(Montreal) Members of the six popular education centers (CEP) in Montreal gathered on Friday morning in front of the offices of the Ministry of Education in Montreal to demand “sustainable funding” allowing them to pay their rent and ensure the continuity of their activities.
Although the ministry agreed to cover all of their rent costs for the 2022-2023 fiscal year in a formal announcement on Thursday, the centers are demanding the establishment of a long-term subsidy program to combat the insecurity related to their survival.
“It brings together the six CEPs, but it particularly affects the [Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Community Education Pavilion] […], which in addition received a threat of eviction. We want to be able to stay in our premises and plan for it. We want financial catch-up and fair treatment,” explained Xavier-Philippe Beauchamp, coordinator at the Pointe-Saint-Charles Popular Education Hub, in an interview.
This funding would amount to “a few hundred thousand dollars”, and varies from center to center depending on the services offered.
“It represents huge sums for community organizations like ours, but it’s really not the sea to drink for the Ministry of Education,” he said.
The CEPs also claim a meeting with the Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, which has still not taken place despite repeated requests since his election in October.
“Year after year, they find us money, they give us some money. […] It allows us to cover the financial year that has just ended, but it leaves us with the feeling of insecurity of not knowing if, next year, there will be something”, underlined the coordinator , adding that the CEPs had however met “a few times” with Mr. Drainville’s political attaché.
On Thursday, the six popular education centers in Montreal announced that they would stop paying rent fees imposed by the Center de services scolaire de Montreal (CSSSDM) due to a lack of funds to support their activities.
According to Xavier-Philippe Beauchamp, the Ministry of Education then contacted the CEPs “urgently” to grant them “a little extra money”.
“Unfortunately, this supplement covers the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which ends tomorrow. We are happy, it allows us to reimburse the emergency funds that we used to pay our rent, but it does not allow us at all to predict with what money we will pay our rent in the future “, a- he added.
Contacted by email, Minister Drainville’s office assured that they provide “recurring funding” to the six centres, and that each CEP had received “bonus” financial assistance for 2022-2023 under the Community Action Program on the field of education (PACTE). This increase varies between $57,932 and $76,041 annually until 2024-2025.
“In addition to the $617,789 granted in June 2022 to cover their rent costs, the Minister of Education announced to them an increase of $519,058 in 2022-2023 funding to cover all of their rent costs for the year that is ending,” his publicist said electronically.
A similar situation had occurred on June 30, when the announcement of a previous rent strike by the six Montreal centers. The ministry granted financial support to the organizations, which then agreed to pay the costs.
“Unfortunately, there is no program to fund popular education centers commensurate with their needs at the Ministry of Education. […] Nine years to create a box, there is something that does not work, ”said in an interview the solidarity deputy in Sainte-Marie–Saint-Jacques, Manon Massé.
The six CEPs in Montreal offer adults a variety of family, social, cultural and economic services that allow them to socialize, build relationships and acquire knowledge and skills. Some centers organize, among other things, art classes, introductory courses in computer science or francization activities for newcomers.
“Education is a right, but it is a lifelong right. Some need popular education centers to support them with literacy, housing and the current food crisis,” Ms. Massé said.
Diane Landriault, who attends the Ateliers Populaires du Plateau, stressed in a speech the importance of maintaining these centers and the role they play in community settings.
“I found friends there to communicate with. I broke my loneliness, I adopted a positive attitude and I regained the desire to get up in the morning to find my second family. No, minister, please don’t close the art studios,” she told the crowd.
The coalition of six Montreal centers brings together the Ateliers d’éducation populaire du Plateau (AEPP), the Adult Education Committee (CEDA) of Little Burgundy and Saint-Henri, the Carrefour d’éducation populaire of Pointe-Saint -Charles, the René-Goupil Community Education Center (CECRG), the Centre-Sud Social Committee (CSCS) and the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Community Education Pavilion (PEC).