Anglo groups say better access to consultations on seniors is needed

Groups representing anglophone seniors say while the city has taken some steps to make its consultation process for seniors more accessible, it hasn't gone nearly far enough.

The city of Montreal launched an online survey several weeks ago, and originally planned to hold four public consultations this month.

Critics, though, quickly jumped on the fact the hearings would be held in Ville-Marie, Outremont, St. Laurent and St. Leonard — places where anglo seniors tend not to live. 

They also jumped on the fact they were being held in mid-winter, a time when many seniors are reluctant to venture out due to the risk of falling and the bitter cold. Also, only one of the sessions is located anywhere near a wheelchair-accessible metro station.

The city added a fifth session, in English, at the Cummings Centre in Cote-des-Neiges on Monday, Feb. 26, from 2 to 4 p.m., and translated some of its web documentation into English in response to the outcry, but says the city needs to step up its game.

Kim Sawchuk of the ACT Team (Ageing + Communication + Technologies) at Concordia University says in Toronto, materials are translated into 11 different languages, and paper copies of consultation-related materials are produced and distributed to places like mosques, churches, community centres, and other places.

The city of Montreal, she says, has only translated a portion of its materials into English, and most of its content is online — excluding many seniors who simply haven't learned to work with a computer.

"Why is Montreal's consultation [process] worse than that other Canadian cities?" She said. "I hate to say it, Toronto translated their surveys into 11 languages."

She and others said the consultations should extend for several months, beyond the winter, and paper copies of the documentation should be distributed to seniors' residences and other places where they would be easy for seniors to access.

"If the city of Montreal cannot design an age-friendly city consultation process then how can we trust them to build an age-friendly city?" Sawchuk added.

For more information on the consultations, and to take the online survey, click here to visit the city's web site.