Chinatown community leaders say city plan to install public toilet ‘stinks’

Locals say they weren’t consulted, construction could impact scheduled activities

CBC News, May 06, 2018
Marilla Steuter-Martin

Residents and merchants in Chinatown are speaking out against a city plan to install a public toilet in Sun Yat Sen Park — an area used for community gatherings and ceremonial events which is now partly blocked by metal fencing and gravel.

Locals say they weren’t consulted about the decision and woke up one day to find ground had already been broken.

“I just found out from word of mouth,” said Bill Wong, secretary for Sun Yat Sen Park Foundation. “I think this is a bad spot for it. It stinks.”

This month, the City of Montreal is unveiling several of the new self-cleaning, free-to-use public washrooms it has planned for a dozen locations across the city.

Wong told CBC News that the space, located at the corner of De La Gauchetière and Clark streets, is used for regular Tai Chi for seniors and line dancing activities.

He said they often set up a stage at the far end for important events like the ancestors ceremony, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day and August moon — something that won’t be possible with construction equipment in the way.

The city hasn’t said when construction will be finished or when the space will be accessible again.

“We built this park with the collaboration of the Chinese community. Now, there’s no collaboration,” he said.

Youssef Amane, spokesperson for the city’s executive committee, said in a statement to CBC News that the Ville-Marie borough meets regularly with representatives from Chinatown about urban development in the area.

But the borough hasn’t met with all of the representatives on this specific issue. More meetings are planned in the near future, he said.

The project to install all 12 toilet facilities will cost a total of $3 million, with construction already beginning on several sites, including one at Papineau Metro.

Wilson Wong, president of the Chinese Association of Montreal, said he’s concerned that the stall, once completed, will be misused.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea, because there are a lot of homeless people around. There’s a lot of empty bottles, a lot of needles,” he said.

Wong said he’s not optimistic that the city will back down now that construction has already begun, but that it’s important the community make it clear that it doesn’t support the plan and should have been consulted or at least informed ahead of time.

“We are very upset,” he said. “The Chinese people and the local residents and merchants are really against it.”

The stall itself is going to be installed inside the existing pavilion which sits on the park site and serves as a souvenir shop in the summer.

It’s not clear whether the shop will be able to open before work on the toilet is completed.