Improving the Quality of Life of the Kitcisakik Population
In Kitcisakik, an Anicinabe community located about an hour away from Val-d’Or, a solidarity cooperative specializes in carrying out renovations and construction in order to meet important needs in this area.
The Coopérative de solidarité Wenicec (CSW) in Kitcisakik was founded in 2009. It has three categories of members: worker members, support members and user members. To be part of it, each member pays a share, the amount of which varies depending on category. Since its creation, the CSW has had 100 members, which is a lot for a community with a population of 321 people. From an administrative point of view, the cooperative is managed by a board of directors made up of nine board members, with three representatives per member category.
A construction workers’ cooperative
In 2009-2010, the Fondation Frontière and the Emergency Architects Foundation carried out a project with the objective of renovating houses in Kitcisakik that were so run down that major renovations were needed. The plans for the houses were prepared by the two organizations, but the work took a long time to complete, which made it so that by the end of the project, only three houses had been renovated. This was when the Cooperative had the idea of creating a project whose mission would be to set up a carpentry and woodworking program. The idea was to train members of the community who could then carry out the renovation work on the houses, which could greatly speed up the completion of the work. On April 23, 2012, 20 people of all ages in the community began training that would enable them to obtain a diplôme d’études professionnelles (diploma in vocational studies) in construction. The training was provided on a work-study basis, which enabled the students to immediately apply the concepts learned in their courses. A total of 16 of these individuals completed their training on February 14, 2014, and of this number, 13 obtained their diplomas. Thanks to the work of these workers and many others thereafter, 60 of the 90 houses in the community have been renovated to date and some have even been expanded to meet the needs of the owners. These projects and other contracts carried out on behalf of the local government make it possible for the CSW to allows its members to work as much as possible, which in turn allows them to accumulate enough hours to be eligible for employment insurance. By the time their benefits run out, the CSW is usually able to get them to work on a new project.
In 2020-2021, the cooperative wishes to obtain its general contractor license, which would allow it to increase its flexibility and be able to make substantial savings. Currently, in order to be able to do the work, it must partner with a general contractor who supervises the work to ensure that everything is done according to the standards in force. In return, the CSW must pay the contractor a large sum of money. By obtaining its license, the CSW could reinvest the money saved into the cooperative, thus providing even more work to its members. The license would also allow it to bid on calls for tenders and to train its workers in other construction trades in order to diversify its range of services.
Other services offered by the cooperative
In addition to renovating homes, CSW workers have also been building sheds in the community for about three years. In total, they have built between 25 and 30 sheds, which provide additional storage space for owners while reducing the incidences of theft. Renovation work has also started on the site of Grand Lac Victoria, a magnificent peninsula containing some 40 houses, which are inhabited in the summer by the people of Kitcisakik. Outside the construction sector, some members also carry out brush cutting work as part of a contract obtained from REXFORÊT. Finally, ten workers were trained as forest fire support workers by the Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU) and they are regularly called upon by the organization to fight forest fires.
In conclusion, the goal of the Coopérative de solidarité Wenicec has always been to improve the living conditions of the population of Kitcisakik and, through its various projects and mandates, the least we can say is that it is very successful in terms of achieving its mandate!