A coalition of several groups gathered on Sunday afternoon in front of the former Royal Victoria hospital in Montreal because they are concerned about a possible privatization of the site, while a consultation with the Office de consultation is underway. Public de Montréal (OCPM).
The event organized by the Royal Vic for the public good coalition brought together a few dozen people, who marched to the Roddick gate in front of McGill University, partially blocking traffic. “We need more affordable housing and green spaces, and that cannot be done if it is privatized,” said Christa Smith-Kingston, community development officer at the Peter McGill Neighborhood Table.
Even if privatization is not in the cards at the moment, it fears the construction of condos or hotels. “Here we still live with the shame of the site of the former Montreal Children’s Hospital, which was privatized despite the promises that had been made. We fear the same is happening at the Royal Vic, ”she said.
The site is managed by the government through the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) and McGill University wishes to develop a campus on a portion of the site, focused on research in public policies and sustainable development. Privatization has been ruled out by the SQI, according to the coalition, but fears persist.
“They are going to give 15% of the site to McGill University, but it could eventually decide to privatize, as was done at the University of Montreal on the other side of the mountain. We find that ridiculous, ”insists Vincent Chevarie, communications and mobilization agent for the coalition.
Montreal will have a say in the use of the site and a consultation was launched in early September by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM). A report will be drawn up subsequently. According to the spokesperson, there is no guarantee that the city will not go against what the commissioners are proposing. “There are the municipal elections, could a change in the town hall influence that? This is what we fear, ”he said.
Alex Norris, councilor for the Jeanne-Mance district under the Projet Montréal banner, was present at the march. The privatization of the site “has never been in the direction of the City of Montreal, nor of the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough,” he commented briefly.
For its part, the Milton Park Citizen’s Committee conducted its own consultation with 350 neighborhood residents on the future of the site. “People are promoting the development of social and cooperative housing, as well as urban agriculture projects,” says Samuel Helguero, community organizer of the Milton Park Citizen’s Committee. They oppose the construction of apartments, cafes or restaurants which are the property of a private actor ”. The fact that McGill University owns a portion of the site is also not “popular,” he adds.