Lorje plans to resign Montgomery Place community post over preschool issue

Longtime Saskatoon politician Pat Lorje says she intends to resign her post with the Montgomery Place Community Association over its response to a proposed preschool for Indigenous children.

The community association wrote a letter to the City of Saskatoon to signal its opposition to a proposed Saskatoon Tribal Council preschool to be established in a bungalow on 11th Street West.

Lorje, who served as city councillor for the area until she was defeated in 2016, said she voted along with the community association executive to oppose the preschool.

Lorje, who joined the community association board a year ago and was named secretary this fall, said her objection pertained solely to the proposed location on 11th Street West due to traffic and noise.

“I am now realizing that my opposition was short-sighted,” Lorje said in an interview Thursday. “It was like taking a Gatling gun to kill a mosquito.”

Lorje said she appeared at an information meeting held by the city on Oct. 11 and suggested the preschool could locate elsewhere in the neighbourhood. Lorje said she was unavailable to comment before Thursday.

Like others in the community, she is the child of a Second World War veteran who moved to the neighbourhood, which was established by the federal government as a pastoral community for those who fought in the war.

Former Saskatoon city councillor Pat Lorje, seen here at city hall in February of 2016, says she plans to resign from her post on the executive of the Montgomery Place Community Association over its opposition to a Saskatoon Tribal Council preschool.

“We are, by and large, children of those who fought the Nazis and we should not be fighting against three- and four-year-olds,” Lorje said.

Community association president Barb Biddle could not be reached Friday. Biddle has refused to comment on the issue. The StarPhoenix also sent a message to the community association website.

A community meeting called by the community association on Wednesday was cancelled.

Lorje said she rejects the idea that the preschool is being opposed because the application is coming from the tribal council.

“I don’t think it’s racism as much as people being misinformed,” she said. At the public meeting, Lorje said she heard one suggestion that the property could be transformed from a preschool into a healing lodge.

Lorje declined to point fingers, but said she believes opposition to the preschool was encouraged. More than 100 people attending an information session on a discretionary use application, like the one on Oct. 11, is “extremely unusual,” she said.

The Montgomery Place Community Association has told the City of Saskatoon it is opposed to a proposed Saskatoon Tribal Council preschool in this house on 11th Street West.

The community association website said Biddle and vice-president Jim McAllister went door to door along two blocks to inform neighbours.

The tribal council did not respond to messages seeking comment this week. Chief Mark Arcand said last week that the tribal council acknowledges missteps in the process and wants a “reset.”

Margie Tucker said she also plans to resign as a member at large of the community association. Tucker called the Oct. 11 meeting “awful,” but said she thought the tribal council did a good job of explaining its plans.

“I thought it would be a very slanted meeting, which it was,” Tucker said in an interview Friday. “Montgomery has always been my home, but not now.”

Tucker said she attended a community association executive meeting on Nov. 2 at which she signalled her intention to leave. She refused to say what transpired at the meeting.

Tucker said she supports the preschool, which Arcand said would host a maximum of 16 children at a time twice a day, four times a week. She said her father, who was also a Second World War veteran, would be “spinning in his grave” over the situation.

The City of Saskatoon indicated a second information meeting about the proposed preschool is being planned, but there is no date or location yet.

According to Lesley Anderson, the city’s director of planning and development, it’s unusual to hold two meetings for a discretionary use application.

Following the public meeting, the application would advance to the municipal planning commission and then to a public hearing in front of city council.

“I think it’s critical that (city) administration takes opportunities to share accurate and detailed information about the application,” Coun. Hilary Gough, whose ward includes Montgomery Place, said in a text message Friday.

“A lack of detail shared early has caused confusion and is a problem of this process overall.”

ptank@postmedia.com

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