A union grievance officer by day and community garden worker by night—all for a change of pace and to lend a helping hand in the community. In a nutshell, Claude Quantin spends half of her day digging through files and the other half peeling the husks off corn for the annual corn roast.
Quantin has been working as a volunteer at her community garden for the past 14 years, four of which she has served as manager. La Légumière Rose-de-Lima is a community garden made up of 89 gardens (approximately 10 x 20 feet each). There’s always something to do. “I make signs to announce upcoming events and signs that give instructions. We also have a shed that needs to be kept clean,” she says.
The garden is in the Montreal community of Little Burgundy, and has become a place where different cultures come together. French speaking Montrealers, who were once the majority, now share the space with the Caribbean, Asian, and English-speaking communities. The Bengali community is also very present.
“People trust me and look to me for help when there is tension. I am Black but I speak with a Quebec accent. People feel comfortable talking to me. I’m able to reassure them and build bridges.” While it may not have been built for this purpose, the garden has become a place where cultures and people learn to live together.”
Quantin is a member of CUPE 4880, which represents the general employees of the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal. The institute is affiliated with the Université de Montréal and offers specialized short- and long-term care for seniors.
Quantin draws a parallel between her union duties and her work in the community.
“My work with the union has taught me how to resolve conflict and reduce tensions. These skills also come in handy at the garden. The main goal at the garden is to relax, but some little problems pop up now and again. The union has given me some good tools,” she said.
On June 23, CUPE is relaunching Communities Day. It’s an annual celebration of public services and the people who deliver them.
This year has a special focus on CUPE members as community builders. We’ll be profiling the vital role members play — on the job and in their spare time—building strong communities. Get involved in Communities Day by visiting cupe.ca/communities.
We’re offering a CUPE sweatshirt to the first ten members who are profiled!