City emails reveal how a Saskatoon shelter was relocated and shed light on early concerns
While Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) publicly mulled moving its downtown emergency shelter to a location on 20th Street near the city's core, city documents reveal the wellness centre's present Fairhaven area location was heavily favoured early in the process.
More than 200 pages of documents, largely emails and other correspondence between the City of Saskatoon, police, the fire department, the provincial government and the STC, were provided to CTV News by a city resident who obtained them through an access to information request.
Throughout the pages of correspondence, just one message mentions the publicly reported location of an old Ukranian Church on 20th Street between Avenues L and M.
“Chief Arcand reported they are looking at the old Ukranian Church on 20th Street between Avenues L and M for the Wellness Centre; it requires renovations and would take 10-12 months to become operational," reads a memo titled "Record of Decision" dated April 12, 2022.
The STC's temporary Emergency Wellness Centre first opened downtown in November 2021 in a vacant city-owned building. Its lease was set to expire in late April, but it was extended for a year.
However, even with the extra time, there was significant public pressure to relocate the centre.
By summer, the STC had set the wheels in motion to relocate tthe shelter to its present location at 514 Fairmont Drive. A move that wasn't publicly announced until October.
The Fairmont Drive property is mentioned early in the process to relocate the shelter from its temporary downtown location.
The Fairhaven-area location comes up in an "Agreement for Services" for operations of the shelter between the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC) and the STC. The first page of the agreement says the deal was struck "this 1st day of May, 2022/Amended November 1st 2022”.
The documents show that on June 30, the Saskatoon Tribal Council made an offer to buy the Fairmont Drive property from the Saskatoon Assembly Hall of Johovah’s Witnesses.
The bid was accepted by the seller, subject to a number of conditions including the STC obtaining financing and getting the appropriate inspections.
The STC paid a deposit on the property, but the documents provided to CTV News do not appear to indicate the purchase price.
Two days before STC struck the deal, the records show a June 28 meeting agenda for a joint Saskatoon Police Service/STC working group, where the "Emergency Wellness Centre" is listed as a topic of discussion.
Nearly a month later, on July 27, there was a series of emails between Michelle Beveridge, the chief of staff for Saskatoon mayor Charlie Clark and police chief Troy Cooper, along with Cooper's executive assistant.
In the email chain, Beveridge inquires about setting up a "supper meeting" focused on the emergency wellness centre.
In one email she invites Cooper to attend with STC Tribal Chief Mark Arcand, Saskatoon's fire chief, and Clark " to talk about the EWC permanent plans and what potential partnerships could help get the outcomes we want."
Cooper's assistant said he was unable to attend due to a prior commitment.
“There will definitely be more meetings he can attend. We are trying to meet shortly after the Ministry of Social Services meets with STC to talk about funding and partnerships, so we can follow up with the first steps of a plan for both the Province as well as the community," Beveridge wrote back.
Work was also happening behind the scenes to deal with potential zoning issues that might arise at the Fairmont Drive building the STC was looking to move to.
"The zoning bylaw on shelters leaves lots of room for discretion” reads one mail from a Ministry of Social Services staffer, which points to language about "special care homes."
"We understand that the [STC] is looking to establish a permanent Emergency Wellness Centre at 415 Fairmont Drive that would provide similar services to their temporary facility currently located at 145 1st Ave North," an Aug. 25 message from the city's planning department said.
Clark and Minister of Social Services Gene Makowsky were among those copied on the note which goes on to say the shelter would be considered a “special care home” under zoning bylaws.
If a property must be rezoned, it must be put to a vote at city council.
However, that step wasn't deemed necessary, as city administration believed the shelter could meet the existing special care home definition permitted under Saskatoon's zoning rules.
“The review and approvals of permit applications can all be done administratively, without the need for public engagement or reporting to city council for approval” the August 25 message reads.
12 days later an email is circulated among social services ministry officials about following up “with STC to submit an offer on the Fairmont Drive building”.
Neither David Kirton or Hillary Gough, the city councillors representing the area surrounding the centre, are not mentioned or included in any of the communications provided to CTV News.
Emails and handwritten notes sent between Sept. 6 and 8 show the SHC stepping in to buy the Fairmont Drive property under the terms reached by the STC and seller. The STC's deposit was returned.
Soon after the final deal was reached, another meeting of the police and tribal council's working group occurred. Police Chief Troy Cooper and Tribal Chief Mark Arcand attended.
The notes from the meeting are heavily redacted, except for a few paragraphs. Based on what information is available, there was a discussion about what the police response should be in the event vulnerable people associated with the shelter start setting up tents.
"Arcand added the property is fenced, they will have teepees in the parking lot for overflow people while weather permits," the notes read.
Cooper also asks to be kept informed about the centre's progress "so that we can see what we are going to do as a response … so it looks like we are involved right from the beginning."
"This will show we are connected," the note says.
During the meeting, Arcand appears to have noted a potential spillover safety concern related to the shelter's new location.
"Arcand added we will need to watch that tunnel that goes under Circle Drive," the meeting notes say referring to a pedestrian corridor that connects Fairhaven to the Meadowgreen.
Just days before the SHC's Oct 21 possession date for the property, an SHC executive warned "concerns might start being raised" after the Crown corporation takes control of the building.
"Thanks for getting ahead of the curve on this one," he writes, with the Oct. 28 public announcement on the horizon.
Three days later, police deputy chief Cameron McBride emailed Cooper to discuss the police response, saying that Arcand was asking about what the police response would be once the shelter was fully relocated.
“I told him we did not have a specific plan in place, but that we would be a visible presence, and responsive to any change in the neighbourhood. I’ve been thinking about what our strategy should be, and plan to bring it up at my next patrol inspector meeting," McBride writes.
MAYOR RESPONDS TO DOCUMENTS
Starting in late May, portions of the documents provided to CTV News have been circulated online by those who are critical of the decision to move the shelter to the Fairmont Drive location.
Clark took to Twitter on Monday to respond to some of the criticisms, particularly the gap in time between when the location became a likely candidate and when the public was informed.
"The City of Saskatoon was not part of these negotiations on the sale or identification of the final site," Clark said in a statement.
"That meant I was not in a position to talk publicly about discussions involving a private land sale."
Clark said he knew of "several options for the location of a permanent wellness centre."
"The escalating crises of mental health, addictions and homelessness being seen across our city is tragic," Clark said.
"We are seeing a rise in threatening and violent incidents in homes, schools and businesses. I have been following these developments closely. I know how important it is to feel safe in your homes, yards, businesses, parks and streets," Clark said.
"This is a growing community crisis that is testing all of us. The best way to build safety and well-being for everyone is to work together. This means ensuring a sustainable model for the Emergency Wellness Centre and building badly needed options for people with complex needs."
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The federal Liberal government has made a lot of promises to Indigenous Peoples. But do those promises line up with what communities on the ground really want and need, or reflect their diversity?
A Scarborough family said they were shocked to get a notice from the City of Toronto that the artificial grass in their backyard, including a putting green, will have to be ripped out.
A new study finds walking an additional 3,000 steps per day can significantly reduce high blood pressure in older adults with hypertension.
Economists warn both Canada's economy and individual Canadians could suffer from impacts of a U.S. government shutdown, and that those impacts will deepen and broaden the longer it lasts.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Friday there was a 'climate of violence' and an 'atmosphere of intimidation' against Indian diplomats in Canada, where the presence of Sikh separatist groups has frustrated New Delhi.
The country's top soldier and outside experts say that finding almost $1 billion in savings in the Department of National Defence budget will affect the Armed Forces' capabilities, although the defence minister insisted Friday the budget is not being cut.
A bail bondsman charged alongside former President Donald Trump and 17 others in the Georgia election interference case pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges on Friday, becoming the first defendant to accept a plea deal with prosecutors.
Last living suspect in 1996 drive-by shooting of Tupac Shakur indicted in Las Vegas on murder charge
A man who prosecutors say ordered the 1996 killing of rapper Tupac Shakur was arrested and charged with murder Friday in a long-awaited breakthrough in one of hip-hop's most enduring mysteries.
For the past five days, vehicles laden with refugees have poured into Armenia, fleeing from the crumbling enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in neighbouring Azerbaijan. In a special report for CTVNews.ca, journalist Neil Hauer recounts what it's like on the ground in Armenia.
Amid cries of support and criticism, the Saskatchewan government stays committed to expediting its plans to force a pronoun policy into law.
Two men have now been charged with attempted murder after a stabbing incident involving a machete in Moose Jaw, police said.
A Regina high school volleyball tournament is educating student athletes on Indigenous culture and reconciliation.
Manitoba finance officials are reporting a $270 million surplus for the end of the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
A Winnipeg woman has pleaded guilty to handing out cannabis gummies to kids last Halloween.
A political expert says a new NDP candidate could change things in the Liberal stronghold of River Heights.
What started as a routine walk with her dog in the northeast Calgary community of Rundle on Sept. 17 quickly turned into an ordeal Aman Lamoureux will never forget.
A committee of experts tasked by the City of Calgary with providing downtown public safety recommendations is now beginning work on finding solutions to address addictions issues, housing concerns and crime.
Cathy Brodner got some unexpected visitors Thursday morning that were a little more photogenic than your run-of-the-mill backyard invaders.
Premier Danielle Smith says the first steps are coming this fall to reconfigure Alberta’s health delivery system — a plan the Opposition calls a recipe for more chaos from a government fresh off turning lab testing into a debacle.
A ceremony was held on Friday to mark the reopening of Edmonton's Queen Elizabeth Planetarium after years of restoration work.
A 39-year-old man who was recently released from jail with court-issued conditions was the subject of a public warning by Edmonton police on Friday.
An orphaned burgundy brick house sitting in the shadow of a midtown Toronto tower – one of the area’s last hold-out properties – sold for more than one million over asking this month.
The Toronto Blue Jays moved closer to securing a playoff berth Friday night with an 11-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre.
Three family members recently scored a major lottery prize and kept their win a secret from the rest of their loved ones.
Passengers will not be boarding the Trillium Line until the spring of 2024, as construction continues on the new north-south light-rail transit line between Bayview Station and Riverside South.
The National Capital Commission held a ceremony to unveil the new sign for the Kichi Zībī Mīkan on Friday ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The lowest-paid workers in Ottawa and eastern Ontario will receive a $1.05 an hour pay bump this weekend.
According to police, Dr. Tracy Pickett, 55, was reported missing on Wednesday, prompting a large search at Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Her remains were discovered Thursday evening.
The B.C. Supreme Court has dismissed a neighbourhood association's attempt to stop the City of Vancouver from providing services to the massive Senakw development currently under construction at the south end of the Burrard Bridge.
The group behind the tiny yellow stickers that are being spotted at intersections all over Vancouver hopes they will lead to safer roads.
The Societe de transport de Montreal (STM) is equipping special metro constables with a gel form of pepper spray to deal with violence. The irritant would be used "as a last resort in cases where safety is at stake," said an STM spokesperson in a statement Friday.
One person was arrested Friday as hundreds of protestors marched through the streets of Montreal to denounce the government’s response to climate change.
It's been a long wait, but six Ukrainian students who arrived in Quebec City to start school last month are finally in a classroom. The teenagers have been waiting for the education ministry to issue their eligibility certificates so they can study in English as they requested.
Tech holding company Tiny Ltd. says it's buying a majority stake in movie review platform Letterboxd. Victoria, B.C.-based Tiny has not shared what it will pay for the 60 per cent stake it will take in the film diary and rating website.
B.C.'s Green Party leader is dismayed Alberta's fossil fuel “war room” is targeting Nanaimo for phasing out natural gas hookups.
The return of a memorial totem pole to a remote community in northwestern B.C. nearly 100 years after it was taken allows the Nisga'a Nation to reach back for old values of respect, helping to chart a new path of reconciliation, the nation's president says.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey made a solemn apology today to survivors of residential schools in southern Labrador.
Joshua Ghiringhelli is still be waiting to be fully licensed as a pharmacist in Nova Scotia almost a year after he moved to the picturesque rural community of Boutillier’s Point.
Every homeless person has a different story, no matter where they come from, and that is no different for Dianne Munnings from the Bahamas.
A worker who was found unconscious Friday at the Cote Gold Mine site in Gogama has died, officials said Friday.
The man at the centre of a massive police search this week in Bracebridge has been found dead.
The North Bay Regional Health Centre said Friday that a critical shortage of emergency room doctors means longer wait times for less urgent cases.
Suspect flees from police after uttering death threats, prompts 'code silver' at University Hospital
It was a tense night for police and hospital workers after a Norfolk County man who fled from police after uttering death threats attended a London, Ont. hospital, prompting a code silver situation.
'Your tip could make a difference': Owen Sound police, OPP renew appeal to public for information in restaurateur's homicide
Nearly six weeks after a violent assault claimed the life of a beloved restauranteur in Owen Sound, Ont., police are once again appealing to the public for information that could help crack the case.
Sarnia police have arrested a man after a violent attack nearly three months ago left an 81-year-old senior with 'life-altering injuries.'