Batshaw Youth and Family Service’s 10-year-long effort to expand its youth-centre services on the West Island has hit against another obstacle.
A Quebec Court of Appeal ruled August 24 that Batshaw has the right to go-ahead with its plan to replace its existing 40-bed, open-door youth centre in Dorval with a larger “closed” or locked-door facility at the same location on Dawson Ave. near Dorval Avenue.
But now the city of Dorval has announced it will do what it can to overturn that Quebec court decision and, it has petitioned the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the case.
“We don’t want a closed unit in the core of our city,” Edgar Rouleau, the mayor of Dorval said, on Tuesday. He added it’s a quality of life issue.
“Citizens who live around the Batshaw premises are afraid of what will happen if the centre is built. They feel threatened,” the mayor stated. “The people who are there have been found guilty in court of major things, not shoplifting.”
Dorval residents who support the municipality’s plan to challenge the Quebec court decision, are being urged to sign a petition before October 20.
The petition, which has already amassed close to 4,000 signatures, is being made available at Dorval city hall, the public library on Lakeshore Drive, the Surrey Aquatic and Community Centre and the Sarto-Desnoyers Community Centre.
Rouleau said Dorval officials understand that Batshaw needs to expand its facilities on the West Island and, it offered to rezone property in one of the city’s industrial park for a closed unit. But “the closed unit is really a prison.”
Batshaw officials were quick to respond to the court challenge being mounted by Dorval.
“It’s a very, very sad statement,” said Margaret Douek, the agency’s executive director. “The message is one of exclusion and NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) and, it’s directed at children from the (West Island) community,”
A larger centre in Dorval, which would provide both open and closed facilities is required because the agency’s 60-bed closed facility in Prevost, 70 kms. north of Montreal, is out-of-date, she said.
She added its location in the Laurentians also makes it difficult to meet current treatment models that attempt to help reintegrate youth in the communities from which they come through family, social services, schools and jobs.
Throughout the province, Douek said, there are 16 youth centres offering the same continuum of services to the same clientele, age infants to 18 as would be made available at the new Batshaw centre in Dorval.
She said these centres have been accepted in their respective communities.
Dorval’s characterization of the Batshaw Centre as a “prison” for criminal youths, under 18 years of age, is instilling undue fear in the minds of residents, Douek said.
Batshaw’s clients are children and youth, often times victims themselves of neglect and trauma and, they primarily come from the West Island and west part of the city of Montreal.
Now, the Dorval expansion is back on hold, said Pascale Berardino, Batshaw’s coordinator of legal services.
Berardino said it often takes about six months before the Supreme Court decides whether to accept or deny the city Dorval’s request to be heard.