11th hour reprieve for SPCA Ouest de l’Île
YLJ FILE PHOTO/LAUREN MITCHELL
An 11th hour reprieve means the SPCA Ouest de l'Île will remain in its current location on Cité-des-Jeunes Boulevard and the organization has appointed a new Executive Vice-President of Operations.
In an unexpected turn of events, SPCA Ouest de l’Île announced June 2 that it had renewed the lease with the landlord at its current boulevard de la Cité-des-Jeunes location where it has operated its animal rescue activities since opening its doors four years ago.
In March 2017, SPCA Ouest launched a new online GoFundMe campaign and by the end of May, had raised over $47,000 of the $65,000 hoped for. On May 23, an updated posted on SPCA Ouest's GoFundMe page, SPCA Ouest's Facebook page and SPCA Ouest General Director's Rémi Brazeau's personal Facebook page stated that, "even with the tremendous support from everyone we did not meet our goals, which made negotiation with the landlord difficult to say the least." The update went on to say, "as of May 31st, the present location will no longer be home of the SPCA West."
The statement that has since then been removed gave a description of the exchange with the landlord. "After almost two weeks of negotiations, a lack of communication from the landlord, and the inability for us to meet the legal deadline that was imposed upon us, we had no other choice but to agree with the landlord to put an end to our existing lease."
The update went on say, "The reasons are numerous; to mention a few, he had tenants already lined up who would pay a much better rate than we presently are, he wanted a huge amount of money up front as a security deposit, a raise in rent, he also requested personal liabilities from all board members, and the list goes on. Requests that were impossible to achieve with the time frame allotted." SPCA Ouest was therefore out the door come June 1, a week later.
On June 2, a new update appeared on the SPCA Ouest's Facebook page stating (in French): "Certain statements about the owners of the premises containing erroneous and false information have also surfaced on our FB page and GoFundMe platform, and as a result the SPCA and its team sincerely apologize for the damage this may have caused to the owners and to their loved ones.
Our landlord's support in this case is beyond reproach and has always been so since the beginning of our business dealings.
Moreover, thanks to this cooperation and open communication and their support, the SPCA Ouest now benefits from a new long-term lease agreement with its existing landlord and we are pleased to announce that our animal friends will be able to keep their much needed shelter.
Our thanks to our landlord for his support and understanding for this promising new future and once again, (we) offer them our deepest apologies for the confusion this has caused."
The post went on to state that the SPCA Ouest would issue additional public communiqués over the coming days and weeks, but no further explanations were given regarding the author of the derogatory comments made against the landlord.
Activities seem to have resumed at SPCA Ouest with a June 5 posting requesting quotes for building a dog fence. A press release was issued June 6 announcing the appointment of Jack Bedakelian to Executive Vice-President Operations.
"As part of my mandate, I will optimize, improve, and implement changes that will better serve the animals, and the community," Bedakelian stated in the release.
On June 3, a private message was sent from Brazeau's personal Facebook account to this reporter's own private Facebook account stating, "the article is 95% based on Facebook fabrications. (...) Our lawyers are furious and are calling for action. Things will heat up in the coming weeks." The testimonies printed June 1 in Your Local Journal were, in fact, taken from ex-volunteers contacted by this reporter.
The message went on to state that, "yesterday people came to vandalize my house and the SPCA van! Coincidence? Random act? Or connected to people behind the SPCA smear/destruction campaign? The police are watching the videos. We shall see soon."
On June 7, YLJ contacted Bedakelian to obtain additional information regarding the details of the lease negotiations, as well as a response from SPCA Ouest to the testimonials put forward by ex-volunteers.
"My mandate here is about being as transparent as possible," Bedakelian stated. "What I promise to do is to shed more light on all of this information, because ultimately my mandate here is not only about the animals, but it's about visibility. And I understand the importance of the community and in keeping them involved and understanding of what is going on. I can guarantee that a lot of changes are going to come into place in the next weeks and months."
Brazeau would not comment further regarding the testimonials from ex-volunteers. "I think we've already spoken about this, I don't believe we need to go back. Let's go forward. Let's move to something new."
Brazeau said the SPCA Ouest was actively investigating how derogatory statements regarding its landlord were posted online. "We're working on finding out how this happened. I don't know the answers yet."