Citizens livid over lack of consultation
By Robert Frank
Batshaw Youth and Family Services officials met a standing-room only crowd of more than 150 Beaconsfield residents, March 11, to share details of the open-custody facility for troubled youth that it wants to build on Elm street.
The citizens who packed the Herb Linder salon at city hall expressed dismay that there has been no public consultation over the $50 million project, and that Monday’s information meeting was convened a full week after the city’s deadline to file a formal objection had passed, March 4.
“Maybe we should have come before,” acknowledged executive director Margaret Douek, who underscored Batshaw’s apprehension, having “experienced local resistance at every location where it has proposed building facilities” to help troubled English-speaking youth aged 7-17.
She explained that Batshaw had tried for a decade to find a location in Montreal where it could consolidate all its facilities, and said that it only opted to build in Beaconsfield once that dream proved impossible to achieve.
Citizens’ concerns included security, traffic safety, the added load on the local schools that the Batshaw children will attend, the impact on road, water and sewage infrastructure, noise and light pollution as well as how the architecture will blend with the surrounding community.
Residents’ biggest worry, though, remained whether Batshaw—which last month won a long court battle to transform its complex into a high-walled closed-custody site in Dorval—might one day, do likewise in Beaconsfield.
Douek initially waffled when resident George Bourrelle asked whether she would sign a letter committing never to transform the complex into a lockdown facility. She preferred to stress that—unlike in Dorval—Beaconsfield’s current zoning would not permit a lockdown site.
However, after District 6 city councilor Rhonda Massad pressed the issue, Douek promised that Batshaw would not pursue Beaconsfield before the courts if it subsequently passes a bylaw that would prohibit lockdown facilities in the city.
The Quebec Court of Appeal supported Batshaw’s claim that turning its Dorval complex into a lockdown facility did not change the purpose of the site. The court also found that, if anything, a lockdown site ought to be safer for residents in the surrounding community.
“The truth is, no one wants these kids,” impassioned Batshaw assistant executive director Lesley Hill at the end of the meeting. “These kids need these services, and you need to understand these kids.”
“We’re going to be building, we’re going to be taking care of these children,” Douek added, “and the community needs to embrace these kids because they’re West Island kids. They can’t stay up in our Prévost camp [in the Laurentians].”
Several citizens pointed out that Batshaw plans to evict Portage, another service for troubled youth, which has occupied the site rent-free for 12 years, in order to make way for its Beaconsiield project.
“Do not frame this as Beaconsfielders versus children,” admonished Beaconsfield Citizens’ Association representative Greg Steenstra.
City manager Patrice Boileau explained that the decision whether to proceed with Batshaw’s proposal will be decided at the Beaconsfield demolition committee meeting at city hall tonight, March 13.
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, he concluded.
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