Briefs News

The Grey Nuns reading room reopens for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic

The working space located in an old chapel is one of Concordia’s gems 

A hidden gem, the working space is barely occupied and a great silence reigns the grounds. Upon entrance, every little movement is echoed inside the massive church. The great height of the ceilings provide a sense of liberty and space to let one’s ideas wander. One can study at the working spaces at either corner of the church, or even on the altar. 

The Grey Nuns reading room reopened its doors to students after being closed throughout the pandemic. Located at 1190 Guy St., this working space provides a quiet hub away from the chaos of the city. The reading room is the former chapel of the mother house of the order of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, also known as the “Grey Nuns.” 

Lorrie Edmonds, a monitor at the reading room, says she enjoys working in that space for its peaceful and awe-inspiring aspect but also for its rich history.

“The Grey Nuns reading room is also a Heritage Canada designated space,” said Edmonds. “So I also see our monitor duties as being stewards of this amazing space that’s been preserved since the 1800s. There is a lot of history to this space.” 

The edifice was built by the Grey Nuns order, a Catholic monastic order, in 1871 and acquired by Concordia in 2007 to turn it into a student residence at a time where the demand for apartments and inflation rose and students needed a living space downtown. When the last nuns left, the question of what to do with the chapel arose.

“The chapel was available and deconsecrated,” explained Edmonds. “Many businesses submitted proposals about what they would do with the chapel space […] Heritage Canada approved Concordia’s proposal to maintain the peace of the chapel itself to create a reading room. It was minimally invasive to the structure itself.” 

Beyond its grandeur, the deconsecrated appropriation of the chapel is both attractive and revolutionary. It allows us to conceive places of worship as historical artifacts, where new ways of life can take place, adapted to our times.

Briefs News

Concordia delays move-in date for Le Mildoré Residence

Le Mildoré Residence’s exterior. KAITLYNN RODNEY/ The Concordian

After weeks of delays, residents of Concordia’s latest student residence are stuck waiting to move into their dorms

Residents of Concordia’s newest student housing, Le Mildoré, have been waiting to move into their new dorms for weeks since their original move-in date. 

Numerous construction delays resulted in Concordia Residence Life postponing Le Mildoré’s move-in date from the end of August to late October. 

The newest Concordia residence was supposed to provide the University with 22 four-bedroom units for use for the start of the 2022 fall semester. However, in an email sent on Aug. 26, Concordia Residence Life announced that all move-in dates to Le Mildoré were postponed and that residents would be provided units in the Grey Nuns Residence for the time being. 

Emma Clark, a first-year psychology student and resident of Le Mildoré, recalls that she was not surprised when her move-in date had been postponed. Clark doubted Le Mildoré would be completed in time for the fall semester after seeing the state of the building during the summer. 

“I remember visiting Concordia in June and I passed by Le Mildoré and it just was not ready at all,” Clark said. “I consistently emailed them [Concordia Residence services], like, hey, is everything going to be ready?”

Despite assurances from Concordia that construction would be done by the end of August, Clark says she got a call from Residence Life the night before her scheduled move-in date, informing her that she would be relocated to the Grey Nuns residence for the time being.

Clark says the last update she received from the University was in early September and that Le Mildoré would be open to students by late October. 

“It’s a little upsetting,” she said about the lack of information the University has provided her. “I just want to move in as soon as possible.”

To compensate affected residents, Concordia has offered Le Mildoré residents free meal plans and a daily credit refund equivalent to their rents. 

Unlike the Grey Nuns or Loyola residences, Concordia does not own Le Mildoré building. Instead, the University has leased out 22 units from the building’s management company, University Apartments Montreal. Despite appearing on numerous University advertisements, many Le Mildoré residents such as first-year linguistics student Ethan Knapp said they were unaware the residence was not owned by the University.

“The application process was the same as the other residences,” said Knapp. “So I thought it was owned by Concordia.”

On Sept. 27, The McGill Tribune published an article detailing accusations from current Le Mildoré residents that University Apartments Canada is responsible for providing inhospitable living conditions. 

The Concordian received a similar email. However, after investigating the claims, it found insufficient evidence to support the allegations. 


JMSB student starts petition to turn Grey Nuns Residence into temporary homeless shelter

In just four days, the petition collected over 3,000 signatures

After the recent deaths of homeless people in Montreal, David Desjardins, a third-year John Molson School of Business (JMSB) student at Concordia University, wanted to do more than just raise awareness about the city’s growing homelessness crisis.

Since the start of the pandemic, Montreal’s homeless population has increased from a pre-pandemic figure of around 3,000 to hundreds, maybe thousands, more. While experts have not been able to pinpoint the exact figure, the increase has manifested at homeless shelters, with staff reporting that they are operating at full capacity, though this is not enough to adequately serve the city’s increasing homeless population.

Meanwhile, several student residences in the city remain closed due to the pandemic. At Concordia, the Grey Nuns Residence — a heritage student residence and hotel building located near the downtown campus — is closed, with almost 600 beds unoccupied since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

Desjardins decided to call on Concordia University to step in, and started a petition on Jan. 28, directed towards President of Concordia University Graham Carr, to turn the Grey Nuns Residence into a temporary homeless shelter.

Part of Desjardins’ motivation for starting the petition includes believing that “we need to act with urgency to find these people somewhere to stay, at least temporarily, or else we will see bloodshed.”

The petition, which started off with a goal of 150 signatures, currently has over 3,000.

“It’s been pretty impressive, I’m very happy to see all the support we’re getting,” said Desjardins.

In addition to it’s high occupancy rate, the Grey Nuns Residence boasts a cafeteria space, several multipurpose rooms, and 234-seat silent reading room. There are no specific plans on how this space would be used; instead, Desjardins said his petition is meant to get the ball rolling.

He believes new resources made available for the homeless during the pandemic, such as the Old Royal Victoria Hospital being converted to a homeless shelter in August 2020, “was a great first step.”

However, Desjardins believes that, in many ways, efforts to help the homeless have fallen short.

“I wouldn’t even say the government is doing much to be quite frank.”

Since enacting stricter lockdown measures on Jan. 9, Legault did not exempt the homeless population and homeless shelters from the 8 p.m. curfew. That decision not only meant that homeless people could incur fines up to $1,500 for being outside after curfew, but that shelters could no longer accept new clients past the curfew as well.

Even after the death of Raphael “Napa” Andre, a 51-year-old homeless man who froze to death in a portable toilet just a few metres away from a shelter after curfew, Legault said he would continue to refuse exempting the homeless population from curfew regulations.

“You have to understand that if we put in the law that a homeless person cannot get a ticket, well then anyone could say “I’m homeless,” explained Legault.

Severe backlash followed Legault’s stance, with politicians and community members calling on the premier to have compassion towards the homeless. On Jan. 26, a Quebec Superior Court judge reversed Legault’s regulation, ruling the homeless were no longer subject to curfew.

Following the government’s rocky commitment to the issue, Desjardins looked for new solutions to help with the homelessness problem. He believes more organizations and businesses should be willing to help.

“I think that anybody who does not take action in these times where it’s needed, are going to be guilty and are going to have blood on their hands,” said Desjardins.

If the project is approved, Desjardins thinks the university would have to find creative ways to fund the project. While he would allow a portion of his own tuition to fund the project, he believes many students would be against their own tuition being used.

“Once we have a green light, we can look at finding ways to get food, clothing, personal protective equipment … and all kinds of other things that are going to require funding for this project,” said Desjardins.

For now, he has contacted staff from the Grey Nuns Residence, and says he would be open to being involved with the project if it goes forward.

“I’m just doing everything I possibly can to make this happen at the moment,” said Desjardins.


Photograph by Christine Beaudoin

Interview conducted by Hadassah Alencar and edited by Adam Mbowe.

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