Ste. Anne de Bellevue – and its embattled mayor, Francis Deroo – made the right decision when he said at the city's monthly council meting last Monday that the city intends on revisiting its formula for awarding grants to non-profit organizations for pan-West Island organizations such as the West Island Association for the Intellectually Handicapped after a decision to turn down the grant request from the organization, which provides instruction, education and support for individuals with an intellectual handicap and their families, was made last month by the city's subcommittee that oversees such requests.
The move to deny the request for funding was originally made by the city's committee for community development, which awould apply a formula, including giving weight to whether or not the organization has a 'presence' in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, including physical offices. The WIAIH facilities are located in Pointe Claire with a centre in Ste. Genevieve, but its services are used by many, many West Island parents from every corner of the area. To deny them a relatively-paltry $1,374 grant smacked of petty, small-town politics and didn't appear to reflect the reality for many parents – which is that, no matter where you are in the West Island, WIAIH is there for you.
In fact, WIAIH requests and receives grants from every other municipality in the West Island -- except for Ste. Anne de Bellevue, which has not contributed since 2009. Last Monday, however, Deroo announced the city would be changing some of the criteria used by the community-development committee, potentially opening the door for the grant request to be filled. As WIAIH director Natalie Chapman said, the $1,374 wouldn't make or break the group's financial situation, but for the committee to continue to flat-out refuse the request – especially after committee member Phillippe Vaugeois, father of an infant who has an intellectual disability, took such a public position, blasting the city at a public question period – would smack of mean-spiritedness. WIAIH provides leisure activities, job-placement services, support groups and day centres for more than 800 West Islanders, and there isn't a big lineup of corporations lining up to put millions behind services for their clients, so grants, charity and generosity of the community they have served so well for so long are how community groups like WIAIH survive.
It’s also a politically expedient move, given the municipal elections that are slated for November. Deroo has had a fair share of missteps since assuming the mayoralty – among them hiring and then firing a blogger that had supported his run for mayor in 2009, pushing for a new quarter-million-dollar toilet on the city's boardwalk and the seemingly endless reconstruction of Ste. Anne Street – but this was an easy decision that allows him to look magnanimous and gives him credibility as a leader who is willing to correct past mistakes, which can only work in his favour come November.