The Climate Reality Project Canada recently sat down with Charles Montpetit, writer and founder of the Antipublisac movement - a movement that calls for a review of how flyers, including the Publisac, are distributed throughout the city.
Charles, could you tell me a little more about the creation of your Antipublisac campaign?
I started the movement in October 2017, when I received an unwanted Publisac myself. I first tried to complain to the company, and did that four times. Even if I was told they would stop sending me them, it always ended up happening again. So I turned to the City of Montreal. To supplement what I had said in the complaint I filed with the City, I started taking pictures in my neighbourhood to show that I was not alone in my experience. I walked around my neighbourhood and, one thing leading to another, after a year and a half, I had collected eight thousand photos! Every time I picked up two hundred after a delivery, I sent it as an update of my complaint to the City. I filed forty-four updates of my complaint, and, still, nothing came out of it!
So I thought to myself that I should involve the media; as long as this remained private between the City and I, nothing would change. I created my own website Propre.org and a Facebook page. From there, I began to receive attention. At that point, the movement was known as being against the Publisac. So I adopted the name "Antipublisac", because it allows people, in one word, to understand what I'm talking about.
Why did this cause particularly affect you?
I had a Publisac delivered to me at a time when I was wondering: "As an environmentally conscious person, how can I make a difference?" I wanted to make some kind of contribution. It wasn't enough for me to be a member of several organizations. For me, it doesn't have the same effect as action. So, at that time, in October 2017, I was looking for something I could get involved in. And every time I thought of a subject, it was something that was already covered by a large organization. In addition, I didn't feel competent enough to talk about these important topics. But when a Publisac arrived right outside my door, I thought, "Oh, I can talk about that!" It affected me in a personal way. Besides, it was something that wasn't covered by anyone.
What were your requests to the City of Montreal as part of the Antipublisac movement?
There were three of them:
- It should be prohibited to place a promotional item on private property if the owner or occupant indicates that he/she refuses to receive it;
- Bags containing promotional items should be made of a material that is less harmful to the environment than plastic and does not require separation from its contents before being deposited for recycling;
- The City should enforce refusal stickers.
In response, the City informed me that I would have to go through a public consultation. To request from the City a public consultation on my three requests, 15,000 signatures had to be collected. I did that, and very quickly; it took six days.
Considering that, why do you think this cause affects people so deeply?
Because it happens on the doorstep of the entire population. That is, it is not something theoretical. It affects people in a personal way. For each person, it is a problem that is found in their own backyard. And, moreover, it is not pleasant to be told that we just have to get rid of our Publisac ourselves. Essentially, it's like someone coming in and dropping off a small pile of garbage every week in front of our door and saying: "It's okay; it's compostable!" It is not the job of the population to collect the waste of a company. The solution is not to tell Quebeckers that it is up to them to solve the problem; there is something absurd about this approach.
How can people get involved with Antipublisac?
The public consultation on Publisac ended on November 12th, so it is now out of the hands of those who want to protest. It is more on December 5, when the final report will be presented to the municipal council, that citizens can put pressure on their elected municipal officials. However, in the meantime, people can continue to register on Antipublisac's Facebook page and send me support messages by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. By writing to me, they will also be sure to be part of the bank of people contacted to put pressure on their elected municipal officials on the day of the vote.
Finally, are you optimistic for the future of Antipublisac?
In a way, yes. I am optimistic that common sense will prevail. However, during my campaign, I noticed on several occasions that common sense does not always prevail. Critical thinking is not often present among journalists. In addition, it requires less effort from politicians to take Transcontinental's side. So I'm not sure about everything and don't dare make predictions. In addition, there are too many steps to take before being optimistic. I am confident that it is very clear that our side is right, but will that be enough? Will it be transformed into concrete action? It will have to be seen on December 5th.
To learn more about the Antipublisac campaign, you can visit Propre.org, the Antipublisac Facebook page, or the presentation on the commission on water, environment, sustainable development and major parks.
Interested in how Canadian municipalities are reducing emissions? Do you want to participate? Check out the National Climate League and join or start a local group at ClimateHub.ca.