Tempers flared several times Tuesday as about 100 protesters showed up to an information meeting to speak out against a controversial addictions recovery centre.
The Friends of Sturgeon Creek, a community group who have been against the centre since its inception, showed up in white shirts to vehnemently oppose the project, which was passionately defended by supporters.
The group has since hired a law firm to investigate the City of Winnipeg’s sale of the land to the Province, which The Friends call a “shady deal.” The sale allows the Province to lease the land, estimated at more than $1.4 million, to the Bruce Oake Foundation for $1 a year.
At times, the informational meeting descended into screaming matches.
“If this is a place where they’re going to get help, what are they doing to the neighbourhood?” asked one woman. “They’re not going to be using drugs at the centre.”
But a protester said residential areas are not appropriate places for addicts to recover.
“The residential area is there for a reason,” he said. “To raise a family. We don’t need people that are there to get treated.”
“We don’t want it built on Vimy Road,” said another. “That’s our parkland.”
Rodell Bautista, who lost his son weeks ago to addiction, made a passionate plea to protesters.
“Do you know your neighbours are suffering too?” he asked. “Do you know that this is an addiction that knows no racial, social or economic boundary?
“We lost our son,” said Bautista. “It’s not fine,” his wife Jennifer chimed in.
“If this was open, he wouldn’t have been gone.”
Still a process
Architect Robert Wrublowski with MMP Architects said the meeting was to inform the community of a proposed design for the centre, which will take up about the same amount of space as the old Vimy Arena.
“Because of the emotion of this kind of project it’s important to remain very transparent,” he said.
“The City still owns the land, we still have to go through an entire rezoning process.”
Several people who simply want the building demolished and opened up to greenspace are being “fairly unrealistic,” said Wrublowski.
“There’s an asset on the property there right now, and … there will be a form of development on this property, eventually.”
The Bruce Oake Foundation believes their proposal is “the most gentle” on the site, said Wrublowski, as the building would be pulled back 100 feet further from the current Vimy Arena, and will add greenspace.
Scott Oake, who is president of the foundation and lost a son to addiction, was not at the meeting but issued the following written statement:
“We are very encouraged that so many people feel passionate about this project. Through the last 10 months we have had countless discussions with residents and have worked hard to create solutions to concerns. We are hopeful that today will provide further constructive criticism so together we can create a facility that saves lives and enhances the community.”