Ombudsman Urges Montreal to Take Action on Indigenous Homelessness

Montreal’s ombudsman is urging the city to act quickly to address the screaming needs of homeless Aborigines in the Milton-Parc sector. In a report made public on Wednesday, Nadine Mailloux speaks of a “humanitarian crisis at the heart of the metropolis” and recommends that the city set up a “stable and secure” emergency facility for this population in need.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry follows a request for intervention from a group of residents living near the intersection of rue Milton and avenue du Parc who complain about security, health and violence problems.

They say they are experiencing problems of insecurity given the presence of dozens of people on the sidewalks of Park Avenue, the danger of car traffic and the presence of drunk people. Four homeless accidents, including one fatally and one seriously injured, occurred in 2020 on Parc Avenue, near Milton Street, the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) noted. Two more accidents took place in 2021.

“While the issue is unique and closely linked to victim behaviour, such a report calls for action and demonstrates the urgency for all partners to develop sustainable resources tailored to the specific needs of this community. Doing nothing could lead to more deaths,” the ombudsman warns.

Citizens also wonder about the effect of the arrival of the organization La Porte Ouverte (The Open Door), which has settled in the cellar of Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette, in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, at the end of 2018.

gaps in the schedule

In conducting his investigation, the ombudsman did not limit himself to his usual interlocutors in the city of Montreal, as the issue of homelessness in this area also involves two Integrated University Health and Social Services Centers (CIUSSS) and several community organizations.

The report finds a reduction in the reception capacity of traditional means, despite the growing number of homeless people. It also highlights the lack of concerted action and planning in providing services to the homeless, especially in winter. The pandemic does not justify these shortcomings, it is said. “Tents and emergency shelters in winter are expensive palliatives that will not solve the problem of the lack of structuring and sustainable resources in adapted and social housing,” notes the ombudsman.

The report makes a number of recommendations. In particular, he is urging the city to “take full responsibility for its leadership” and open emergency housing for Inuit people. It also suggests that the city is better supporting Inuit people when they arrive in the city, revising the funding method for community organizations and tightening accountability mechanisms. “It’s important to start the conversation. It is fundamental not to manage this situation by mere checkboxes in a plan,” the report states.

According to Valérie Plante, the findings in the report are in line with the city’s concerns. The mayor acknowledges that we have to get out of the “seasonal logic”. However, she believes that the Quebec government should also be involved, as homelessness and mental health issues are covered by the health network, even as Montreal has been given more powers as a metropolis. “It remains the responsibility of the Quebec government. Either it gives us the responsibility and the money that goes with it, or it saves the efforts of the city and the organizations,” she said.

The opposition to the town hall accused the administration of constantly relying on Quebec. “Mayor Plante completely relieves herself of responsibility for homelessness,” said Ensemble Montréal Councilor Benoit Langevin. “It is time for the Projet Montréal administration to come out of denial and assume its responsibilities. †

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