Montreal

Dream of turning Laval church into a school for disabled children goes up in flames

Laval firefighters fought hard to save a small, wooden church on Bigras Island early Monday morning but, by sunup, there was nothing left but a burned-out shell of what was to be a school for disabled children.

Heritage building's owner says she didn't have insurance nor the money to complete renovations

Myriam Tétreault bought the church in 2012 in the hopes of making it a school for disabled children. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

Laval firefighters fought hard to save a small, wooden church on Bigras Island early Monday morning but, by sunup, there was nothing left but the burned-out shell of what was to be a school for disabled children.

"It was a dream, but it's not going to come true," said Myriam Tétreault, as she sobbed in front of the charred remains of the white-sided heritage building she bought in 2012.

She purchased the property through a non-profit organization with plans to turn it into a school, but she was not yet able to drum up the needed funding for renovations.

Because the building was so old — it was built in 1943 — Tétreault said she was unable to get it insured.

"It's a total loss," she said, her voice shaking with sobs.

"That's what I was told. It's a total loss."

The building is a total loss, the owner says, dashing her hopes of turning it into a school for disabled children. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

Though it may have been a small building, it had everything she needed to make her dream come true.

The old church had enough space for classes, space to play outside and even a gymnasium, said Tétreault.

Her son has Down syndrome and served as an inspiration for the school.

Though she is Catholic, Tétreault said everyone would have been welcome regardless of their religious affiliation.

"It was just perfect," she said.

"There was a small kitchen in the back where kids with intellectual disabilities would have been able to learn how to cook because they have to learn how to cook — to at least learn how to make a sandwich when they are alone."

Myriam Tétreault's youngest son, David, has Down syndrome. He is pictured here with her husband, her eldest son François and second-oldest son Daniel. (Submitted by Myriam Tétreault)
She said she has no words to describe the way she is feeling as she surveyed the the wreckage, but she has faith in God that "something good will come out of it.

"We had no insurance because the building was too old," said Tétreault. "We paid for the place, but we didn't have the money to do the renovations."

Laval police confirmed that the fire department was called to the scene by neighbours just after 3 a.m. on Monday. 

It is not yet clear how the fire started, though police say the structure was vacant at the time of the fire. 

Const. Evelyne Boudreau, a spokesperson for Laval police, said they were securing the area Monday morning, waiting for demolition equipment to arrive.

About the Author

Kate McKenna is a reporter with CBC Montreal. She is covering the federal election in Quebec. Email her at kate.mckenna@cbc.ca.

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