The Black English-speaking community in LaSalle became embroiled in a political tussle with borough officials as efforts got underway to reopen the Centre that was home to the Boys And Girls Club, which was in service to the people of the area for the past 35 years.
Their contention is that their needs for programs and activities are being sidelined as the city retools the building, situated at 8600 Hardy Ave., and they are not a significant part of the consultation process.
To make their case, a few individuals banded together at a news conference on Monday, April 29, at Caribbean Paradise Restaurant to call on LaSalle Mayor Manon Barbe to stop the consultation process and sit with the Black community to discuss their needs.
The mayor quoted in the media, assured all her constituents in the borough that the Centre will be an all-inclusive institution, offering services to all residents of LaSalle and not focused on any one cultural group.
Following that debacle, a cross-section of the English speaking Black community was among the 150 people or so who showed up at 8600 Hardy on Tuesday, March 30, to hear a presentation from borough official Louise Richard, who is the director of Sports and Leisure in LaSalle.
She updated the gathering on consultations held on March 27 and April 9, when citizens offered suggestions to the borough about the programs and activities the Centre should be offering.
Richard also laid out plans for the immediate reopening of the building that will include the operation of a summer camp and eventual launch of a basketball program, advising those present that the borough has already issued calls for groups with the capacity to offer these services.
She made it clear that the city is only prepared to deal with organizations that meet all the criteria to deliver services to the public, including the proper insurance and managerial structure.
Following the hype of the previous day’s press conference, the borough obviously came prepared for a barrage of questions and opposition to its plans.
However, it quickly became obvious that apart from a few gestures of faux hostility and muted mutterings that the concerns of the Black English-speaking community were falling on deaf ears.
Worrisome, because those are genuine concerns based on years of alienation and denial of opportunities that have kept our youth over-represented among those who are high school drop outs, under-employed and unemployed.
Hopefully an umbrella group of key individuals and organizations such as the Council of Black Aging Community, the LaSalle Multicultural Resource Centre and The Montreal Cultural and Social Organization, all of whom have had a long-standing presence in LaSalle, will have an opportunity to sit with the borough mayor and discuss how the newly retooled Centre can be utilized to assist in the empowerment of our community, especially our youth and our seniors.