Audio

New Donovan recovery centre to be 'just another home in the neighbourhood'

An online petition is circulating in an attempt to stop a new recovery treatment centre from opening in Sudbury, Ont., claiming the facility will be "too risky and dangerous" for the Donovan neighbourhood.

'The people who we serve are in recovery and they're not violent people'

The former site of St. David's Catholic School is set to turn into a recovery treatment centre by spring 2018. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)
An online petition is circulating in an attempt to stop a new recovery treatment centre from opening in Sudbury, Ont., claiming the facility will be "too risky and dangerous" for the Donovan neighbourhood. 

"That's just not true," said Monarch Recovery Services incoming CEO Roxane Zuck.

"The people who we serve are in recovery and they're not violent people."

Zuck's agency intends to open a new location at the former site of St. David's Catholic Elementary School by spring 2018. 

It will house several treatment programs, including a men's recovery home. 

'Never had a problem with any of our neighbours'

The service has never seen a petition against one of its facilities in the 48 years it has been operating in Sudbury, according to Zuck. 

"We've never had a problem with any of our neighbours," Zuck said.

"We're just another home in the neighbourhood."

Monique Mercier, chair of the Donovan/Elm West Community Action Network, is inviting Zuck for a public meeting on Thursday to quell people's fears about the new centre.
Monique Mercier is the chair of the Donovan/Elm West Community Action Network. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

"They're afraid because we've had issues in the Donovan/Elm West with prostitution and a lot of drugs," Mercier said.

"I really don't believe that Monarch is going to make that worse."

'Self-fulfilling prophecy'

North Bay, Ont., psychometrist and counsellor Joanne Thivierge, who grew up in Sudbury, works closely with current and former offenders often struggling with addiction.

She said they need to feel a certain sense of community inclusion. Otherwise, they will feel isolated from the community and could relapse.

"By relapsing, this sets off a self-fulfilling prophecy for those people in the neighbourhood," Thivierge said.

"If they feel that they're going to be offended against, or if they feel that they're going to find an increase in crime or increase in addiction by this treatment centre going in; and they isolate people in that community and shame them, they may as well see that."

Thivierge points to research from John Hopkins University that suggests people are more likely to be offended against or experience violence if they have a convenience store in their neighbourhood, not a treatment centre.

"That completely obliterates this petition and these attitudes," Thivierge said.

'Don't have to be in neighbourhoods'

But some who live in the Donovan are not convinced. 

Resident Robby Lavoie said he would rather see the facility placed in an open public area just like a doctor's office or dental practice.

"If we're going to try to put [the recovery centre] in community neighbourhoods where the neighbourhood is trying to clean itself up, we're not fixing a situation," Lavoie said.

"They don't have to be in neighbourhoods."

Monarch Recovery Services was looking for a new location for its programs for more than five years, according to Zuck, adding that the former St. David's school site in the Donovan was chosen because of its size and close proximity to downtown.

"I hope the community of Sudbury, the community I grew up in, will show compassion and support for these people," Thivierge said.

"I know they have for so many other community placements."

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a network reporter for CBC News based in Toronto. She previously worked in Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.