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Royal Vic for the Public | Newsletter #1

A few months ago, we solicited several organizations in Montreal to support an open letter that we intended to publish in both French and English media outlets. 55 organizations signed on to our letter, and we would like to begin by thanking you for your support. In light of all the activity that has taken place since the summer, we’ve decided to create a newsletter aimed at organizations and individuals interested in the Royal Vic issue.  Here is our “first edition”.

CONTENTS

  • Status of the Open Letter
  • Website
  • Invitation to participate in a research-action study with CURE
  • March on September 4
  • Advocacy activities
  • Meetins with McGill University
  • Meetings with the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI)
  • Next steps

Status of the Open Letter

We had planned to send the letter for publication shortly after the September 4 march. After weeks of approaching various media outlets, we finally published the letter on November 16 in the Journal de Montréal and The Gazette.  The list of organizations that endorsed it appears in the online versions of the letters. We also sent it to several journalists covering urban planning and housing issues.  

We invite you to share these published letters within your networks to give them even more visibility. If your organization would like to add its support to the letter, please send a message to ccmp.miltonparc@gmail.com. Note that for the moment, we are only soliciting support from organizations.

On October 18, La Presse published a letter from the urban planner Gérard Beaudet on the future of the Royal Vic. His letter reiterated some of our concerns, particularly with regard to the threat of privatization of the site. Journalist Antoine Robitaille also published an article in the Journal de Montréal commenting on the Quebec government’s transfer of part of the Royal Vic site to McGill University.

Website

The Coalition has set up a bilingual website to make publicly available crucial information on the evolution of the Royal Vic file, and on the steps we’ve taken as a collective: www.royalvic.org.  It is now possible to contact us by e-mail at coalitionrvh@gmail.com.

Invitation to participate in a Research-Action study with CURE

The Coalition has entered into a partnership with the Community-University Research Exchange (CURE), based at McGill University’s Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG-McGill), which offers students the opportunity to participate in research for the benefit of the community.  

The CURE study aims to conduct a community needs assessment. It is a grassroots initiative to engage citizens and community organizations in a non-hierarchical urban planning exercise to collaborate in designing a better future for the Royal Victoria site, in contrast to the vertical consultation process undertaken by the SQI.  

The research examines the feasibility of democratic governance of the site and the implementation of social uses, as listed in the open letter. We mentioned this initiative to the SQI and asked it to integrate the results of our study into its own analysis.

We invite you to take part in this research by filling out the following questionnaire, which will only take 10 minutes of your time.

Click here to fill out the survey in French.

Click here to fill out the survey in English.

We thank you in advance for your collaboration! 

September 4th March

As a first step in gaining public visibility and making our demands known, the Coalition organized a march on September 4th that brought together about 100 participants. Starting at the Royal Vic, the march made a stop in the new Lucia Kowaluk Park, named after the well-known activist from the Milton Parc neighbourhood, and in front of the Hôtel-Dieu, and then continued on to the Institut des Sourdes-Muettes. These three sites, located along Avenue des Pins, are all in the process of requalification and are the subject of claims by the community to be transformed for social uses. CTV covered our march quite extensively. You can watch their coverage here.

Advocacy Activities

At the same time, we met with Andrés Fontecilla, M.P., responsible for housing and immigration at Québec solidaire, as well as Jennifer Maccarone, M.P. for Westmount – St-Louis where the Royal Vic is located. These MPs spoke at our march on September 4th in support of our demands.  MP Harold LeBel of the Parti Québécois also offered his support to the Coalition.

In addition, MP Maccarone introduced a private member’s bill regarding the portion of the site set aside for the expansion of the McGill University campus.  The bill is expected to be debated in a parliamentary committee in December.  It will then be possible to participate in the consultations that will accompany it and to submit a brief, which the Coalition intends to do.

Meetings with McGill University

We had two virtual meetings, on October 6 and October 28, with the McGill University team responsible for planning the expansion of its campus to open a new sustainability office and school of public policy on the former Royal Vic site. We learned that the $37 million obtained by the university came from the Ministry of Higher Education. This amount is enabling the university to prepare a feasibility study that it plans to file with the provincial government in the near future. If approved, McGill could obtain new funding to develop a business case for approval in June 2022. Hypothetically, once all approvals are obtained, McGill will issue a call for tenders in 2023, with development work to be carried out over five years.  

Coalition representatives stressed the importance of McGill taking into account the stakeholders and the impact of the project in the community, which is facing crucial issues such as homelessness, as well as housing and food insecurity. In this regard, McGill representatives mentioned their intention to work with Indigenous organizations, in keeping with the institution’s commitment to the reconciliation process.

The Coalition also raised the possibility that social economy projects managed by the student community, such as those at Concordia University, could be added to the planning of the new campus and serve its clientele, particularly in terms of accommodation and food services. University representatives received this proposal with interest.

In addition, the university has a small pool of funds, financed equally by the university and the student community, which can support projects from the community. The Coalition has applied for support from this fund.

Meeting with the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI)

Representatives of the Coalition also met with the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) and representatives from McGill University on November 6. The provincial government has given the SQI the mandate to prepare a master plan for the future uses of the site. The SQI stated that the site’s current status is institutional, but that it would like to expand it to allow for a variety of projects, in the following order of priority: government projects, projects of public interest, and “other”. The SQI plans to file an assessment in January 2021. Once the government accepts the file, the SQI would begin preparing the master plan, which would be submitted in the spring and would then be the subject of a consultation process under the auspices of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal.

Discussions focused on the integration of civil society’s concerns leading up to the master planning process and on the lack of means available to civil society to make its voice heard, particularly in terms of financial resources. The Coalition also fears that it will be effectively shut out of the process, and that it will be faced with a fait accompli once the master plan is finalized. Before determining uses, it is important to develop a broad vision for the site and to have an opportunity to discuss governance models that can be applied to the site.

The SQI has planned two meetings with the Peter McGill and Solidarité Grand Plateau Community Councils in the coming weeks. The Coalition has informed the SQI that it is also undertaking a broader consultation with the Montreal community through CURE. We have demanded that the SQI take this consultation into account as well. We have additionally announced the 55 supporting organizations and delivered the open letter to the SQI and McGill University.  

We firmly oppose the flagrant disparity of means considering that no funding was made available to civil society to participate in the requalification process, while McGill University received $37 million to carry out a feasibility study. The SQI responded that it was not within its authority to fund stakeholders.  However, it did not close the door to the possibility of helping the Coalition find sources of funding, particularly from certain government departments.

In sum, the SQI will be able to receive proposals for uses this fall, and proposals for specific implementation projects can be submitted after the adoption of the Master Plan.

On another level, the issue of transportation services was raised. The SQI had a few discussions with the STM, which said it was open to improving its offer in the sector if demand justifies it.  With the influx of a new population thanks to the McGill campus, the increase in ridership should justify it.

Next Steps

The Coalition intends to meet with members of the government, first and foremost Mrs. Chantal Rouleau, Minister responsible for the Metropolis. We remain in communication with her office and await confirmation of a meeting from her.

We will also continue to provide information to journalists specializing in urban planning and housing issues.

The Coalition will additionally continue its efforts to obtain funding to support its many mobilisations.

And in January, the Coalition plans to convene a meeting of the letter’s supporters on January 28, 6-7:30pm. Save the date!

Thank you for your interest and support.

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