Hundreds march to protest CJE reforms

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Added: Fri, 12/19/2014 - 12:03am
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Laurent
Robillard-Cardinal

Hundreds took to the street in West Quebec to protest against the
proposed modifications to Quebec’s youth employment centres (Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi centres (CJE) on December 1. The four regional CJEs (Pontiac, Papineau, Vallée de la Gatineau and Outaouais) were behind the mobilization to show the importance of CJEs in West Quebec.
The Liberal government wants the CJEs to refocus on young adults further away from the labour
market, notably youth living on social assistance and youth eligible for employment insurance. François Blais, Minister of Employment and Social Solidarity, is under the impression youth centres are under performing. “Their job was to create jobs in the regions. It's
difficult to see an improvement in this area, so we decided to change the approach and to give more power to municipalities,” declared Blais during a press conference.
“There is no intention to exclude potential clients. The youth employment centers have the autonomy to meet clients they want, but I want to focus their efforts;  therefore the
funding that will come from my ministry will be for young people who are
furthest from the labor
market, including youth on welfare or young people who are eligible for
employment insurance,” declared Blais.
Created in 1995, the goal of the 110 youth employment centres across Quebec is to accompany and equip young adults from 16 to 35 years of age on their road to employment, as they return to school or prepare to
start a business. When
the government announced changes to the CJEs the centres launched a
campaign called:  Mon CJE, j'y tiens!  (MY CJE
matters to me).  The CJEs argue the changes would
negatively impact their services aimed at helping all young adults regardless of their socio-economic or ethno-cultural status.

Charlotte L’Écuyer
gets involved
An important ally to join the CJEs ranks is former Pontiac MNA Charlotte L'Écuyer. The longstanding Liberal MNA took part in the December 1 march. She highlighted the vital role CJEs play in the Pontiac riding.
“When we look at the CJEs clientele and the
reason they were founded we realize it’s for disconnected youth. They’re not in school or in the job market, and have no official recognition or status. They’re often young adults who left school thinking they would get a job in the mill where their father worked or in the forestry industry, but those jobs have disappeared. The CJE takes care of these youth, who often don’t receive social assistance or employment insurance, without judging them or condemning them. The CJEs motivate them to obtain training, help them with a resume and show them how to handle an interview, to help them reintegrate into what we tend to call the productive society,” L'Écuyer told the Journal.
“There’s talk in the reform that individuals
living on social assistance and employment insurance should head to local employment centres, but what will we do with the others? Will they become homeless individuals or will they end up go on social assistance?  In rural areas, especially in the Pontiac, resources and employment are not plentiful:  the forest industry is not working, the mills are not working, tourism only works a little bit, what do we have left?  We must take care of these young adults, we must try to motivate them, respect them and help them reach a goal. We can’t remain
indifferent,” said L'Écuyer.
With all the austerity measures surfacing, the
former MNA and Bryson resident made a heartfelt appeal. “I’ve been a Liberal all my life, but when I look at what’s going on I think we are totally dismantling rural areas. I wonder what rural areas will look like in two or three years; what will remain?”
L’Écuyer said she will continue to support CJEs in their battle, but wants
others to get involved. “It affects the whole area; I would have liked to see the MRC Pontiac’s warden and the region’s mayors say they are with us. Where are our elected officials? When we speak from one voice in a region it’s powerful. Unfortunately, many of our elected officials are barely present.”