Laval wants Ottawa to take decisive action against gun violence

Council question period dominated by victims of Bel-Habitat bankruptcy

Gang violence and firearms incidents have escalated to such an extent over the past year in the City of Laval that Mayor Marc Demers addressed the problem in his opening statement during the webcast Sept. 7 public meeting of Laval city council.

Earlier in the day day, the City of Laval had joined together with the municipalities of Montreal, Quebec City, Longueuil and Gatineau to ask the leading candidates running in the federal election to clearly state their positions on banning assault weapons and establishing tighter controls on assault weapons and handguns.

Reacting to gun violence

“Case in point, we made this gesture due to the upsurge of violent acts in the various areas of Quebec,” said Demers, while insisting that in spite of the violence, Laval remains a relatively safe and secure place compared to other cities in Canada and across North America.

However, “We can’t wait around for the situation to get out of control,” he continued. As such, he noted that in August, Deputy Mayor Stéphane Boyer launched a new intervention plan to deal with gun violence, in conjunction with the director of the Laval Police Department, Pierre Brochet.

Seeks assault weapon ban

“It would be important for the government of Canada to ban assault weapons on our territory which are not at all for hunting,” added Demers, “as well as handguns which unfortunately are involved in too many crimes on our territory – and when I say our territory, I mean all of Canada.

“They, too, are not used for hunting, and so there should be a means of controlling the spread of those weapons. And this is a unanimous request. And I can also tell you that the mayors of the other major Canadian cities will also be joining in for this request.”

Re: Bel-Habitat victims

Item 10.1 on the council meeting agenda mandated the administration to seize a large deposit left with the city by the owner of the bankrupt Bel-Habitat homes construction company. The city will be using the funds to help the many individuals and families who lost money they paid to Bel-Habitat for houses which were never built.

“Council has been listening carefully to all the personal dramas that families impacted by the bankruptcy have been going through,” said Laval-Les Îles city councillor Nicholas Borne who is responsible for housing issues as an associate member of the executive-committee.

According to Borne, the money will be used to help complete the purchase of plots of land on des Abeilles St. in Sainte-Rose that Bel-Habitat clients had already made deposits on. Auteuil city councillor Michel Poissant (who is running for mayor as leader of the Laval Citoyens party) had this to say about the action taken by the city.

Problem far from over

“This is a gesture which is very humane,” he said. “A million dollars which the city had from the owner as a guarantee deposit is being used to free up the legal mortgage being held by the owner.”

But while Poissant acknowledged that Laval is proceeding in a positive way for the residents, he said he was concerned by the lack of available information, considering the issue is complex and involves a bankruptcy, and that he had personally dealt with the aftermath of many bankruptcies during his career as an investment fund administrator.

‘It would be important for the government of Canada to ban assault weapons on our territory,’ said Mayor Marc Demers

“We don’t even know the costs of the work to be completed, but here the city is sticking its head out,” he said. “For those who are impacted, this is not their problem, and bravo to the city for doing something important. But as for the sound management of public finances, there will probably be more to say later.”

House buyers out of luck

During the meeting’s public question period, the largest number of questions by far came from Bel-Habitat house buyers who were directly impacted by the company’s failure. “We are trying to help all these people as much as we can,” Mayor Demers replied, while adding that there are certain restrictions and laws that restrain what the city can do.

“We are still analyzing additional measures which could be implemented to try to help families within the means available to us,” said the mayor, while adding that refunding deposits is not allowed by the law. “We are somewhat at the mercy of provincial regulations,” he said.

City buys more police cars

As an indication perhaps of a move by the city to boost public security because of a growing number of gang-related firearms incidents, council voted to approve the purchase of nearly $1.4 million worth of new police vehicles.

The contracts, awarded to Landry Automobiles of Laval and Jacques Olivier Ford of Chambly on Montreal’s South Shore, are for the purchase of AWD Dodge Charger police specials, as well as Ford utility hybrid Police Interceptors.

Both are vehicles specially-adapted for North American police forces.