Acts of vandalism at the Asticou Centre: Mont-Bleu High School suspends classes
After a fire in the Mont-Bleu High School building in November 2018 that forced the relocation of students to the Asticou Centre for classes, it is now acts of vandalism committed in the Centre's premises that have affected the students' school life. During the night of Monday, September 6 to Tuesday, September 7, 2022, the Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau (SPVG) and the Service de sécurité incendie de la Ville de Gatineau (SSIG) were dispatched at approximately 4:20am to the Asticou Centre located at 249 boulevard de la Cité-des-jeunes, after an alarm was triggered in the building. When they arrived, the firefighters had to secure the area since a fire had started and the sprinklers had opened. Following the intervention of the SSIG, the police were able to establish that several misdeeds had been committed in the administrative offices wing of the centre: breaking and entering, broken windows, damaged premises and water damage caused by the sprinklers when the fire started. Forensic identification teams were on site Tuesday morning to analyze the scene.
The Centre de services scolaires des Portages de l'Outaouais (CSSPO) announced the suspension of classes early in the morning of September 6 on its social networks, just one week after the start of the school year. The 1370 students at Mont-Bleu High School therefore had a few days of forced leave, unlike the people in vocational training (formation professionnelle) and the federal employees who work at the Asticou Centre. The latter were able to return to their respective sections of the building (which were not affected by the vandalism) without any problems. The school staff was teleworking during the suspension of classes and the annual general assembly of the parents of Mont-Bleu High School, which was supposed to be held on 7 September, had to be postponed to Wednesday 14 September. The return to class was announced by the school authorities on Wednesday evening, both through official communication and via the organisation's Facebook page. Contacted by the Bulletin, Maude Hébert, from the CSSPO's General Secretariat and Communications Department, notes: "The clean-up of the vandalised premises has been completed. Air quality tests were also carried out to ensure the health and safety of students and staff following the fire and water damage caused by the sprinklers. Work will be completed in the next few days in the administration area. All school services have resumed as usual, including transportation”. By Thursday morning, 48 hours after the vandalism, life was back to normal at the Asticou Centre, with students from Mont-Bleu High School strolling around in their sky-blue jumpers. Broken windows were boarded up with plywood and areas of interest to law enforcement were restored. The repair of the federal building, which is the responsibility of the CSSPO, is expected to follow in the coming weeks.
The SPVG made two arrests on Friday, September 9. Two 13-year-olds were arrested in connection with the acts of vandalism committed at the Centre Asticou and could be found guilty of several criminal acts (arson, mischief over $5,000, theft, break and enter). As for the building, the SPVG indicates "The investigation determined that the damage caused to the school located at 241-A, boulevard de la Cité-des-Jeunes, in the Hull sector, totalled several hundred thousand dollars”.
Photo caption: The Asticou Centre, two days after the events
Photo credit: Sonia Roy