One year after the fire at the Good Shepherd Monastery, reconstruction is still awaited

On May 25, 2023, a fire that was expected to rage for three days broke out in the Good Shepherd Monastery in downtown Montreal. A year later, reconstruction work is still at a standstill, to the great dismay of residents and organizations that occupied the premises.

This multifunctional building included a housing cooperative, a residence for the elderly, a concert hall, a daycare and premises for cultural organizations.

The only thing that was done was to secure the buildingindicates Matilde Fraga, manager of Maison Aurélie-Cadotte, the residence for low-income elderly people which was located in the monastery.

Building officials have finished removing debris left by the fire in April, she told All one morning, on HERE FIRST. A temporary roof was also installed.

However, the heritage character of the monastery has slowed down this process, explains Ms. Fraga.

It took a lot of time – almost a year – just to protect the building, because there were so many requirements […]. Only to keep what remained standing, it was necessary to respect the constraints of the Ministry of Culture.

A quote from Matilde Fraga, manager of Maison Aurélie-Cadotte

The Monastery of the Good Shepherd was in fact included in the Cultural Heritage Register by the government of Quebec in 1979.

All the elderly people who resided in the monastery were able to be rehoused, adds Ms. Fraga, but for many of them, the situation is far from ideal.

Several residents – some of whom had lived at the monastery for decades – had to settle for smaller, more expensive apartments and, in some cases, agree to live with roommates, explains the manager.

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The seniors’ residence at the Monastery of the Good Shepherd was heavily damaged by the flames. (Archive photo)

Photo: Yvan Lessard

Still work very far

At present, the reconstruction work is still very farindicates Ms. Fraga, although the plans to rebuild the seniors’ residence are already ready.

Architects and engineers found several structural deficiencies in the monastery. The reconstruction plans therefore aim to correct some of these defects, in particular by installing new fire walls and reinforcing structural columns, which will take time and moneysaid Ms. Fraga.

The problem: the manager says she no longer knows who to contact to finance this work. Talks with the City of Montreal and the provincial government have stalled as both parties are embroiled in legal disputes over the building.

Loss for the music scene

The monastery also housed the Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur, one of the most emblematic classical music halls in Montreal.

These concerts which were presented in the Chapel are now offered at the Canadian Center for Architecture on Baile Street. However, with this move, several artists lost their recording space, deplores Dominic Trudel, president of the Conseil québécois de la musique.

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The historic Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur is one of Montreal’s emblematic classical music venues.

Photo: Facebook / Historic Chapel of the Good Shepherd

What’s more, the Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur was an important space for young musicians at the start of their careers, explains Mr. Trudel.

We must ensure that, despite the reconstruction, the concept and spirit of the place will be preserved and that it will be as beautiful as before.

A quote from Dominic Trudel, president of the Quebec Music Council

We feel helpless

After the fire, the mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, said she was convinced that the monastery of the Good Shepherd could be rebuilt. At the time, she mentioned the reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, which, five years after being destroyed by a gigantic fire, was almost complete.

Plant]be with us now. We are just tenants. Ultimately, this building belongs to the City”,”text”:”We would like [la mairessePlante] be with us now. We are just tenants. Ultimately, this building belongs to the City”}}”>We would like [la mairesse Plante] be with us now. We are just tenants. Ultimately, this building belongs to the Citysays Ms. Fraga, who recalls the trauma that the fire left on the residents of Maison Aurélie-Cadotte.

When you lose your living environment and all you have left is your clothes, it’s really very difficultshe testifies, visibly moved.

We feel helpless at this pointsays Ms. Fraga, adding that many elderly people are beginning to lose hope of one day returning to live at the monastery.

>>A worker is on board the basket of a crane which overlooks the roof of the monastery of the Good Shepherd damaged by fire.>>

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The Good Shepherd Monastery a week after the fire. (Archive photo)

Photo: Radio-Canada / René Saint-Louis

In a statement sent to CBC Friday, the City of Montreal indicated that its priority last year had been to rehouse residents. Now the Plante administration is stuck in legal proceedings that it cannot comment on.

The residence for the elderly and the housing cooperative are already preparing their reconstruction and have adopted different approaches to complete their financingadded City spokesperson Béatrice Saulnier-Yelle.

What is clear is that we must repair the damage in a lasting way. This building is of exceptional heritage quality and has forged the musical history of Montreal and Quebec; it deserves a restoration worthy of its importancesummarizes the City.

To see and listen:

With information from CBC News

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