Ottawa

'Blindsided' Vanier residents protest closed Salvation Army shelter meeting

The first protest organized by a group called SOS Vanier called on the Salvation Army to be more transparent about its proposal to build a shelter on Montreal Road, and to let people voice their concerns.

About 150-175 people attended Tuesday night protest against proposed Montreal Road shelter, police say

Protesters chant "SOS Vanier" up to the terrace of the condo at 200 Lafontaine Ave., where the Salvation Army was meeting residents Tuesday night about their proposed shelter site on Montreal Road. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The first protest organized by a group called SOS Vanier called on the Salvation Army to be more transparent about its proposal to build a shelter on Montreal Road, and to let people voice their concerns.

On Tuesday evening the protesters carried signs calling for the mayor, the city and Salvation Army to reconsider the location and scale of the multipurpose centre.

They were also protesting a meeting between the Salvation Army and condo residents that was closed to the public.

Christine Tinker urged motorists to honk as they passed in front of the condominium at 200 Lafontaine Ave., across from the proposed site.

"We feel really blindsided by this," Tinker said.

She was among the protesters opposed to the size of the proposed facility in a community that already has shelters nearby. Tinker lives near what could become the Montfort Street entrance of the proposed facility's parking lot.

"As a mega-shelter, I don't think it's a practical solution for a main street, especially not Montreal Road," she said. "I have no issue whatsoever with putting a shelter there, but the size of the facility they're talking about is completely impractical."

'Haven't had any of our questions answered'

The proposal is for a 350-bed, multi-use facility, with 140 of the beds reserved for emergency, short-term stays like those at the ByWard Market shelter.

Some signs at the protest Tuesday night suggested reducing the facility to 50 beds. Tinker held a sign that said "Salvation Army: talk to us" in French.

"Invite the community, invite all of these people here to have them answer all of our questions. We actually haven't had any of our questions answered," she said.

Tinker said the community meetings held by Coun. Mathieu Fleury provided some information, but didn't give residents a chance to talk directly to Salvation Army representatives.

The Salvation Army was answering questions Tuesday evening in a private meeting at the request of the 200 Lafontaine Ave. condo's board. Salvation Army spokesperson Glenn van Gulik said about 75 people from the 139-unit condominium attended the meeting on the building's terrace, which was closed to the public and media.

"We were guests in their condominium. So we certainly wouldn't consider that private-negative, but certainly an opportunity for us to respond in a positive way to a request for information," van Gulik told CBC News.

Marc Provost, who manages the ByWard Market shelter, and security experts were on hand to answer questions about why the new facility would be safer than the existing building, van Gulik said.

Coun. Fleury and his staff were also at the meeting.

'Come out in public'

Drew Dobson, owner of the neighbouring Finnegan's Pub and an SOS Vanier organizer, said the protest was meant to call out the need for open public consultations in light of the meeting with the condo residents.

"Private information sessions are not acceptable it should be public consultations," Dobson said. "We're tired of secret deals, backroom presentations being made — come out in the public."

Christine Tinker said she's opposed to the Salvation Army facility because of its size. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Van Gulik said the Salvation Army is working with the city and Fleury to formalize a date for public consultations.

"With it being the summer, sometimes it's difficult. We don't want to do something that would be preventative, we want it to be an inclusive date and option, so we're looking more likely at September," he said.

As the protest wound down, some people took their signs home or over Finnegan's Pub to be stored for next time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew Kupfer

CBC Reporter

Matthew Kupfer has been a reporter and producer at CBC News since 2012. He can be reached at matthew.kupfer@cbc.ca and on Twitter @matthewkupfer

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