Poltimore, the Unloved Child
Reuel S. Amdur
When Wilbur Cross, later to become governor of Connecticut, entered Yale, he already had to know Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, the languages of the Bible. (He lucked out. Someone forgot to include Aramaic.) By the time I was a child in the 1940’s, the Greek and Hebrew had fallen away, but the Latin persisted. I began to study the language in junior high school.
Latin is a language, as dead as it can be.
First it killed the Romans and now it’s killing me.
During my years of Latin, one teacher told us that the mark of one educated in Latin was the ability to repeat the first sentence of Caesar’s Gallic Wars. It begins, “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.” Well, like Caesar’s Gaul, Val-des-Monts is also divided in three parts, Perkins, Saint-Pierre-de-Wakefield, and Poltimore.
The three parts were merged in 1975, and it had a population of 14,037 in 2023, augmented mightily in summers by tourists coming to the lakes on vacation. Poltimore is far from the rest of the municipality, separated from Saint-Pierre-de-Wakefield by a long winding road. Its single school is English, with French-speakers served outside Poltimore. The English school is seen as needing special help, like that for inner-city schools. Some of the students live outside Poltimore.
As well as being miles away from Perkins, the population centre of Val-des-Monts, it is also years behind. It is largely agricultural. Contact with the outside world comes largely from external employment and shopping. A major factor driving people to shop elsewhere was the shuttering of the large grocery and hardware store in town.
Perkins stretches from its border with Gatineau up through touristy lake country. Poltimore does not attract visitors except for the annual fair. For the locals, popular recreational activities include hunting and fishing, line dancing, and amateur baseball.
The quite different parts of the municipality are not united because of commonalities or complementarity. They are one because of a decision by the province. Yugoslavia was an effort to bring together Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, and some other groups, but there was no Quebec government to force them to stay together. So we have Val-des-Monts.
On February 8, Connexions held a meeting, designated as being in Val-des-Monts, but more specifically it was in Poltimore. During the meeting, community participation was seen as a major strength. Volunteerism thrives. We were given the example of what happened during a major electricity failure. People running the fair went around distributing water and hot dogs. It was said that Val-des-Monts was not there to help.
It was alleged that the local anglophone population is demoralized, feeling ignored. While they are a substantial part of the local population, services and communications are often just in French. Val-des-Monts was seen as a culprit in this regard.
The anglophones of Poltimore are those whom Premier François Legault terms “historic,” and they tend to be of modest means, not René Lévesque’s Westmount Rhodesians. Yet, Legault’s reluctance of them does not assure measures to help fit in to the larger French- speaking society. The one school in Poltimore does not offer French immersion.
Villa-Saint-Louis-de-France is a facility providing subsidized seniors’ housing, but other services for seniors are lacking. The same is true of services for children with special needs. In both cases, services from the CLSC, located in Perkins, a good 45 minutes away, are too distant. And some of the services also have waiting lists. Many in Poltimore lack a family physician. This problem was built into how this CLSC was conceived and created.
When it was announced that a CLSC would be created in Val-des-Monts, I was living in Perkins. I contacted Mayor Marc Carrière, who was elected in 2005. (He is currently the prefect of the MRC des Collines.) I advocated for a CLSC on wheels, making possible services throughout the whole territory. While it has a much smaller population (14,000) than Gatineau (291,000), its land mass (481 square kilometers, 186 square miles) is far greater (38 square kilometers, 147 square miles).
A CLSC on wheels could have helped local institutions by renting space in churches, perhaps even in the store that had to close. Different professionals—nurses, social workers, physiotherapists, etc.—would have scheduled visits, perhaps with provisions in urgent situations. Physicians might also be included, or arranged by nurse as needed.
The Castonguay-Nepveu Report in 1972 called for CLSC’s to have a highly social focus, not strictly medical. The services were to be aimed at meeting the varied needs of different populations. But rather than addressing the needs of Val-des-Monts as a whole, a CLSC was plunked down in Perkins, at the south of the municipality, leaving the rest poorly served. The CLSC for a large area with small widely dispersed population centres was designed the way you would set one up in Montreal, not meeting the needs in Saint-Pierre-Wakefield and more especially in Poltimore.
Caesar’s words do not seem well designed to comment on the poor choices made around setting up the CLSC. Let’s turn instead to Cicero. O tempora! O mores! O di immortales!