Vanier community vows to keep fighting Salvation Army shelter

Opponents of the now-approved Salvation Army shelter in Vanier gathered less than a block from the proposed site of the complex Wednesday and vowed to continue their fight to stop it.

City council approved the proposal for a 350-bed facility on Montreal Road Wednesday

Mark Kaluski (left), Quartier Vanier BIA chair, and Drew Dobson, organizer of SOS Vanier, model "heart of the heart" T-shirts meant to show support for the Vanier community. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

After marathon meetings at planning committee and a loss at a city hall Wednesday, residents of the Vanier community gathered to reflect on the hard-fought, ongoing battle against the Salvation Army's proposal for the shelter complex on Montreal Road.

Allison Fisher, the executive director of the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, spoke against the Salvation Army's proposal and attended the three days of meetings at the planning committee last week.

"For me, the process was so flawed that my expectation was exactly what I saw today. You can't help but feel disappointed in [city] leadership when something like this happens," she said Wednesday night.

The lights of the Concorde Motel, which would be replaced by the proposed complex, are visible from the front steps of the centre, which hosted the meeting.

Fisher echoed the feelings of residents and business owners who are concerned about the impact of the proposed multi-purpose social service centre.

"They are going to create a ghetto in this area, in the most vulnerable section of the city," Fisher said.

Allison Fisher (left), executive director of the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, said she was sad and disappointed at council's decision to approve the Salvation Army's shelter proposal for Montreal Road. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The new facility would include 350 beds, 140 for emergency use, and would provide a variety of addiction and life skills services.

The Wednesday night gathering was called a "celebration."

Fisher said that was meant to reflect the remarkable way the community came together.

"That was the biggest win in all of this is that I saw the strength, I saw the truth of the community I live in."

'I'll still fight it'

Drew Dobson, the organizer of the SOS Vanier campaign, said while the community may feel somewhat betrayed or bitter about the decision, it's also united.

"I'm more optimistic now about the future of Vanier and Montreal Road than I was at the beginning of this process," he said.

"I still think that putting a shelter that large would be very, very destructive. And I'll still fight it based on the size that they're proposing."

He described organizing the community as an education — from learning Twitter to connecting with neighbours.

"I've learned a lot. I've met many of my neighbours. I've learned that we have a really strong francophone community and we have a strong Vanier community," he said.

'This will never be built'

Some of the biggest rounds of applause were for Coun. Mathieu Fleury, the local councillor led the opposition to the Salvation Army proposal and said the community needs to remain united.

Coun. Mathieu Fleury told Vanier residents and business owners he will continue to organize opposition to the Salvation Army's proposed Montreal Road shelter complex. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

"We're going to win this. And we're going to win this in court. This will never be built, mark my words," Fleury said.

"I want the Salvation Army to know that Vanier's door is open, we're here to roll up our sleeves, but we're not okay with the current proposal."

He pointed to the long battle to keep the Montfort Hospital open in the late 1990s and early 2000s and encouraged people to stay engaged.

He pointed out there are fundraisers for the appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board and other possible legal challenges.