“Weapons of mass reduction”
As the weather began to warm and the streets of Park Extension reawakened from winter, the provincial vaccination campaign kicked off with vigour and the neighbourhood saw a number of local issues and stories come to prominence.
Minister for Health and Social Services Christian Dubé said that “vaccination is our weapon of massive risk reduction,” as a province-wide inoculation campaign started. The minister was nonetheless cautious at the time as the scope of the newly appeared British variant and the potential for a third wave were becoming clear. Dubé added that low COVID-19 rates in Montreal could be “the calm before the storm.”
This came amid controversy in Park Extension as the local health authority announced it would be moving the COVID-19 vaccination site from the Park Extension CLSC to the Université de Montréal MIL Campus in neighbouring Outremont.
Many residents and community organizations protested that this would further contribute to the inaccessibility of vaccines in Park Extension and hinder inoculations efforts in a neighbourhood that already had much lower vaccination rates.
“I think it’s going to be really, really tricky,” said Vanessa Viel, a volunteer at the Sarker Hope Foundation, explaining that “a lot of seniors do not have means of transportation.” The decision was later reversed and the vaccination clinic remained at the CLSC on Parc Ave.
Construction of Park-Extension’s newest park also broke ground in early March, with the Dickie-Moore Park project officially moving forward. The new green space at the corner of Beaumont and de l’Épée was the culmination of years of planning and community consultation.
“Dickie-Moore Park will meet the needs expressed by the population during public consultations,” said Éric Alan Caldwell, member of the executive committee responsible for town planning and mobility at the time.
The $5.7 million project prides itself in an environmentally friendly design with an emphasis on sustainability. An example of this is the dual purpose of the grassy areas in the park, which allows for activities as well as managing rainwater in an environmental way. Water from the street will flow into the grass and be absorbed into the ground rather, helping to keep the surrounding area cool in the summer months.
The project was under construction for the remainder of 2021 and the park is set for inauguration later this year.
Saint-Roch lifeguard protest
One of Park Extensions’ municipal pools also came into the public eye in the spring of 2021, as lifeguards staffing the Saint-Roch pool went on strike to protest what they saw as low wages and unsatisfactory working conditions.
On Mar. 6, approximately two dozen people carried placards and spinning noisemakers in front of the pool to voice their discontent towards their employer and stalled labour negotiations.
Lifeguards were demanding a raise in their salary, from the current $13.10/h to $17/h, an improvement to their employee benefits and for their employer, external contractor SODEM, to return to negotiating table.
“We want to acknowledge that lifeguards are qualified, even if we’re young we’re responsible for the lives of people and [that] should be recognized,” said lifeguard Sophianne Leclair. She added that their salary was substantially lower than those in neighbouring municipalities like Longueuil and Boucherville which averaged between $18/h and $20/h.
In an interview with Nouvelles Parc-Extension News, city councillor Mary Deros commented on the matter and said she would have liked to see a feasibility study. “I don’t know if legally we have anything to say about what they pay their employees,” added Deros, explaining the city could not get involved in a labour dispute between an external operator and their employees.
Anti-police brutality protest
On Mar. 15, approximately 150 demonstrators took to the streets of Park Extension to protest against police brutality and to call for the abolishment of police forces. The group was met with heavy police presence both on bicycles and in riot gear.
According to a statement published by organizers Collectif Opposé à la Brutalité Policière (COBP) the protest was held in Park Extension because “as a poor neighbourhood with a large racialized population, police harassment is part of everyday life in Parc-Extension.”
Park Extension resident Marie-Ève L. Brodsky was leaving her apartment as protestors marched by and expressed her support to the cause. “There were recently really unfortunate events; it’s good that the police have to pay attention to these voices,” Brodsky said, referring to the recent wrongful arrest of Mamadi III Fara Camara.
Protestors marched through Park Extension before heading towards Villeray and finally ending the march at Jarry Metro at 7 PM, one hour before the 8 PM curfew. The protest remained peaceful and no arrests were made by the SPVM.