Beaconsfield slates March 11 hearing on Batshaw controversy

By Robert Frank

More than 50 residents packed Beaconsfield city council chamber, Feb. 25, most of them distressed over a proposal by Batshaw Youth and Family Services to build a facility to house 108 troubled youth on Elm street.

Beaconsfield resident Gilles Perron expressed concern that, as needs change, “in 15-20 years, Batshaw could play the same game as it has in Dorval and transform the facility into a lockdown centre.”

Perron was referring to a long legal battle that Batshaw won, Feb. 14, when the Supreme Court of Canada announced that it would not hear an appeal of a judgment permitting Batshaw to turn its Dorval premises into a high-walled, closed-custody facility for dangerous youth offenders.

Mayor David Pollock said that Batshaw representatives will be present to answer questions at a public hearing to be held in Beaconsfield’s council chamber at 7:30 p.m., March 11.

He added that Batshaw will likewise be present at the city’s demolition hearing, slated for March 13.

Mayor Pollock outlined the process that the city will follow as it responds to Batshaw’s application.

He said that the city posted a sign, Feb. 20, to give public notice of Batshaw’s proposal to demolish the structure that currently stands on its Elm street location.

During the ensuing ten day period, which ends March 4, he continued, anyone is free to file an objection.

He added that individuals will also have an additional 30 day period, lasting until April 12, to appeal the outcome of whatever decision the city’s demolition committee reaches during its March 13 meeting.

Depending upon whether or not there is an appeal, Beaconsfield council could vote on the demolition proposal as early as its April 22 meeting, Mayor Pollock explained.

Citizens rehashed issues from previous council meetings about why the mayor had not informed the elected members of city council of Batshaw’s proposal, at one point sparking a heated exchange between Pollock and District 6 councilor Rhonda Massad, who last year announced her intention to campaign for mayor during the upcoming municipal election in November.

“We put up our hands and voted on zoning changes, not knowing about [Batshaw’s] proposal,” she reiterated. “That’s why we asked to have these information meetings.”

District 4 councilor Pierre Demers also affirmed that although municipal officials had briefed Mayor Pollock about the Batshaw file in May 2011, city councilors remained in the dark until after Batshaw filed a formal proposal at the end of December 2012.

Demers added that he has “no problem with the proposal” itself.

“Our kids need help in this community, and we have a responsibility to help them,” he asserted.

Mayor Pollock noted that despite the separate demolition and construction proposals, Batshaw has indicated that it has not yet received from the Quebec government the funding that it will need to proceed with its project to develop modern facilities for the province’s English-speaking youth.

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