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  • Madeline Kerr

Chelsea Foundation calls for Mayor Guénard to resign over school decision


Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard says he will not resign after the Chelsea Foundation called for him to step down at a March 12 council meeting. The Foundation’s vice president said he misled the public over whether or not the municipality had a choice in where to build the new French-language school. Low Down file photo

Mayor confronted at council meeting, says he will not resign


The Chelsea Foundation is calling for Mayor Pierre Guénard to resign for attempting to “mislead and deceive municipal councillors, local residents, the Chelsea Foundation and the media” regarding the location of a new French-language school. 


At a packed council meeting March 12, Chelsea Foundation vice-president Rick Traer accused the mayor of misleading the public when he said the municipality had no choice in where the new school would be built. 


Council has maintained for months that its "hands are tied," and says that the decision regarding location ultimately rests with the French school service centre, Centre de services scolaire des Portages-de-l'Outaouais (CSSPO).


But on March 4, assistant director-general of the CSSPO, Stéphane Lacasse, wrote an email to Traer, which stated, “...it is up to the municipality to decide which property it will transfer in the area identified in the CSSPO’s space requirements.” The email, which has been translated from its original French, continues, “For this reason, we refer you to the [municipality] of Chelsea if you feel that it has erred in its choice.”


The Low Down obtained a copy of this email, which Traer presented at the March 12 meeting. 


Holding up a printed copy of the email, Traer told the mayor that it, “...states unequivocally that it is the municipality that decides which property it transfers for this purpose and not the other way around as we have been led to believe.”


He continued, “The Chelsea Foundation believes that this is a blatant attempt by the mayor to mislead and deceive municipal councillors, local residents, the Chelsea Foundation and the media, specifically for the purpose of deflecting accountability for the decision to build the school on Foundation lands.


“Mr. Mayor, given this serial and serious breach of trust and ethics, are you prepared to tender your resignation immediately?” Traer asked. 


Guénard responded with an immediate “No.” 


In French, he told Traer: “For me, education is an incontestable value. Education is the basis of our society. I believe this for my children and for the children in our community,” said Guénard. 


Traer continued by stating the Foundation is asking for an investigation into the matter and said that the mayor’s narrative “creates divisions within our community, erodes confidence in our elected officials and is simply not true.”


His comments were drowned out by the sound of the mayor’s gavel and the director-general’s calls for him to sit down because his time to ask a question was up. 


The council meeting’s question period was unusually lengthy, with 12 residents in total addressing council with their questions. More than half of the questions concerned the new school building, with five individuals calling for the municipality to explain its decision to expropriate charity-owned recreational land. There was standing room only at the meeting, with close to 50 residents in attendance. 


The Foundation has said that it will not negotiate with the municipality to acquire its soccer field for the location of the new school, and the municipality will have to expropriate the land. 


Pick up next week’s Low Down to read more. 


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