Moving day for tenants forced out of City Centre Inn and Suites in Saskatoon

About 150 people staying at the City Centre Inn moved out Thursday as the Fire Department shut it down after an inspection revealed more than 60 health and safety violations.

Fire Department shuts down notorious motel on Idylwyld Drive

The Saskatoon Fire Department is shutting down the City Centre Inn and Suites after identifying more than 60 health and safety violations during a recent inspection sparked by an anonymous complaint. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

People living at the City Centre Inn and Suites piled their belongings into bags, suitcases, truck beds and taxis on Thursday as they trekked away from the notorious Saskatoon motel.

The Saskatoon Fire Department is shutting down the motel after identifying more than 60 health and safety violations during a recent inspection sparked by an anonymous complaint.

The inspection revealed raw sewage seeping through floors and ceilings, bugs crawling out of electrical outlets and suites turned into firetraps by blocked exits.

"This is deplorable, this is ugly. It doesn't sit well with me. Nobody should live in this, we're not a Third World country," said Saskatoon Tribal Council chief Mark Arcand.

"This is the city of Saskatoon, it's 2020. We have a lot of resources, we have a lot of economic opportunities, and every house should be at a standard."

Many of the tenants at the motel are on some form of income assistance. Social Services came under criticism for supposedly placing clients in such shoddy living quarters after the inspection details were revealed.

"It's important to note that income assistance clients, like all other citizens, decide where they will reside," said Jeff Redekop, executive director of income assistance service delivery for the province.

"They may use their income assistance benefits to support their choice. The Ministry of Social Services does not place any clients in need of shelter in the City Centre Inn and Suites."

Fire Department to order closure of City Centre Inn and Suites

3 years ago
Duration 1:22
On Wednesday, the Saskatoon Fire Department said the City Centre Inn and Suites, formerly known as the Northwoods Inn and Suites, was being served with a notice to close because of unsafe and unsanitary living conditions.

On Thursday, a range of community groups marshaled in the motel parking lot. The Saskatchewan Health Authority Health Bus did COVID-19 testing on people living there while other teams went door-to-door. Housing agencies worked from tables to make sure everyone living at the motel had a place to stay that night.

Single adults will go either to a shelter, a hotel or stay with family or friends for short term housing needs. Four families were successfully relocated, said the fire department.

Residents of the City Centre Inn and Suites packed up Thursday after the Saskatoon Fire Department announced it would shut down the motel due tomore than 60 health and safety violations. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Not everyone leaving had only bad memories.

Crystal Mike lived in a ground floor room for the past three months. She said the bathroom a floor above sometimes leaked into hers, but she noted the room had wi-fi, air conditioning and a phone.

"The good is we got good neighbours, we got people watching other people around here, we got kids around here, little kids once in a while," she said.

"The bad is, the stabbings and the shootings that go on in these places."

The City Centre Inn took on that name while Mike lived there.

It used to be the Northwood Inn and Suites. It was under that name that it earned its unenviable reputation.

It was the scene of sexual assaults, murder, beatings and drug deals, according to a review of city police news releases.

Trash littered the second level balcony Thursday. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

It also had a history with the fire department.

"The law gives property owners and landlords many chances to do what's right to ensure people have safe, healthy places to live." said Saskatoon Fire Chief Morgan Hackl.

"However, this property has had a lengthy history with our department. Following repeated inspections, orders to remedy issues, and tickets, the conditions have degraded to such a deplorable state the Fire Department can no longer allow people to live there."

The property's owner, John Pontes, was convicted of sexual assault against a guest in 2017 and was given a suspended sentence and 18 months probation.

Pontes was also fined almost $45,000 by the province's Human Rights Commission in 2014 for sexually harassing a female clerk.

Pontes declined a request for an interview Thursday.


Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.