Quebec town insists politics not involved in demolition of controversial house

MONTREAL — There has been a strong public outcry over the demolition of a house in the town of Chambly, Quebec, with links to a civilian uprising against British rule in the 1800s.

The house, built around 1820, was home to Rene Boileau, a local notary who took part in the Rebellions of 1837-1838.

His father, also named Rene, was a member of the parliament of Lower Canada for the Canadian party, which later became the Patriot party in 1826.

Despite efforts by local citizens to save the house, the wrecking ball brought down the Maison Boileau on Thursday.

Michel Larose, the town’s director-general, said he made the decision to demolish it because it was in poor condition, insisting it had nothing to do with politics.

“It’s mainly the question of safety that prompted me to act,” Larose said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Larose said the municipality is not required by law to have a resolution from council to demolish a building, especially when the structure belongs to the town.

But Louise Chevrier, a local historian and novelist, said Saturday that rules were not followed, no demolition notice was given and the decision was made in secret.

“The house should have been restored, but the town of Chambly did not take all the necessary measures to protect it,” she said.

Chevrier is also part of a citizens’ movement that organized a vigil Saturday evening.

She said the group is ”convinced the house could have remained standing for decades.”

The Maison Boileau was originally abandoned by its owners in 2016 because it was no longer habitable due to mould and concerns that it would collapse.

The town paid $550,000 to buy the property and had hoped to turn the house into a tourist office, but that idea was abandoned.

Larose said engineers estimated in November 2017 that it would have cost $1.8 million to rebuild it and today, the bill would have surpassed $2 million.

When crews arrived on Thursday, several residents and a local politician tried unsuccessfully to halt the demolition.

Christian Picard, a former Parti Quebecois candidate in the recent election, was arrested for trying to stop workers from bringing down the house, but was later freed.

He slammed the town’s administration on Saturday, adding that it’s time to change the way Quebec protects its heritage.

“There’s clearly a problem in Quebec and we have to change our practices, our regulations and laws,” Picard said in an interview.

“We have to find a new way to protect our heritage.”

Today, the rebellions of 1837-1838 do not go unheralded in Quebec.

While the rest of Canada celebrates Victoria Day, Quebecers mark National Patriots’ Day on the Monday preceding May 25th.

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