Sale of DND land last piece of merged English school project

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Photo: Image from Google Earth

The parcel of land sold to the Quebec government for the new high school is adjacent to St. Vincent School (top left) on Avenue Wolfe and DND property on Boulevard Hochelaga (bottom of this image).

An understated Feb. 23 media release communicated the announcement, but the sale of less than a hectare of Department of National Defence (DND) land in Sainte-Foy to the Quebec ministry of education is huge news for Quebec City’s English-speaking community.

With the acquisition of the slice of the former military housing property, the Central Québec School Board says it now has all the pieces in place to proceed with what it calls “The Project” – the construction of a brand-new school to merge and replace the aging buildings housing St. Patrick’s High School and Quebec High School, both located in the downtown Montcalm district.

The DND land is adjacent to St. Vincent School on Avenue Wolfe. The disposal of the 14-hectare site, where military housing was abandoned in 2017 and demolished a year later, is a sensitive issue, a fact reflected in the cautious wording of the official announcement:

“As part of ongoing consultations with Indigenous groups and other interested parties about our former military housing site in the Sainte-Foy area of Quebec City, Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan today announced plans to sell a parcel of the property to the province of Quebec. Nearly one hectare will go to the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur for the construction of a new high school.”

The Huron-Wendat First Nation, looking to expand its economic base, has been seeking a portion of the land, which lies directly north of the Place Laurier shopping centre along Boulevard Hochelaga. The Ville de Québec and social housing groups have also laid claim to a piece of the prime real estate.

The release says: “Consultations continue with all interested parties on possible future plans for the rest of the property (about 11 hectares). These discussions will help us make an informed decision that provides the greatest benefit to all community members.”

“It’s great to see this former Defence site transformed into a new high school in Quebec City. It will help support the local economy by creating economic opportunities for local businesses during the COVID-19 recovery,” Sajjan said in the release.

Local elected representatives also applauded the decision: Liberal MP for Québec Jean-Yves Duclos said, “The divestment of this property will support an important project in our community and help create construction jobs.”

Joël Lightbound, the Liberal MP for Louis-Hébert, in which the new school will be built, said, “Our government is pleased to support the government of Quebec and the Central Québec School Board with this land transfer. Their important project will support education for anglophones in the area, many of whom are from military families posted in the community.”

Joëlle Boutin, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) MNA for the riding of Jean-Talon, said, “Today’s announcement confirms the location of a future school in the heart of the Jean-Talon area. Without a doubt, the transfer of this land will allow us to provide education in an optimal setting for our secondary students.”

Boutin’s Liberal predecessor, former education minister Sébastien Proulx, gave the initial green light to “The Project” in May 2018. Proulx retired from politics following the October 2018 election that brought the CAQ to power.

The CAQ government has maintained the education ministry’s commitment to building the new English-language high school, as well as another new English-language elementary school on the south shore. “The Project” is a three-stage plan where timing is critical; once the new south shore school is completed in 2023, St. Vincent’s would be demolished and construction begun on the new high school, with a target of September 2025 for completion and opening.

The transfer of the DND land to the ministry, at an undisclosed price, is to take effect in 2022. A small piece of the land was sold to the city last year to expand Boulevard Hochelaga, and DND kept about two hectares to build a new armoury that opened in 2018.

See the article about the new high school project on page 4.