Concerned members of the Milton-Parc community gathered in front of the Royal Victoria Hospital on September 4 for a demonstration against the potential privatization of the iconic landmark.
The march and demonstration was organized by the Milton Parc Citizens’ Committee, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), and the Community Council of Peter-McGill. Dozens of people participated, marching from the hospital to Léo-Pariseau/Lucia Kowaluk Park, in an act of “symbolic occupation of Pine avenue,” according to the Facebook page for the event.
The Royal Victoria Hospital was decommissioned in 2015, and the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) has been tasked with developing a plan for the future of the building, excluding the half that has been claimed by McGill University. On the web page for the project, the SQI claims the site “is now opening up to new vocations which will restore [it] to the fundamental role it has played in the organization of society.”
The hospital buildings are crucial in providing shelter to homeless people in the area as many shelters in the city have closed due to COVID-19. Because of its size and resources, it is also used to isolate homeless patients who have contracted the virus to minimize the spread in homeless communities. Mayor Valerie Plante has announced that the site will remain a shelter until March 31, 2021.
The primary concern of protestors is the lack of public consultation in research for the project. There has been one consultation between the SQI and the Milton Parc Citizens’ Committee, and an information session with the Community Council Peter-McGill and the SQI. But the community has not had an official opportunity to share their ideas and concerns with the SQI in a public forum outside of these two small meetings.
“As with many other projects being considered in the metropolitan area, deciding the Royal Victoria’s fate must be done with an eye to the intense gentrification disenfranchising low-income communities, those experiencing homelessness, and those longing for a united community with enough space to host services and activities,” stated the organizers on Facebook.
The organizers also believe that the original intentions of the founders should be upheld; “the social vocation that the founders outlined in the deed of transfer and the fact that the site was built primarily as healthcare or housing (in particular for women) must be at the forefront of any decision,” stated the event description. The descendants of the original benefactors of the site agree that there should be no privatization of the landmark.