Fence in Montreal’s Milton-Parc re-installed with more permanent fixtures

Click to play video: 'New fence erected to keep homeless population out of Milton-Parc vacant lot' New fence erected to keep homeless population out of Milton-Parc vacant lot
Despite a grassroots movement in the heart of Montreal, another measure has been taken to keep people out of a vacant lot. Milton-Parc residents believe the move is discriminating against the local homeless population, a majority of whom are Indigenous and Inuit. As Gobal’s Olivia O'Malley reports, advocates are calling for solutions to fix what they call another social failure towards the Indigenous community – Jun 15, 2022

Two months after a fence surrounding a vacant lot at the corner of Milton Street and Parc Avenue was taken down by community members, it’s back up. This time the poles are set in concrete.

“It’s clearly anti-homeless and hostile-like infrastructure,” said Milton-Parc Citizens’ Committee community organizer Sierra Francoeur.

The Milton-Parc Citizens’ Committee started a petition in May to keep the fence down. Some Milton-Parc residents believe the barrier was erected to keep homeless people out of the empty lot.

They want the lot to be accessible to the neighbourhood’s homeless population to give them space to live.

Read more: Milton-Parc residents start petition to keep fence down around vacant lot

“It’s like it’s a constant fight. I mean, for, like, hundreds of people to voice their discontent with this fence and it still keeps being put back up,” said Francoeur.

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The fence was first installed in 2020 by Goldmanco. The owner declined Global News’ interview request.

When the fence was dismantled in May benches were added and homeless people began using the space. They say the new barrier sends a clear message.

“We cannot hang around no more, I guess,” said Cliff Jolie, who lives in the area.

Pierre Parent works for an Indigenous organization helping Indigenous people on the streets of Montreal.

“People are now more entrenched on the sidewalks there, on the steps, on the stoops of the businesses, on steps of people’s properties,” he said.

Read more: Ombudsperson calls Indigenous homeless situation in Montreal a “humanitarian crisis”

The support worker says the fence is displacing Indigenous people once again.

“No other group in Canada’s history has endured such a prolonged attack on their human rights. So this has gone across Turtle Island, across Canada, and certainly right there that at the corner of Milton and Parc,” he told Global News.

In a recent report, Montreal’s ombudsman called the situation at Milton and Parc a “humanitarian crisis.” That investigation followed citizens’ concerns about violence, drug trafficking and prostitution.

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Speaking to Global News, some residents say they support the fence. Not everyone is on the same page.

“You can’t just put up fences and hope a problem goes away,” said Francoeur.

Instead, Parent would like to see recommendations from both the ombudsman and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report be followed, working with homeless Indigenous people to break down barriers, instead of building them.

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