Que. Inuit care centre pulls out of Villeray

Supporters of an Inuit care centre are looking for a new location, saying they feel unwelcome in Montreal's Villeray district.

Nunavik health board says patients won't feel welcome


A plan to convert a former hospital on St. Denis Street in Montreal into an Inuit care home has been cancelled. ((CBC))
Supporters of an Inuit care centre are looking for a new location, saying they feel unwelcome in Montreal's Villeray district.

Nunavik's Regional Board of Health and Social Services had planned to convert the former Chinese hospital on St. Denis Street into a home-away-from-home for Inuit people travelling from Northern Quebec to Montreal for medical treatment.

The Nunavik health board released a statement late Thursday saying that it was pulling its plan off the table because Inuit people may not feel welcome there.

"[We] believe strongly that the injury inflicted is too strong to continue with the project to convert the former Chinese hospital," said Alasie Arngak, president of the Nunavik health board.

Currently, Inuit people who come to Montreal from the north for medical treatment are housed in one of seven locations across the city. They are then taken by bus to the Montreal General Hospital for their treatments.

Health authorities in Montreal and Nunavik chose the former Chinese hospital site because of its availability and size.

However, critics said the former hospital could be better used to serve the local population. Some residents and members of the borough council also raised concerns about a possible increase in drug and alcohol abuse in the area. Public health officials dismissed the concern, saying that most of the patients would be families and children.

Anie Samson, the mayor of Villeray-Saint-Michel-Park-Extension, said the borough had the right to ask for impact studies of the future facility. She said supporters of the project may have been put off by the request.

"Maybe the Inuit community don't [sic] work this way, but here in Montreal, when we have a file, we have some obligations to do," said Samson.

Decision leaves bad 'tone' in Villeray

The decision to pull out of the Chinese hospital site came days after supporters of the project delivered a petition with 650 names to Villeray borough council.

Resident Patricia Kearns said she was disappointed that there was no political will for the project.

"It makes me feel very badly. It's such an unfortunate end to this project," said Kearns, who can see the site from her window.

"I envisioned Inuit people coming down from the north here to receive their medical treatment. It would have been something great for our community of Villeray. Instead we are left with this negative, really sad ending. It leaves a tone over Villeray."

Nunavik health officials say they are optimistic they can find a new location soon.