Batshaw says WI kids need to be near home for rehabilitation purposes
© Chronicle photo Andy Sher
A number of Dorval residents are opposed to the expansion of the Batshaw Youth and Family Services building on Dawson Avenue, saying the proposed changes, including a 12-foot-high perimeter fence, are not welcome in their residential neighbourhood.
The proposed expansion of a Batshaw Family Services group home in Dorval is too much for some residents, who are now speaking out against the idea of an expanded detention facility for teens who have been placed there through court order.
“A residential area is no place for a jail, and that’s what (Batshaw) wants to build here,” said Dorval resident Rita Christie, who is spearheading the grass-roots effort to keep the youth-protection agency from expanding their Dawson Avenue group home to include offenders who have been sentences into the system and must spend their days in closed detention.
In 2008, Dorval denied the group building permits that would’ve allowed the expansion to go ahead, and Batshaw responded by taking the city to court – and winning. In September of last year, Quebec Superior Court ruled the expansion could go ahead. Now,Dorval is appealing the decision. A decision isn’t expected before September.
That hasn’t stopped Christie and her fellow residents from doing everything they can to stop an influx of "criminal" teenagers into the residential area they call home.
“It’s very unsettling,” Christie said. “Dorval has a lot of young families and elderly families, and (the expansion) is going to stimulate more criminal activity in the area, especially in the alleyway between the campus and Dorval Avenue. It’s already bad, and I can’t see it getting any better with a prison-like structure in the neighbourhood,” she added.
Neighbour Ken Watkins, who lives on nearby Berkeley Circle, said he regularly observes teens making trouble near the campus and is fearful that number will increase with the Batshaw expansion.
“I was just at the store (next to the campus), and they said they’ve had lots of problems – that they have to call police once a week on average,” he said, convinced the number of such incidents will rise.
“I’m sure they will be exacerbated,” if the Batshaw expansion is realized, he said.
Dorval mayor Edgar Rouleau and council re-zoned a part of the city’s industrial park to allow Batshaw to build in that area, but the agency said no thanks, citing the land they already own on Dawson.
Last year, Batshaw Youth and Family Services closed their Shawbridge Farm campus in the Laurentians and must now find a place to house the young people that would’ve been housed there.
“The largest percentage of our kids are from theWest Island,” said Batshaw director residential treatment Nick Pare. “We want to be able to rehabilitate them back into their environment and being 70 km away from Montreal was not ideal,” he said.
The plan, from Batshaw’s end, is to expand the current Centre d’Acceuil into a two-storey building, with three open units – designated for kids who have been placed with Batshaw for their own protection or other family-related issues, and two more secure closed units – designated for young offenders in detention. Roughly 85 per cent of the kids housed on campus are there for their own protection, while about 15 per cent are in detention.
“Although this is a concern about the security in the neighbourhood, the kids in secure units are not able to circulate in public like the kids in open units can,” said Pare.
Included in the plans for the site is a secure, 12-foot chain-link fence that would be erected on the perimeter of the property, Batshaw director of finance and administration Linda Corbeil said, adding “there will be no barbed wire,” on top of the fence, as some citizens had lamented.
Christie, through, is adamant.
“It’s going to look like a jail, and we don’t want it here. It doesn’t belong here. It just doesn’t,” she said, going so far as to take the group’s complaints to Marquette MNA Francois Ouimet.
Ouimet, for his part, acknowledged Batshaw’s need for a campus in the West Island, but maintained another location would be more ideal.
“Certainly, we understand the need for youth to be rehabilitated in a place that’s close to home, but what we said was that we may want to look at alternatives. ‘We don’t mind you being in Dorval, but not in a residential zoning area,’ was the general consensus,” he said, adding he has sympathy for the families of young people getting help at Batshaw.
“Families want to come visit their youth and troubled youth need to be near their family and friends – not be isolated.”