On Thursday May 19th, over 300 Montreal residents attended a public assembly held in the basement of l’Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette and organized by the Hôtel-Dieu Community Project to discuss the future of Montreal’s oldest hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu.
Located at the intersection of Rue Saint-Urbain and Avenue des Pins, the hospital was founded in 1645 by nurse Jeanne Mance, and remains an important Montreal historical site. But with the recent completion of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), a mega-hospital located near the Vendome station, the Hôtel-Dieu is set to be vacated by the end of this year to allow for the merger, privatization, and consolidation of Montreal’s health services.
“The idea of this project is to take this land from the government, to have an agreement where they would give the land to the community and then to develop a number of projects.”
Numerous community organizations like the Milton Parc Community and the Old Brewery Mission have opposed the privatization of the hospital, and put forth plans to put it to good use.
Speaking to CKUT, Théo Rouhette, a McGill student who volunteers with the Coalition communautaire Milton Parc, explained some of the main pillars of the project.
“The idea of this project is to take this land from the government, to have an agreement where they would give the land to the community and then to develop a number of projects,” said Rouhette, “This project would range from social housing to student residences, to urban agriculture, to art exhibitions and galleries, to small businesses, and also to create a public green space for people to interact with the area.”
“We want to make available decent housing for the homeless, and the Indigenous people living in the area.”
Dimitri Roussopoulos, one of the speakers at the assembly, highlighted the importance of providing housing to marginalized communities, and addressed how the Hôtel-Dieu could play a part in doing so.
“We want to make available decent housing for the homeless, and the Indigenous people living in the area,” said Roussopoulos. “We want to establish a lot of social housing, especially cooperatives with green roofs,” Roussopoulos said.
Roussopoulos further spoke about the importance of community with regards to the project.
“We want it, of course, to be community controlled.”
“We want it, of course, to be community controlled,” elaborated Roussopoulos. “In other words, we want the land to be owned by the people, the partners who develop all this.”
Speaking to The Daily in French, Kia Khojandi, a student at Ahuntsic College who attended the event, stressed the importance of preserving the city’s heritage.
“Hôtel-Dieu is Montreal’s oldest hospital,” said Khojandi, “but it is also more than just a hospital. It is a testimonial to the city’s rich history and heritage. […] Thankfully, there are community movements such as this [that] try to preserve the city’s heritage and turn the site into something that is worthy of its historical value and significance.”
The coalition of community organizations working on the project has met with Montreal mayor Denis Coderre, as well as Quebec Minister of Health Gaetan Barrette. The mayor expressed interest in establishing social housing on the site’s current parking lot.
“It is a testimonial to the city’s rich history and heritage.”
“If we want public authorities to listen,” said Khojandi. “We need to continue mobilizing our efforts and show them that we are determined and that we care. That’s why public assemblies such as [these] are so important.”
Acknowledging the importance of social mobilization, Rouhette added, “The success of this story would show [Montreal] that it is possible to create another world where private property and speculation are not the main pillars, and that community-based activities, […] environmental issues, and projects can occur if there is cohesion between the people.”
“If we want public authorities to listen, we need to continue mobilizing our efforts and show them that we are determined and that we care. That’s why public assemblies such as [these] are so important.”