Fresh questions have now arisen about the fate of tenants of a rooming house on Clarke Street in Chinatown that people in the area call a drug den.
“The owner just passed away,” explained Bill Wong, director general of the Montreal Chinatown Development Council. “As far as I know there’ll be some changes there.”
Those changes have not been communicated publicly yet, but the building and issues around drug dealing and prostitution there and on Brady Lane behind it, that Global News has been reporting on in recent weeks, were just some of the concerns Chinatown residents and merchants had Wednesday morning.
“Criminal activities and chaos and disorder are still making everyday living conditions unsafe and unacceptable,” Bryant Chang, Chinese Association of Montreal vice-president told Global News.
It’s why they have now launched a petition to demand further steps from the City of Montreal to address the problems.
The petition calls for the city to “respect our fundamental constitutional and civil rights to peace, security, dignity and liberty as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter and Québec Charter, end and prevent all criminal activities by applying a zero tolerance approach to drug-related trafficking, prostitution, vandalism and acts of physical violence and increase police foot patrol and visibility in Chinatown.”
The city has increased psychosocial teams, met with residents and cracked down on some illegal activities over the summer. However, people in Chinatown claim that, so far, the city’s approach is woefully inadequate.
“We’ve been asking the city and the city has not shown much, shall we say willingness, to look at community-based solutions,” explained Fo Niemi, head of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a civil rights organization that has been helping Chinatown residents.
CRARR is helping the community to prepare their own safety and crime prevention plan that they want the city to support. According to Niemi the plan will involve partnerships with police, and put “the well-being of local residents, workers and merchants at the heart of the plan.”
On top of that, they’re once again inviting Mayor Valérie Plante to visit the neighbourhood to see some of the problems. Residents also want elected officials from both parties to visit.
“We don’t want it to be just a symbolic visit,” Chang stressed. “We want to see concrete action from that visit.”
The opposition Ensemble Montréal party argues that the city lacks a plan to effectively tackle crime and homelessness.
“We need more resources, we need more people on the ground,” opposition leader Aref Salem told Global News, “and we need to make sure that the shelters are not concentrated in one place.”
There are at least four shelters for the unhoused in and around Chinatown and one, located in the former YMCA space at Complexe Guy Favreau, is set to close in October.
In a statement the city says it is continuing to work with Chinatown community organizations to find solutions.
“In particular, we are present on the ground, alongside the Chinatown Round Table with whom we are currently working on several actions that will offer short, medium and long-term solutions,” the statement says.
“It should be noted that Robert Beaudry, a district councillor, has spent a lot of time in Chinatown in recent weeks, to ensure that he understands the challenges of the sector. Several meetings with the partners took place during which we reiterated our commitment to support them and work with them.”
A spokesperson also says authorities have conducted inspections on the Clarke Street rooming house in recent weeks.
“We are well aware of the situation and are aware of the health issues and harmful activities that occur there. The Housing Service of the City of Montreal and the borough of Ville-Marie are currently following the file closely.”