02/15/2013 08:32 EST | Updated 04/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Batshaw reassures Dorval residents about youth centre plan

Batshaw Youth and Family Centres is trying to allay the fears of Dorval residents over its plan to expand its youth rehabilitation centre in the West Island suburb to include two new closed units for high-risk youth.

The City of Dorval lost a lengthy legal fight to prevent the youth protection agency from changing the vocation of its Dorval centre, when the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday refused to hear the city's appeal aimed at blocking the agency's plans.

The city had refused to issue a building permit to Batshaw, armed with a petition containing close to 4,000 signatures from residents opposed to the agency's plans to build high-security units on its property.

Not in city core: Dorval mayor

The existing youth rehabilitation centre is in a residential neighbourhood, and many residents are angry Batshaw will be allowed to proceed.

"The facility for really hardened juveniles, I would say....they shouldn't have that here," said Karin Schoriese, who lives right across the street from the centre.

"We don't want a detention centre of that type of closed unit in our centre core of Dorval," said Dorval Mayor Edgar Rouleau.

No dangerous criminals, agency says

A spokeswoman for Batshaw said Dorval residents need not worry, as dangerous criminals will not be housed in the locked units.

"Most of the youths who are in this closed unit are [there] under the Youth Protection Act," said Pascale Berardino, the coordinator of Batshaw's legal office. "They are not young offenders, per se."

Those teenagers are now being housed at Batshaw's Prévost campus, which began as the Shawbridge reform school for boys more than a century ago.

"They are in buildings that are very old," said Berardino.

"They need to be close to their family and in modern facilities, so that we can have our programs being more effective," she said.

Batshaw's expansion project, estimated to cost $30 million when it was proposed nearly five years ago, includes building a brand-new residential centre in Beaconsfield on its Elm Avenue property, which now houses the non-profit Portage substance abuse rehabilitation program for anglophone teens.