News / Ottawa

Salvation Army relocation approved

Council voted 16-7 to approve the proposal on Wednesday.

Opponents of the Salvation Army's proposal to move to Vanier were disappointed to see Council approve the application, despite hundreds having expressed their opposition to the plan.

Kieran Delamont / Metro Order this photo

Opponents of the Salvation Army's proposal to move to Vanier were disappointed to see Council approve the application, despite hundreds having expressed their opposition to the plan.

City council has given the green light to the Salvation Army for their proposed relocation to Vanier. 

Council voted 16 to 7 to approve the application on Wednesday, after the planning committee voted 6 to 3 in favour of the Salvation Army at the end of a three-day meeting last week. 

“It’s a tragedy that we voted on such a complex matter in such a simple way,” said Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who had hoped that council would be willing to halt the application until a better plan could be constructed.

Fleury reiterated his belief that the mayor's support for the Salvation Army, which came very earliy in the process, hamstrung him. "Every time i was speaking to a member they were fed lines, fed questions. It was very hard to erode, and bring a purposeful, factual discussion."

"What would have helped me was for the mayor to stay quiet," said Fleury. "If he would have stayed quiet, I felt like I would have had a chance. The minute he came out [in support of the proposal] I felt like I became toxic."

The site will move into a more detailed planning phase, with the hope that the Salvation Army and the community can begin to rebuild their relationship. A motion from Coun. Keith Egli passed which will create an advisory committee that will bring the two sides together, instead of hashing out the details at city hall."Someone has to make the first move that there is a willingness to discuss and a willingness to collaborate,” said Egli. “This will allow some bridge building, this will allow some discussion going forward, in a positive way.” 

Fleury was, however, optimistic that the fight was not over. "There will be appeals, there's more delays," said Fleury. "I want to reassure my community: I don't think we'll see this built in Vanier, ever."

It’s now likely, the application will first head to the Ontario Municipal Board. Drew Dobson, head of SOS Vanier, has signalled his intent to appeal the decision while lawyer Michael Polowin, who represents Dobson, has vocalized his belief that such an appeal could be successful. 

Council seems to be prepared for that, too. “It’s going to end up there someday,” said Egli, while Coun. Jan Harder, chair of the planning committee, was resigned to that fact as well.

The decision came as a disappointment not only to Fleury, but several on council, most of whom derided the way this decision was made at city hall. “The hundreds of people who have engaged with us directly, and the thousands of people who have been watching from across the city deserve better,” said Coun. Jeff Leiper. 

Others, like Coun. Catherine McKenney, accused council of taking the easy route, rather than fighting for better homelessness strategies and housing first principles. “That’s what we need to be fighting for,” she said. “To me, this is a bit of a capitulation of that responsibility.” 

Supporters of the proposal were generally cautious in their support, saying that the process is far from over, and that it is a necessary facet in the fight against homelessness. “To be clear, I support a housing first model,” said Coun. Mark Taylor, who voted in favour of the proposal. “But I also support using every tool we have at our disposal.”

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