Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 10, 2004
Quebec bishops clarify impact of fertility rates
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The social affairs committee of the Quebec Assembly of Bishops (AEQ) says a general decline in fertility rates is a major destabilizing factor in the "disintegration" of community life in about 80 per cent of the province's inhabited territory.
Another factor is the lack of interest in educational programs currently offered in the six regions affected, said the committee, in a statement marking May 1, the International Workers' Day.
Exodus of the youth
"The effect has been an exodus or migration of young people to other regions to pursue their studies," it said.
The committee paints a dismal picture of life in many regions of Quebec, particularly in the outlying areas.
The fishing industry is suffering from the depletion of several species, and log-cutting allocations have been cut because of the international dispute over softwood lumber, it said.
Along with the rising Canadian dollar, the forest-products industry is facing a crisis, it concluded.
As well, problems in the meat industry, including mad cow disease, have resulted in huge job losses in some regions, and the committee fears that the inhabitants of several towns may be forced to leave to find work elsewhere. The towns may not survive the exodus and could eventually disappear, the committee said.
Adding to the concerns is the possibility of polluting industries being established in the outlying regions, the committee said.
The Quebec bishops want to make more people aware of the problems and encourage them to show their support for those affected and for groups working to promote responsible regional development throughout the province.
"There is a need for a just and equitable policy of regional socio-economic development throughout Quebec," the message stated.
If no policy is put in place many existing communities could disappear, it added.
Rich and the poor
Among the consequences of "this social disintegration, the committee said, is a widening gap between rich and poor, a concentration of the elderly in one specific area and youth in another, widespread unemployment and a high suicide rate, particularly among men between the ages of 20 to 45.
"Instead of following a market economy that tends to concentrate resources and production, our goal should be to create projects that would encourage more regional autonomy and eliminate dependence on outside markets," the committee suggested.
"Solidarity must be maintained with people from other regions and centres who support local and regional production."
As well, each region must believe in its future and be willing to assume its responsibilities, the message stated.