City excluding Anglophones, immigrants from consultations on seniors: researchers

The Plante administration wants to make the city a friendlier place for seniors and those with reduced mobility, but a group at Concordia University thinks it's excluding some of the most vulnerable from the process entirely.

In an open letter sent to Mayor Valérie Plante, researchers Dr. Kim Sawchuk and Dr. Shannon Hebblethwaite say "it will exclude the voices of seniors, especially those of seniors who are already most marginalized."

Public consultations are being held at the end of the month on the new Municipal Action Plan for Seniors. They will be held in Outremont, Ville-Marie, St-Laurent and St-Léonard and have both doctors raising the red flag.

"First, the public discussions are slated to occur in February, one of the coldest and snowiest months of the year. This is a time when we know seniors are wary of venturing out of their homes, and seniors with mobility issues will not likely attend" the letter said. 

"Likewise, the locations that have been chosen for the consultations are not easily accessible for seniors who rely on public transit. Three out of four locations are next to metro stations that do not have elevators. The one location that is near an accessible metro requires an 11-minute walk to reach it."

The doctors also believe the entire process excludes Anglophones and immigrants.

"The website outlining the consultation process is only in French, as are the survey and the guide for organizing community discussions" they wrote. "As you surely know, most immigrant seniors in Montreal have English, not French, as their first official language. Why are older Anglophones and immigrants being systematically disregarded in this consultation process?"

The pair point to a 2006 report by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages that said English-speaking seniors in Montreal are at a higher risk of isolation than French-speaking seniors.

The third major problem the group found with the process is that the survey collecting Montrealers opinions is only available online, with no physical alternatives. 

"We know from our research that seniors are less connected to the internet than younger individuals. We also know that seniors who are already otherwise marginalized are even less digitally connected. In fact, low digital literacy correlates with low general literacy, low education levels and poverty."

The letter concludes if the city continues forward as is, the survey would only get the opinions of the youngest, wealthiest and most educated seniors in Montreal all while completely ignoring those who most in need of an age-friendly city makeover.