Montreal

As closure of Guy-Favreau YMCA nears, feds join Montreal in seeking solution

The YMCA's decision to shut down a facility in the heart of Montreal's Chinatown is drawing criticism from both municipal and federal officials, who are now scrambling to find a way to maintain the services it offered.

Politicians say they were surprised by charity's decision to close the Chinatown facility

Last month, YMCAs of Québec — the provincial parent organization of the charity — stunned Montrealers by announcing the YMCA in the Guy-Favreau building will close at the end of the month. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The YMCA's decision to shut down a facility in the heart of Montreal's Chinatown is drawing criticism from both municipal and federal officials, who are now scrambling to find a way to maintain the services it offered.

Last month, YMCAs of Québec — the provincial parent organization of the charity — stunned Montrealers by announcing the YMCA in the Guy-Favreau building will close at the end of the month.

The organization is also ending the aquatic and physical activity programs at the Ys in Hochelaga–Maisonneuve and Pointe-Saint-Charles.

The Guy-Favreau YMCA has been an important space for Montreal's Chinese community since it opened in 1984. It includes, among other things, a gym, a pool and a running track.  

"It's disappointing that this decision was taken unilaterally," said Robert Beaudry, a member of the city's executive committee and the city councillor for the area. 

"We learned of the decision in the media, and there hasn't been any openness on their part for finding a solution."

The Guy-Favreau YMCA has been an important space for Montreal's Chinese community since it opened in 1984. It includes, among other things, a gym, a pool and a running track. (Louis-Marie Philidor/Radio-Canada)

The federal government owns the building where the Chinatown Y is located. When the YMCA warned last year it could no longer afford the $240,000 in annual rent, Ottawa revamped the lease, charging instead $1 per year for use of the space. 

Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said the government was under the impression the new lease had resolved the cost issue.

"We were caught by surprise, like everyone else. We weren't given advance warning of the closure," Guilbeault told Radio-Canada.

Feds open to finding a solution

The YMCAs of Québec did not respond to a request for comment made Sunday. In November, the organization said the decision to close the Guy-Favreau facility was "largely dictated by the steep rise in renovation costs."

Since the closure was announced, Mayor Valérie Plante's administration has been asking for Ottawa's help in finding a solution. Guilbeault warned, though, their options were limited.

"If they want to close it, there is nothing we can do," he said. "We're not a dictatorship; we can't tell them to stay open."

But Guilbeault, who represents Montreal's Chinatown as an MP, said the federal government was "open" to helping find a solution.

Neither Montreal, nor Ottawa, want to manage the facility, and its services, themselves. But another possibility being discussed is finding a non-profit group to take on those tasks. 

That process is likely to take some time, Guilbeault said. 

"Even if we do find an organization quickly, we can't be thinking this will be resolved before December 31. It's not a decision to be made on the back of a napkin."

Based on reporting by Radio-Canada's Romain Schué

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