Members of a Montreal YMCA are celebrating the community centre's decision to remove frosted glass it installed last year to shield young neighbouring Orthodox Jews fromseeing women exercising inside.
The YMCA on Parc Avenue in Montreal's Mile-End will take down the frosted panels and replace them with clear windows and blinds, allowing members to reclaim the view from the exercise room, officials announced Monday.
YMCA management ordered the glass installed in September 2006 after a synagogue on Hutchison Street complained its young male students were getting distracted while hanging out in the alley between the buildings, because they could peer too easily inside thefitness facilityand see scantily clad exercisers.
That decision sparked a petition by Renée Lavaillante, a YMCA member who was offended by the notion she would have to cover up for others while exercising inside.
On Monday, she said she felt vindicated, and vowed to keep the blinds in room 2B open whenever she's using it.
"Closing the blinds, that will be like building the ghetto once again," she told CBC.
Response to her petition suggested only about a quarter of YMCA members were happy to have the frosted glass separate them from the outdoors.
A minority of members had concerns about the exercise room's proximity to the alley. They said that occasionally, people would get caught peering in on them.
YMCA director Serge St-André said the opaque glass was an experiment in compromise and was never designed to create shame.
"It was never our intention to hide women who are training," he told CBC. "We wanted to protect the privacy of our members while respecting the wishes of our neighbour."
St-André said the synagogue's leaders were not thrilled to learn the glass was coming down.
"It was a very, very quiet reaction. They just asked if it was a permanent decision. We answered, 'Yes,' and I'm sure they'll repeat the same request forever."