ICRPS 2012: The Summer Institute Meets A Rural Agent in Bas Saint-Laurent

by Connor Wall, 30/06/2012

Day Eight of ICRPS marked the beginning of the second half of the Summer Institute, and our first full day in Rimouski, a small city with lovely views of the St. Lawrence River. We started with an introduction to the Bas Saint-Laurent region, which has seen several twists of Canadian rural policy, with the government encouraging settlement in the early part of the twentieth century, and then trying to empty remote towns in the 1950s and 1960s. Many towns resisted such policies, and, though the territory’s population of 200,000 has declined in recent years, its unemployment rate has dropped to 8%, just slightly above province-wide average.

The remainder of the morning saw presentations on programs to promote agriculture as a means of beautifying the area’s roads, and on Italian efforts to stem retail food waste, and turn decaying products into energy. During lunch members of each group got to chat with one of Quebec’s mythical rural agents—one of the people responsible for implementing the Quebec’s Rural Policy. Mr. Benoit Cayer has the difficult job of trying to create positive social momentum in a set off our small municipalities in Bas Saint-Laurent. The communities Mr. Cayer works in are struggling to support even local corner stores, and he sees their needs for jobs and people as going beyond the scope of the Quebec Rural Policy, which is for social rather than economic development.

The afternoon took us to Bic National Park, where Philippe Kneis and Allison Davies-White Eyes led a discussion on perceptions of rurality, urbanization, and modernity in Western culture, stretching from Biblical times to modern art and cinema. It may be the undergrad philosophy student in me coming out, but I thought it was the best presentation in the Summer Institute so far, and a welcome complement to emphasis on administration up to this point.

A rain shower after the talk ended nearly derailed our plans for an afternoon hike, but the sun came out just before we boarded the bus. I joined a group that hiked three kilometers to the top of a bluff looking over the St. Lawrence. An island of pine trees sat out in the middle of the river, a couple barges moved slowly in the distance, and the rocky coast, curved all the way back to Rimouski. I’m told that the other group got lost in their quest to hike along the shoreline, but all get back to Rimouski to eat dinner and explore the town.

Photos by ICRPS 2012