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Neo-rural populations and their relations with local decision makers in rural Québec: collaboration or conflict?

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Abstract

The socio-demographic recomposition of the countryside is affecting local interactions and power relations. Understanding these relationships remains a challenge, as the studies to date are often limited to conflicts between neo-rural populations (newcomers) and long-time country residents over partial issues, without including decision makers. To go beyond this conflictual and fragmentary perspective, the objective of this article is to present an overall picture of both cooperative and oppositional relations between four groups, namely, newcomers, long-time rural residents, leaders of local organizations and municipal officials, in regard to all the issues that concern them. The data are based on interviews with these various actors in two contrasting rural areas of Québec (Canada). After looking at the newcomers’ mixed assessment of their participation in community life, we concentrate on areas of collaboration and/or conflict between all the actors regarding demographic, economic, sociocultural, political, environmental and agricultural issues. Three main trends emerge, revealing unexpected ways of interacting, complex power relations and antagonistic conceptions of rural spaces and their future development.

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Notes

  1. The term “neo-rural” is used more often in Québec than in France to refer to newcomers to the countryside. It does not have the same connotations after the May 1968 protests in France, as it does not involve a break with consumer society and urban life.

  2. Set up by Myriam Simard at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), this group has a website where the main studies can be consulted: http://www.neoruraux.ucs.inrs.ca.

  3. TT refers to translator’s translation from the original French text.

  4. For a more elaborated description of the methodology and the fields of inquiry, consult Guimond and Simard (2010).

  5. Amongst approximately 175 local organizations which were invited to provide a list with the names of newcomers and long-time country dwellers, 88 shared such lists. During fieldwork, we completed these lists using snowball sampling. As for local decisions makers, we chose the municipalities that were the most concerned by urban to rural migration and contacted their leaders of local organizations and municipal officials. A particular effort was made to include a variety of local organizations in order to take into account their diversity. Furthermore, we ensured that the selected decision makers represented different municipalities in terms of population and geography.

  6. The following abbreviations mean: BM = Brome-Missisquoi; AR = Arthabaska; NEO = neo-rural resident (or newcomer); LT = long-time rural resident; LO = leader of an organization; MO = municipal official.

  7. The question of farmland rezoning to permit the building of housing is discussed under demographic issues, given its impact on population growth.

  8. This result is in part explained by our decision to put integration services under demographic issues, considering their impact on repopulation.

  9. In 2014, 92% of the land in Arthabaska was zoned agricultural with more than 900 enterprises in this sector. Agriculture accounts for the most jobs, after manufacturing (MRC d’Arthabaska 2014).

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Société et culture (FRQSC), the partnership Familles en mouvance et dynamiques intergénérationnelles, the Villes Régions Monde (VRM) network and the Centre de recherche sur les innovations sociales (CRISES) for their financial assistance. We extend a special thank you to Denise Lemieux for her contribution.

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Appendix

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Table 3 Selected characteristics of the population of Brome-Missisquoi and Arthabaska RCMs.

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Simard, M., Guimond, L. & Vézina, J. Neo-rural populations and their relations with local decision makers in rural Québec: collaboration or conflict?. GeoJournal 83, 613–629 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-017-9789-4

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