Sarah Rennie –
A parade of tractors followed by over 5000 individuals carrying banners, signs, kitchen utensils and pushing grocery carts wound its way through downtown Montreal on Sunday with the goal of spreading the message that enough was enough when it comes to sacrificing agriculture for trade.
As our food security has come more and more under threat from trade agreements signed between Canada and the European Union, the United States and Mexico as well as the Trans-Pacific countries, the Union des Producteurs Agricoles (UPA) decided the time had come to protect our farmers, our rural communities and our pantries.
Frustrated by trade concessions and concerned by the fact products potentially being imported and set out on our grocery store shelves are not held to the same high standards as those governing our producers, the UPA organized the Garde Manger en Danger march for the future of our food on November 18, which included over 500 proud members of the UPA from the Montérégie region – among them a bus load from the Haut-Saint-Laurent.
“We marched to meet with citizens to discuss the importance of the diversity in agriculture and of buying local,” said Sylvain Gascon, of St-Anicet, who was present with three generations of his family. Mr. Gascon also mentioned the issues that erupted following the signing of the trade deal with the United States and Mexico for supply managed sectors as well as standards as further reasons for participating.
Throughout the hour-long demonstration farmers and consumers marched as a united front from Parc La Fontaine to the Place des Festivals, not in protest but in celebration of our family farms and local food. The goal of the March was two-fold – to send a clear message to both the federal and provincial governments, and to buy the public’s solidarity with Quebec and Canadian farmers in the face of increasing numbers of imported options in our stores. As UPA President Marcel Groleau declares during the March, “the security of a nation depends first and foremost on its ability to feed itself.”
The UPA worked to maintain a festive atmosphere throughout the March, however the message was clear – the food we eat is not an economic sector to be pitted against another. It’s just too important. The UPA also called on the government to not only support local products but to ensure those imported are held to the same quality and environmental standards that Quebec farmers are required to meet.