2021 Year in Review: December

TMR Fence

The fence separating the two communities of Park Extension and the Town of Mount Royal had been a contentious issue for many years now. But in December, the newly elected mayor of the Town of Mount Royal said the fence would stay for the foreseeable future.

The fence became a major electoral issue and point of contention among parties in the

November municipal election, with Ensemble Montréal mayoral candidate Denis Coderre promising that if elected he would refurbish de l’Acadie Boul. and work to have the fence removed.

In an interview with La Presse, TMR Mayor Peter Malouf said that the fence would not be taken down during his mandate. “What fence?” quipped the Mayor. “I see a hedge and trees. After that, I see six lanes for cars.”

“There are openings in the fence, and we are going to rearrange them to ensure the safety of cyclists,” added Malouf, pointing to the many sections of de l’Acadie Boul. that still don’t provide enough sidewalk space for pedestrian crossings.

For many residents, the two-kilometre stretch of road has epitomized the inequality experienced by some Montrealers, with the affluent, lushly tree-lined streets to the west and the densely-populated, concrete jungle of Park Ex to the east. The physical separation is both visible from street level and satellite imagery.

Barclay Schoolyard

In December, a petition called Sauvez le parc Barclay (Save Barclay park) was launched by resident Einrika Siguineau, demanding the borough prevent the Centre de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM) from creating temporary, modular classrooms in the schoolyard at École Barclay to accommodate students forced to move by proposed renovations.

A growing number of residents who live around Parc-École Barclay are worried that they would soon lose yet another green space when major renovations at both École Camille-Laurin Annexe and the William-Hingston Centre begin.

“We depend on our school parks,” said resident Valérie Bloch, outlining that 8 out of 10 Parc-Extension residents don’t have access to a backyard. “It’s not a question of pragmatism with residents but rather of a relation and communication with the school boards in particular.”

Borough Mayor Laurence Lavigne Lalonde said they had still not received an official request but would analyze all aspects of the project in full. 

“If we reject a request for temporary classrooms, we would have to find other places or find a good reason to explain to the parents who may no longer be able to send their children to school in the neighbourhood,” she added.

Opening of Ogilvy de Castelnau

Over six months after its closure, Dec. 9 marked the day when the crossing at Ogilvy and de Castelnau finally reopened to the public. It was first shut in mid-May when the Canadian Pacific erected a fence on the path used by many residents citing safety concerns. 

​​The crossing was recently rebuilt by the City of Montreal with new red-coloured asphalt, newly adapted signage and bicycle traffic calming baffles, for a total price of $509,000. While the path was now open, it took another week for much of the permanent infrastructure to be installed.

While most residents were happy to see the crossing finally reopened, many also felt the newly constructed infrastructure was not worth the $509,000 bill, especially in the state it was in at its opening. 

“The ugliness is astounding,” said resident Clayton Bailey on the Facebook group Ouvrons

la voie – Make way, which has amassed over 700 members in the past few months. “Many months of construction and $500,000 spent on the passage, it is impossible to imagine a more sloppy, more inhuman, ill-conceived and uglier result,” he added.

Testing sites overloaded

While many across Park Extension were preparing for the holiday period with family, others were lining up at the Park Ex COVID-19 testing clinic amid an unprecedented surge in cases a week before Christmas. 

Within only a few days, the Omicron variant spread wildly across the city with many testing services completely overflowing. One of the major walk-in clinics in the city, the Park Extension testing clinic extended its hours in mid-December, anticipating an increase in demand for testing. 

“We are responding to the evolving needs of the pandemic by offering more availability to users on our territory,” said the spokesperson for the CIUSSS West-Central Barry Morgan at the time, adding “there are more people requesting testing.”

An article published in La Presse on Dec. 15 stated that the surge was resulting in misleading numbers of reported cases, where actual total cases could be nearly double. “It’s impossible to get a true picture of the situation,” said Roxane Borgès Da Silva, professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal.