Future federal court site in Old Montreal (almost) fenced off

Pop Goes The News – Residents and business owners near the site of a future federal court in Old Montreal celebrated Monday as crews began erecting metal fencing.

It was all for show, though. Even though the metal bases are bolted into the pavement, the fences themselves can be easily lifted off the bases. Within hours of the Monday’s work being completed, the site was again fully accessible from three spots.

The former municipal parking lot between Saint-Jacques and Notre-Dame just east of Place D’Armes had been blocked off by concrete barriers since Dec. 1, 2019. Despite small “No Trespassing” signs and others prohibiting dumping of trash, the site has been home to loitering, vandalism and other criminal activity.

(It took the federal government more than two years to authorize Montreal police to enforce trespassing violations on the site – the jurisdiction of the RCMP.)

Nearby residents who took it up themselves to clean litter from the site (which reeked of urine on particularly hot summer days) regularly reported finding human excrement, used condoms and drug paraphernalia. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pavement has been sprinkled with broken glass. Concrete barriers were regularly sprayed with graffiti.

The site of the future federal courthouse, pictured in January 2020.

Earlier this year, furniture and other debris dumped on the site was used to build an encampment that remained in place for more than a week before local residents began dismantling it.

Frustrated neighbours found support from Dominique Proulx of Public Services and Procurement Canada, who quickly addressed concerns about the condition of the site.

Vanessa Salicco, the site’s contracted property manager, referred complaints to a call centre, where operators were not familiar with the property and rarely knew how to respond to complaints. Residents also witnessed workers sent by Salicco moving trash and debris from one part of the property to another. On one occasion, instead of removing graffiti from a concrete barrier, a crew simply turned it around so it was no longer facing Notre-Dame St.

Construction of a new federal court building is scheduled to begin next year.