Community groups from across the island are calling on Montreal city officials to do more to include seniors in its consultation process.
The Plan d’action municipal pour les personnes aînées is aimed at making the city more age-friendly. Organizations, however, feel a sense of growing frustration with the way the city has designed the consultation process.
They argue that the consultation period, which is expected to end in a few days, systematically excludes the very seniors the plan aims to help.
“It’s virtually impossible for these seniors to be part of this conversation,” Lisa Byer-de Wever, executive director of Saint Columba House told Global News.
“The city really hasn’t considered their needs at all. I mean I’m not just talking about vulnerable seniors, [it’s] Anglophone seniors, seniors of low income,” Byer-de Wever added.
When the consultations first started in late January, the surveys prepared by the city were only available in French and consultations were being held in difficult-to-access locations.
The groups also denounce the city’s decision to hold the consultations in the midst of winter, a period that is proven to be difficult for seniors to get around.
“Since we released our letter, we received phone calls from elders who cannot and will not attend the consultation in February because of the risk of falling and because of the cold,” said Kim Sawchuk, a Concordia University professor who penned a letter to Montreal mayor Valerie Plante outlining the consultation’s flaws.
WATCH: Lionel Perez on City’s plan to consult Anglo Seniors.
While the city has since made some efforts to make the process more accessible, such as a translated version of the survey and two more consultations, the community organizations insist that more must be done.
The groups compared Montreal’s efforts to other cities.
“I hate to say it… Toronto translated their survey into 11 languages. Montreal first into one, then into English after pressure,” Sawchuk said.
Included in their list of demands is an extension for the consultation process, more active engagement with seniors on behalf of the city, and paper surveys.
Sawchuk explains that only 53 per cent of seniors over the age of 75 use the internet regularly, making online surveys an inappropriate way of reaching them.
“This is a serious design flaw in this consultation process and even more sadly, a missed opportunity to engage with those who are already the most marginalized in Montreal,” she says.
Despite the fast approaching deadline, the city asserts that it is willing to work with the community organizations to effectively overcome some of these barriers.
“We want to make sure that it doesn’t jeopardize the financing [for the action plan] but we will continue to work with other groups, we’ll find other methods, we continue to stay open,” says Rosannie Filato, executive committee member.
The consultation period is currently expected to close at the end of February.
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