Francophone Women in Quebec

Francophone Women in Quebec

Between August and October 2011, Samara spoke to disengaged Canadians across the country in a series of focus groups. The complete findings from this study are published in Samara’s report, The Real Outsiders: Politically Disengaged Views on Politics and Democracy. These briefs are designed to augment The Real Outsiders, by providing greater detail and insight about the conversations in each focus group.

English Speaking Women in Quebec | Lower Income Canadians | Urban Aboriginal Peoples | Francophone Women in Quebec | New Canadians | Less Educated Youth | Rural Canadians

Nothing Changes

Focus Group Profile: In Montreal, Quebec, Samara sat down with five Francophone women living in various Montreal neighborhoods. They were a diverse group on a number of fronts. Education levels varied from some high school to completed college studies. Three of the participants were born outside of Canada; of these individuals, one had lived in Canada for as long as 22 years, another for as little as 6 years. Some household incomes of the participants would also be considered low. 

Francophone women living in Montreal were reflected in a very diverse group with three out of the five participants having been born outside of Canada. When asked what issues they cared about, it was not surprising that they cited concern for conflicts abroad or political and economic instability in regions their families came from. Yet this perspective did not change their strong aversion to politics – arguably, it was even more entrenched, as some expressed a conviction that politics is the same everywhere: “…in politics worldwide, they [politicians/government] very much try to appropriate money and the people get nothing”.

Other concerns, such as covering tuition costs and local infrastructure including bridges and tunnels still raised similar sentiments; politics, in the eyes of these women, is characterized by politicians who “just look out for their own interests” when “politics should be [to] help people.”

One woman described her efforts to get a school bus route extended an extra kilometre in order for her child to better access his school. “I took all the necessary steps. I made a lot of phone calls. I was even willing to pay,” she noted, “I even called my district MP … he spoke to me so very well that I thought he was going to do something, but nothing. So that’s why I am disappointed. I was left disappointed.”

Another woman had given up completely on pursuing assistance from elected representatives. When her low cost housing network was being completely renovated, she was one of the few tenants left to live on-site – others were moved to a hotel. For a period of time, as a result of the construction, she had no functioning toilet. Instead, she relied on visiting a nearby friend to use their bathroom. She didn’t believe a politician could have helped her, despite finding her own circumstance “disgusting.”

Their disappointment, not surprisingly, informs their ideas of what politics should be about. The theme of promise-keeping, prominent in other focus groups, was also revisited: “They should keep their word, keep their promise”, said one woman. Another woman argued for greater inclusivity of voice, recommending that “[politicians] really listen. That they are attuned to what the population has to say and take it into consideration.” In their minds, this is not asking for a whole lot. As one woman exclaimed, “it’s not like you’re asking or making requests that are all that difficult. It’s not like you are asking them to walk on their hands.”

Poor experiences trying to engage elected officials or government services over relatively simple concerns have led to frustration. Over time, they come to perceive politics as increasingly irrelevant in the lives, which keeps them away. “It’s not that I don’t understand. I understand, but it’s just a lack of interest,” said one woman. Another chimed in after her, “it is the same never ending story.” Politicians, they feel, “always end up fighting” rather than delivering change.

When asked their role in politics, most emphasized voting yet “it’s not going to keep you awake at night if you don’t go vote”, said one woman. They prefer to focus on “helping out, helping others” as their duty instead.

Despite their acute sense of political estrangement, this group was still very positive towards the idea of democracy. Words like “freedom, equality, human rights, transparency, team spirit, respect, honesty and integrity” immediately came to mind among participants. When asked why their views on politics and democracy differ so much, one woman explained, “there is no trust in politicians, but you do have trust in democracy.”

On the whole, this group appeared to be one of the most politically demoralized, given how little they ask from their politicians and government, yet are ignored and excluded, in their minds.