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Marathon meeting over Vanier's future kicks off

Over 150 people were signed up to speak

Marc Provost, executive director of the Salvation Army’s Booth Centre, speaks to the planning committee on November 14.

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Marc Provost, executive director of the Salvation Army’s Booth Centre, speaks to the planning committee on November 14.

Residents made their voice heard on Tuesday, as over 150 people signed up to speak to the hottest planning file in the city, the Salvation Army’s proposal to move to Vanier. 

The city’s planning committee began its marathon three-day meeting this week, with an open floor for any member of the public who wanted to sign up. 

It became, largely, a rehashing of positions that have been firmly established over the course of 2017. Residents of Vanier like Stephen Willcock, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 27 years, decried the chasm between the Salvation Army and the community, saying that “this development, presented as a decision already made, was a shock.” 

Other residents, like Cathie Orfali, said they “no longer feel protected by the city planning rules put in place,” and theorized the move would stifle development in the area.  

Maher Arar — the Syrian-born Canadian who was tortured by Syrian intelligence in 2003, and was ultimately awarded $10.5 million — said it was his experience being a landlord in Vanier over the past few years “put grey hairs on [his] head.” 

City shelter employees lined up alongside the Salvation Army, despite the criticism of the emergency shelter model from housing experts like Tim Aubry, professor at the University of Ottawa, who told the committee that the mega-shelter model was not ideal. 

Shelter employees agreed emergency shelters are desperately needed in Ottawa, where there is a waitlist for community housing that exceeds 10,000 names. “Doing what we’re doing to make sure they’re housed safely, without a shelter is a bit like a hospital without an emergency,” said Marc Provost, executive director at the Salvation Army’s Booth Centre. 

“We feel that these are the people that are already in the neighbourhood that need a place to go,” said Marie-Josée Houle, general director of Action Logement, a housing service in Vanier.

“They’re people who the Salvation Army can help.” 

The meeting will continue throughout the week, likely remaining in session until Friday afternoon, when the committee will vote on the application. 

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