriety of the space, multiple event proposals are brought in by people outside the project. In 2019, the Casgrain square hosted concerts, a conference on zero waste, film screenings and a parade. These projects are often carried out in conjunction with community or cultural organizations.
vs. Le Carré Casgrain, a citizens' committee involved in city issues
The square Casgrain being a private land occupied without the agreement of the owner, the collective must face issues of cohabitation on the land. In addition, a garage project for the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) scheduled for 2021 threatens the brightness of the square and causes inconvenience related to the traffic of buses in the neighborhood. The collective is mobilizing in reaction to the site in 2018 with the City of Montreal. Steps are taken to try to guarantee the sustainability of the space by some members of the collective.
Many local residents worried by the nuisance linked to the site appeal to the collective as an organ representing, despite itself, the district and as a privileged interlocutor of the public authorities. In fact, the collective was formed into a Citizens' Committee of Bellechasse, to interact with the STM about the planned construction site adjacent to the Casgrain square [v]. This empty shell, useful for public letters and correspondence with official bodies, contributes to the organization of an information meeting in October 2018 with the residents concerned on the garage project in the neighborhood.
Representation activities with municipal authorities are increasing in 2019 by a few citizens of the Casgrain square involved in a sub-group called Avenir du carré. Official bodies are called upon to ensure the sustainability of the space, which leads to a declaration of land reserve filed for the end of the park by the borough in April 2019 [vi]. Following this, the owner of the land proceeded with the destruction of the green space in October 2019 [vii].
Organizational structure, membership and funding
- Organizational structure
The Casgrain square collective is an informal group open to everyone. The participation of all is welcome depending on availability, skills and desires. There is no obligation to take on tasks or attend a certain number of meetings. The group operates in a flexible and horizontal manner, around the operating principles of self-management. Thus, developments have been made according to the expertise of each member of the collective, and these developments in return generate the initiative of new participants [viii]. The visual image of the place was for example created thanks to the introduction of a graphic designer in the collective.
If collective chores are organized, there is no obligation in the allocation of tasks within thegroup. The task management was initially done through a chain of emails and a monthly meeting under the chairmanship of the alley committee. Gradually, tasks are organized through digital management tools such as Google doc (for the watering calendar) or Slack which is gradually replacing monthly meetings. There are strong links between the members of the collective, who gather at the Cargrain Square as much for informal social activities as for the management of daily tasks.
The collective is organized around a core of eight to ten people involved regularly, and about sixty people mobilized punctually during major chore-type events. To reach and mobilize residents for major events, leaflets are distributed to the neighborhood and events are created on Facebook through the “Carré et sa ruelle” page, used to raise awareness of the project and mobilize the community. community and archive the project history.
Because of the squat status, the Casgrain square cannot officially seek subsidies or aid, hence the use of the green lane committee, recognized by the borough and the City, which adjoins the land. The links between the two projects are relatively strong and the members of the Green Lane committee participate more or less actively in the activities of the Casgrain square.
- Funding, donations and services
Under the umbrella of the alley committee, the Carré collects donations of compost, plants and bins from the borough, through municipal green lane support programs set up in collaboration with the Nature- organization. Action Quebec in Montreal. If the green lane committee is the official intermediary, the City nevertheless unofficially recognizes the Casgrain square and values the impacts of the project: the green lane committee obtained the first prize in the citizen innovation category as part of the green streets days of Montreal for the garden concept - public space open to all of the Carré Casgrain in September 2018.
If the requests for funding from the borough or the City are not all accepted, the Carré Casgrain benefits from a network of donations of goods and services set up with local residents, community organizations and local businesses. Thus, construction and gardening equipment and plants are collected or donated, access to water and electricity are also offered by neighbors. The project budget is ultimately relatively low thanks to this recovery system in line with the philosophy of the project.
- Institutional issues
Due to the informal nature of the collective, the Casgrain square faces various challenges: a feeling of exhaustion due to the slowness of institutional relations, difficulty in entering into the framework of the funding programs offered, over-solicitation in an ecosystem where this type of project does not last long in the long term, acts of vandalism on the ground. However, these difficulties do not undermine the motivation of the collective and the recognition remains numerous. They demonstrate the legitimacy of the group, both institutional - in 2019, the City grants the Casgrain square land reserve status for the end of the park - and community - through discussions with citizens and organizations requesting the square for conferences or visits.
Specializations, methods and tools
As an informal and voluntary collective, the square Casgrain has not played a specific role of citizen participation since its creation. It rather acts as a citizen participation initiative as such, which is demonstrated in the appropriation and occupation of a vacant public space but also in the collective organization in self-management which is experienced on a daily basis. The square thus develops a deliberative space marked by the search for consensus and the empowerment of the citizens who take part in it, particularly in their relations with public authorities [ix].
We can observe a process of citizen participation in practice through gardening activities but also through cultural events held in the Casgrain square. The approach is tested from the ideation and implementation of projects since the space is free to use by all those who wish it: decisions do not need to be validated unanimously by the he group, although it is common to use meetings or collaborative management tools (Trello, Slack, Google doc, Facebook) to mention upcoming projects and solicit the involvement of the collective. Communication within the group is based on trust and benevolence in exchanges. Everyone is free to invest according to their possibilities and desires. Self-management over time promotes the multiplication of projects and their implementation in collaboration with a community and peer network.
Regarding the methods of project implementation, let us mention a move towards cloud computing tools that reduce the frequency of meetings: previously monthly, meetings are now only held in the event of a crisis. Management is essentially carried out through the collaborative tool Slack allowing discussion channels to prioritize and organize conversations within the group according to the different projects. The participatory objective is also demonstrated in the attention to the inclusion of everything carried by the collective: thus, communication on social networks is coupled with communication by leaflet to reach populations who would not have access to the internet.
In addition, the collective is also distinguished by the institutional relations supported with the borough and the City, with the objective of perpetuating the green space within the district. This approach creates a relay role for the information collected from local populations. Thus, the Bellechasse citizens' committee was established, an empty shell that makes it possible to relay complaints from the community to competent authorities in the matter and to inform citizens in return of the responses obtained through a newsletter. In addition, the exchange maintained with municipal authorities helps to strengthen the legitimacy of the group, despite the illegal status of the occupation of the land. The granting of a reserve for the end of the park by the City makes it possible to see in the Casgrain square experience a form of institutionalization of the practice of greening vacant private land [x].
Major projects and events
- Initiatives carried out: socialization activities and political mobilizations
- Saint-Jean barbecue 2018: gathering of around thirty participants among the neighborhood around a potluck
- Valentine's Day 2019: declaration of love squared manifested by poems on the advertising panels on the ground [xi]
- Approaches to the Rosemont-Petite-Patrie borough to stabilize the presence and occupation of the collective on the Casgrain square: reserve for the end of the park granted in April 2019 by the City
- Disappearance of the clothing recycling bins in the field following a complaint made by Carré Casgrain in the summer of 2019
- Supported initiatives: citizen mobilization at the neighborhood level
- Citizen mobilization against the garage project of the Société de Transport de Montréal relayed on behalf of the Bellechasse citizens' committee by the Carré Casgrain
- Consulting activities: permaculture, citizen initiatives and placemaking
- TD Park People Congress, which selects the Square for a visit as part of its pan-Canadian conference programming: visit by members of the collective in June 2019
- 5à7 volunteering at the University of Quebec in Montreal: event presenting different volunteer initiatives, which asks the Square to promote the project in June 2019
- Implementation of participatory citizen projects in living environments by the Montreal Ecology Center and the Rosemont-Petite-Patrie borough: conference on permaculture held by participants from the Casgrain square as part of the programming of the citizen project on the living environment.
- Referencing of the Carré Casgrain within the framework of the Landes community organization's fact sheets on parks and citizen implications: selection from around twenty other projects chosen to equip citizens [xii]
See as well
References-justify "> Laurence Bherer, Pascale Dufour & Françoise Montambeault (2016) The participatory democracy turn: an introduction, Journal of Civil Society, 12: 3, 225-230, DOI: 10.1080 / 17448689.2016.1216383
Annabelle Mazoyer (2018), “Sociological analysis of the emergence of the phenomenon of green alleys on the island of Montreal”, Mémoire, UQAM.
[i] Lande & Solon, “Ecocitoyenne action laboratory”, June 2019, p.9. https://landemtl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Lande_Solon_Labo_VF.pdf
[iii] Mazoyer Annabelle, Sociological analysis of the emergence of the phenomenon of green alleys on the island of Montreal, Mémoire, UQAM, November 2018, p. 82
[iv] Lande & Solon, “Ecocitoyenne action laboratory”, June 2019, p.9. https://landemtl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Lande_Solon_Labo_VF.pdf
[v] Colpron Suzanne, “A gigantic STM construction site is underway”, La Presse, April 11, 2019, https://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/grand-montreal/201904/10/01-5221716- a-gigantic-site-of-the-stm-is-starting-in-motion.php .
[vi] Delacour Emmanuel, “Carré Casgrain: a first step towards a park”, Metro , April 5, 2019. https://journalmetro.com/local/villeray-st-michel-parc-extension/2303828/carre-casgrain- a-first-step-towards-a-park /
[vii] Cyr Guillaume, “A community space razed by the landowner”, TVA Nouvelles , October 7, 2019. https://www.tvanouvelles.ca/2019/10/07/un-espace-communautaire-rase-par -the-land-owner
[viii] Ibid. p. 109
[ix] Bherer Laurence, Dufour Pascale and Montambeault Françoise, “The participatory democracy turn: an introduction”, Journal of Civil Society , 12: 3, 225-230.
[xi] Lasselin Camille, “When advertising harms beauty and citizen initiatives”, HuffPost Québec Blogues , February 15, 2019. https://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/camille-lasselin/a displays-publicite-nuit- beaute- citizens-initiatives-carre-casgrain_a_23670646 /
[xii] Lande & Solon, “Ecocitoyenne action laboratory”, June 2019, p.9. https://landemtl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Lande_Solon_Labo_VF.pdf