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Research to action: Confronting exclusions in municipal policy consultations

Shannon Hebblethwaite, Kendra Besanger, Constance Lafontaine, Kim Sawchuk, Fatima Hirji
Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

 

Despite global attention on “age-friendly cities,” older adults continue to be marginalized in the municipal policy arena. We explore a recent case in Montreal where we mobilized research into action to confront flawed public consultations surrounding the City of Montreal’s “Municipal Action Plan for Seniors (MADA) 2018-2020”. The goal of the consultation was to gather citizens’ opinions on the first draft of the action plan. However, the City excluded many seniors by relying on unilingual online surveys, by holding consultations during winter months, and by choosing locations not easily accessed by public transit. These factors made participation difficult for cultural groups (many of whom do not speak French), seniors with mobility issues or who rely on public transit, seniors who are not online, among others. These groups are already marginalized and are thus most in need of an “age friendly city”.

As researchers with long histories of collaborative, participatory research with seniors, we were in a good position to intervene in this consultation. For almost two months, we worked with community groups to confront what we termed the exclusion of seniors in the process. This paper outlines the successes and challenges we experienced in our efforts to influence public policy. The objective is to encourage researchers to actively engage in the policy realm in order to shape policy and discourse. We argue that by being research and relationship ready, willing to compromise, and able to communicate with local media, we made the City’s consultation process more inclusive for seniors.