Several community groups in the borough of Montreal North are slamming various levels of government for not giving the borough the services residents need.
The result, they point out, is extreme poverty, inadequate housing and lack of security in an area where they say there are many young kids.
“That’s the thing that is the most difficult,” said Bochra Manaï who works with Parole d’excluEs, one organization that supports residents.
“You don’t know if one of these children is going to, I don’t know, die because we didn’t act.”
Her organization and four others launched an online petition demanding action from governments.
In it they wrote, “for several years, local organizations and the population have been calling for a local clinic or a CIUSSS point of service, a socialization space for young people, more social housing with community support, local services, sports facilities, and leisure, more cultural spaces and structural responses to the challenges of education, employment and health.”
Most of the concern is about the area in the east of the borough, bordered by Lacordaire and Langelier Boulevards.
“If we don’t change the reality of the eastern part,” said Manaï, “we will never change the (perception) that people have of Montreal North.
The borough is one of the most dense on the island and is very culturally diverse. According to a 2015 Statistics Canada report, the median annual income before taxes was just over $40,000.
Because services are lacking, say critics, there are serious problems, like the spike in gun violence this year.
“We know the solutions, we know what to do, we have to act,” Paule Robitaille, Liberal Party MNA for the area stressed.
The calls for action aren’t new.
Following the shooting death by police 12 years ago of Fredy Villanueva, a 2013 coroner’s report into the incident recommended plans to fight against poverty and social exclusion. Manaï said hardly any of the recommendations have been acted upon.
“I think we have some part of the plan but we don’t have the plan,” Manaï told Global News.
On Thursday, Robitaille raised the issue of Montreal North in the Quebec National Assembly.
The minister responsible for Montreal, Chantal Rouleau, said that the matter is on her radar and that talks are underway with other elected officials in the area to come up with short-, medium- and long-term solutions.
Robitaille, whose party has been in power since the coroner report was made, said immediate action is needed.
“To give the money to the borough, to give the money to the community groups so they can help.
Residents said they just want something to happen soon.