The elected politicians in Villeray … Who are they working for ?

Anonyme, Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 22:58

42 Villeray citizens and 8 non-profit organizations

History is, unfortunately, repeating itself in the Villeray-St-Michel-Parc-Extension borough. Acting once again with a total lack of respect for the values of inclusivity and solidarity, the local Borough Council is on the verge of recommending that the Montreal City Council approve the sale of the former Institute for the Deaf property located at 7400 St.Lawrence. This magnificent local landmark, used for decades as a social and community centre, may well be sold by the religious group, the Clercs de St-Viateur, and transformed into luxury condos. This is a project that does not in the least respond to the housing needs of people in the neighbourhood. This attitude of contempt towards citizens and community groups in Villeray, as well as towards the deaf community of Montreal, is of a piece with the systematic and shameful obstruction that these same elected officials displayed regarding the Inuit Patient Residence project proposed, in 2010, for the former Chinese Hospital building on St-Denis Street. Will the leaders of the various municipal parties (Madame Harel, M.Bergeron and M.Tremblay) once again bow to the wishes of the local councilors and impose this unacceptable project on our community?

The citizens and community groups made clear their opposition to this project during the public hearings held at the end of 2010 as well as by an online petition which has gathered over 500 names. The conversion of the Centre at 7400 St. Lawrence into condos is an unacceptable loss of a community asset. It means the eviction of forty non-profit groups as well as large meeting spaces and a number of low-cost temporary accommodations. The strict acceptable minimum would be to include 15 % of the dwellings as non-profit units, as spelled out in the City of Montreal’s Inclusion of Affordable Housing in New Residential Projects Strategy. This is even more urgent because nearly 50% of the borough’s tenants are eligible for social housing and, as well, because the percentage of actual social housing units in the area does not even meet the Montreal average.To make things even worse, many groups have pointed out that the so-called “affordable” condos to be built are too expensive for a clear majority of people in the neighbourhood, including young working families on low and modest income. It seems all too obvious that the project targets a new and wealthier population than the people living here now. You really have to wonder for whom the local elected officials are working?

As a substitute for including 15% of social housing on the site, the promoters, Groupe Thibault, Messier, Savard (that’s Serge Savard, former hockey star), and Associates, are offering the derisory amount of $300,000 on the basis that that they will incur significant costs to preserve some heritage aspects of the building. If the 302 condos are sold at an average of $300,000 each, and if the profit to be made is in the 15-20% range, then the promoters are going to walk away with some 15 million dollars. We really feel their pain, but we have a problem understanding why the elected officials and civil servants of the borough, who supposedly represent the interests of the citizens, have bought completely into the promoter’s line of (un)reasoning.

The unacceptable vow of silence of the Clercs de St-Viateur

The anti-poverty groups in the area are also at a loss to explain the silence of the present owners of the property, the Catholic Congregation les Clercs de St-Viateur, as well as the complete lack of respect shown to the deaf community. The Clercs certainly could have negotiated certain conditions with the buyers that would have been more consistent with their Christian values of sharing with populations in need. They could have also, in all decency, informed the deaf community of the impending sale of the property, which has been at the heart of this community’s activities for over a century. The Clercs have made but one request— that the new owners put up a commemorative plaque, which could well be seen as a gravestone of a once thriving community and social centre. Could we ask this religious community to break their silence and explain their decisions?

On a final note, we believe it is legitimate to question the “private” nature of the property at 7400 St. Lawrence and the manner in which some religious communities (not all, Thank God!) dispose of “their” properties. The question to be asked is the following: How were these buildings and properties financed originally, if not through the obligatory contributions, the tithes of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents? We should also not forget the subsidies and tax exemptions granted to religious institutions by our various levels of government, a cost borne by all taxpayers.

For all of these reasons, the project at 7400 St-Lawrence must go back to square one. It must be completely reviewed and redone. The City of Montreal has to tell the local borough to go back to the drawing board.The local political elite must negotiate serious and important modifications to the project, including continued community uses, both to respect the people that elected them and to respect the important role that the deaf community has played in our local history for over a hundred years.

By Geneviève Beaudet, former spokesperson for the Citizen’s Committee in support of the Inuit Patient Residence in Villeray,

supported by...

  • Sylvie Dalpé, Action dignité de Saint-Léonard,
  • Marie-Andrée Painchaud, Carrefour d’éducation populaire de Pointe-St-Charles,
  • Sonia Haddad, Centre des femmes d’ici et d’ailleurs,
  • Yolande Tourigny, Front commun des personnes assistées sociales du Québec,
  • Nesrine Bessaïh, l’R des centres de femmes du Québec,
  • Martin Blanchard, Comité logement Petite Patrie,
  • Daryl Hubert, Québec solidaire Laurier-Dorionm
  • France Émond, Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec,
  • Jean-Yves Joannette, TROVEP de Montréal

and 42 Villeray citizens :
Alain Chénier, Alain Kuhn, André Richer, André Trépanier, Andrée Brosseau, Ariane Gosselin-B., Brigitte Beaudet, Christian Pepin, Claire Harvey, David Murray, Denise Rousselle, Esher Parent, Ève-Marie Lampron, Faiz Abbhuani, Francine Boucher, Geneviève Lussier, Gerardo Aiquel, Hélène Larose, Isabel Barrera, Isabelle Leduc, Jonathan Blais, Jules Gosselin-B., community worker, Julie Châteauvert, Kate McDonnell, Laurent Lapointe, Lorraine Lefebvre, Louise Desjardins, Louise-Caroline Bergeron, PhD in philosophy, Lyse Cloutier, Marc Collin, PhD in history, Martin Patenaude-Monette, Nathan Dratler, Nicole Jetté, Patrice P.Martel, Paul Dumais, teacher at Collège de Rosemont, Paule Lespérance, Serge Mongeau, writer, Simon Bellefleur, Sophie Mousseau, LSQ interpret, Sylvie Gravel, Véronique Martineau and Virginie Stinat.

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