Last City Council before the summer vacations: citizens discuss issues of concern
At the last meeting of Gatineau’s City Council (whose members will be on summer vacation for the end of July and part of August), many citizens took advantage of the time reserved for public interventions to question Council on several issues. The Bulletin provides an update on the topics discussed and the interventions made by City Councilors at the July 5 Council meeting.
École secondaire de la Nouvelle-Ère
Several interventions took place in relation to the new high school in the Aylmer sector, which opened in November 2021. Ms. Audrée Proulx, who is the Chair of the Governing Board of École secondaire de la Nouvelle-Ère, used her time to inform the council of a pressing issue regarding the operation of the new school: the lack of facilities dedicated to physical education. Specifically, there is currently no space for outdoor activities and/or sports, as is the case at Grande-Rivière High School. This situation is already a major problem, explains Ms. Proulx, even though the school is not yet at its maximum capacity of students. Accompanied by Johanne Blais and Normand Robert, Ms. Proulx proposed a partnership between École secondaire de la Nouvelle-Ère and the City of Gatineau, which owns several vacant lots adjacent to the school. The school administration would like to proceed with the installation of multipurpose sports areas and a protective dome, which would make some of the sports fields available in winter. Access to the Paul-Pelletier pool for students was also requested in order to encourage a variety of sports activities among the youth.
A great deal of interest in a potential partnership was expressed by Council, with interventions from Ms. Anik Des Marais, Mr. Gilles Chagnon, Mr. Mike Duggan and Mr. Steven Boivin, who all mentioned their support in this matter. Ms. Caroline Murray, Councilor for the Deschênes district where the École secondaire de la Nouvelle-Ère is located, also intervened and mentioned that she had already included in her budget requests funds for such a project and for the construction of a four-season dome. Mayor France Bélisle also spoke out on the issue and concluded, "I believe that the citizen dollar needs to work better and I think that if the City, the municipal and the school communities work together more, everyone gets more value for their money [...], our children win, our communities and our neighborhoods win.”.
Alexandra Carrière, a consultant in a human resources department for the federal government and a survivor of sexual assault, challenged councilors on a highly-discussed issue: sexual misconduct. In a proposal addressed to the council, Ms. Carrière suggests the installation of mandatory training within the academic and judicial institutions of Gatineau. She also proposed specific funding for the Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau in order to increase resources for sexual assault cases, the creation of a specialized team for these cases and a review of the process for dealing with victims. She suggested that the Council consider simplifying access to forensic kits and the morning-after pill, resources that are "much more difficult to obtain than we think", she mentions. Finally, access to abortion and accessibility to abortion for people living outside of Gatineau was also put forward during Ms. Carrière's speech. The Mayor, Ms. Isabelle N. Miron, Mr. Denis Girouard, Ms. Olive Kamanyana and Ms. Tiffany-Lee Norris Parent made various interventions, including to speak on Gatineau's participation in a program to review sexual assault cases and the importance of including all cultural communities in the discussions on this subject.
The Village Champlain real estate project was the subject of several citizen interventions during the last municipal council meeting. Following a request from the real estate developer Brigil, who wished to make modifications to the project, as well as an alert from citizens in the sector and Councilor Anik Des Marais regarding the ecological consequences observed in the vicinity of the site, the approval of the council regarding the modifications proposed by the developer was postponed. Although the item on the agenda concerning the Champlain Village was postponed to the next municipal council, more than eight citizen interventions were heard on July 5. Council members were reminded of the state of Atholl-Doune Park, which must be partially restored by the developer following damage done by the latter, as well as the importance of the neighboring Champlain ecological corridor identified by the National Capital Commission (NCC). The citizens present repeatedly mentioned their concerns about the developer's failure to respect a wetland and the shoreline protection margins, as well as their incomprehension about the fact that the developer can continue its development and construction activities without first restoring Atholl-Doune Park.
Mr. Mario Aubé, President of the Comité consultatif en urbanisme (CCU) and Mr. Jocelyn Blondin (of the same committee), both mentioned that the restoration of Atholl-Doune Park will be done in tandem with the development of the Brigil real estate project and that the City will pay particular attention to this situation. The Mayor also noted that the Service de l’environnement will soon be enhanced with additional staff.
The return of the Municipal Council of the City of Gatineau is scheduled, in person and by webcast, for August 23, 2022.