With a population of 695 and roots going back to the 1700’s, English-speakers have a long-standing presence on the Magdalen islands. These islands are where you can find some of our province’s oldest English speaking settlements.
After conducting a virtual regional tour and completing our employment profile for Gaspésie-les îles-de-la-madeleine — which draws largely on Census data — PERT recognized the importance of heading out to the community and meeting with local representatives to dig deeper.
Most importantly, we were aware that the data for Les Îles-De-La-Madeleine is limited due to the fact at the time the census is taken, it’s the high season for the fishing industry, meaning that most people who want to work are able to find jobs. This means the data shows low employment rates and high median incomes, but that the reality in the off-season for fishing may be entirely different.
English-speakers on the islands are supported by The Council for Anglophone Magdalen Islanders (CAMI). CAMI builds and promotes community, identity and visibility of English speakers of the Magdalen Islands by fostering community partnerships with a core focus on community development. They have been working for over 30 years in their community.
We arrived on Wednesday June 1st, and were welcomed at the airport by Helena Burke, Executive Director of CAMI. Along with us for our visit were Cathy Brown from the Regional Development Network (RDN) and her assistant, Jano Steffen. After picking up our rental car and a quick lunch, we headed off to do a tour of local businesses to better understand the local economy, before setting into our hotel for the evening.
Up bright and early on Thursday June 2nd, we had the opportunity to be introduced to the incredible work that CAMI does in their community. We visited their offices, social economy projects, and their museums.
That afternoon, we had a meeting with Carole Vigneau from Emploi Québec and Brenda Déraspe, the Co-Director of the local CJE. We had the opportunity to introduce ourselves, discuss PERT’s work, as well as the work of RDN. We presented our data and in particular highlighted some of the worrying trends that prompted our trip. We also delved into the partnerships between the various stakeholders. Despite their openness and willingness to partner for the success of communities on both sides, there was also an acknowledgement of the importance of CAMI in being able to refer and accompany English-speakers to these various services, and that CAMI could use a dedicated resource to help accomplish this.
On our final day, we got the chance to meet with Ruth Taker, executive director at the Coopérative des pêcheurs de Cap Dauphin — who gave us a tour of their lobster processing facility. She discussed the expansion of their operations but also the challenges they face, particularly within their plant operations and the shortage of labour in the high season. It was interesting to note that this vital economic activity faces similar challenges to other industries: growth limited by infrastructure and a shortage of labour.
By the end of our trip, it was clear that despite its many strengths, this community continues to value the role and support of CAMI, and they need more resources to help tackle their various education and employment challenges.
The trip was one of the first of PERT’s into the region, but certainly not the last. Seeing the reality on the ground is an essential compliment to our data driven research and we look forward to visiting and working with more local organisations on the ground.