Nunavik’s Regional Board of Health and Social Services has pulled out of plans to convert Montreal’s defunct Chinese Hospital on Montreal’s St-Denis street into a hostel and cultural center for those receiving medical care in the city.
The Health Board President, Alacie Arngak released a statement on September 9 saying they would be pulling out of the hospital conversion project because “The injury inflicted is too deep to pursue the relocation project.”
Back in June it was announced by the Nunavik Board of Regional Health and Social Services (NBRHSS) and the Northern Quebec Module, which runs Nunavik patient services in Montreal, would be taking over the hospital facility to convert it into somewhere for patients and their escorts to stay while receiving medical services unavailable in the north.
Amidst a lack of information made available to the public, with some residents under the impression that the facility was to be a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, some borough residents began to publicly oppose the project. A small minority even went as far as putting up a website entitled “imminent-danger,” saying that “This project will lead to a major increase in crime in your neighborhood,” citing prostitution, drug trafficking, vandalism and the smell of urine as a result of the influx of Inuit in the area.
Even Montreal’s Villeray-St. Michel-Park Extension borough mayor, Anie Samson told the media at the time that there would be difficulty welcoming the Inuit to the community because the borough’s resources were already “extremely limited.”
Samson then also told the public that some public consultation over the project even though because the Chinese Hospital was a private facility, no consultation with the borough was required.
While some publications had Samson quoted as saying that she had concerns over introducing another ethnic group into separatist-Francophone Villeray, Samson recently told the Nation that she was misquoted and that this was misunderstood.
“I just want to say to the people that this is a borough that has over 150 different ethnic communities living here and we are proud to say this. One more would not have made a difference for us. So, when people say that we made a decision based on racism, they don’t know what they are talking about,” said Samson.
A day after the NBRHSS pulled out of the project officially, Samson said that she was utterly disappointed that the project would not be happening and that the whole situation was “unfair,” because the borough should really not be to blame.
She instead pointed a finger at Montreal’s Health Agency who she said refused to provide her and the borough’s citizens with any information on the project or the impact it would have on the borough and its public services.
“The dossier was at the beginning mishandled by the Agency of Montreal and that is where the people need to go and ask why this was done. They came here because we asked for them to give us some information but they did not want to talk to the borough because it wasn’t important for them,” said Samson.
In terms of her own administration, Samson said that she and her council had requested information from Montreal’s Agency so that her department could open up a file so that adequate services could be provided for the 150 new individuals that would be suddenly in the borough.
While at her request the Montreal’s Health Agency did provide a public information session to the borough residents to minimally discuss the project publicly, Samson said that the Agency promised the citizens further information on the project and studies but then never came through. Three months after the meeting, she had still not received a word from the Agency.
By September 7, Samson said that she had finally received word from Montreal’s Health Agency informing her that she and her residents would have to seek out the Nunavik Health Agency if they wanted more details on the project as Montreal’s job was done. A few days later the project was formally cancelled.
“I want to tell the Inuit community that we are very open, perhaps the questions that we asked made them feel oppressed but in this borough we need to look at every single file so that it can be great. We wanted to have the information before and not after the project is already done,” said Samson.
There has been no word yet from the NBRHSS has found a new location for the hostel and for the time being, Nunavik residents will continue to use the series of smaller facilities they have been using in the west end of Montreal.