Montreal’s public washrooms

La Presse has taken upon itself to evaluate the state of Montreal’s public washrooms. While this might seem, in some respects, like an exercise in summer-brand Journalism Lite, it’s actually a pretty important topic. Public toilets are an essential but woefully overlooked aspect of public space, if only because they enable people to actually use that space — after all, everybody’s gotta pee at some point or another, and it just isn’t right to expect them to run home or into a private business to relieve themselves. For people who spent most of their time in the streets, such as the homeless, public washrooms are not just convenient, they’re essential.

So how do our facilities fare? Not so well. Although some are particularly well-kept, like those in the chalet on Mount Royal or in the Palais des Congrès, most are cramped, dirty and in need of renovation.

Dans les parcs, certaines toilettes causent des problèmes, plus particulièrement lorsqu’elles sont aménagées à l’intérieur de vieux chalets d’hiver vétustes. C’est ce que nous avons constaté aux parcs Lafond et Pélican, dans l’arrondissement de Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie. Ces deux endroits sont carrément insalubres.

Au parc Lafond, du côté des femmes, un lavabo sur deux contenait une substance ressemblant à des vomissures, et une toilette sur deux était totalement bouchée. Le plancher aurait mérité un bon coup de vadrouille. Pas de papier hygiénique, de savon, de séchoir ni de papier essuie-mains –ce qui est d’autant plus déplorable que les toilettes jouxtent une pataugeoire.

À cela, le chargé de communications de l’arrondissement, Louis Tremblay, explique la situation par le vandalisme et le mauvais comportement de certains usagers: «Le vandalisme nous empêche de maintenir nos chalets de parcs ouverts en permanence, dit-il. Quelques employés y sont affectés du jeudi au dimanche, de l’après-midi à la fin de soirée. Cela nous permet de garder les chalets ouverts.» Autrement, les chalets ne sont ouverts qu’au moment d’activités particulières. Dans certains cas, on peut obtenir savon et papier auprès des préposés aux pataugeoires.

Quant au nettoyage, il a lieu une fois par jour. Donc, si un «dégât» survient le matin et que l’équipe de nettoyage passe le soir, il faut prendre son mal en patience…

Dans Ville-Marie, on nous dit que des toilettes chimiques sont installées dans les parcs au moment d’une activité spéciale ou parce que les toilettes du chalet sont brisées.

La Presse’s reporters have even prepared a chart, in PDF format, comparing the state of various public washrooms around Montreal. For the most part, though, they fail to press the city on why there are so few public washrooms outside of the usual parks and tourist areas. Many cities, particularly those in Europe and Asia, have dedicated public washrooms located in busy areas. Some are elaborate free-standing structures, like in Hong Kong, while others are the kinds of small, self-cleaning toilets pioneered by Paris. They aren’t always clean but at least they’re there.

Above right: Public washroom in Stockholm. Photo by Matt Blackett

5 comments

  1. I do wish we had sanisettes like the Stockholm model above. There are certain stretches, popular for a stroll or shopping, without much access to public conveniences – as there aren’t a lot of department stores, shopping malls or institutions where one can duck in for a pee. Boulevard St-Laurent certainly comes to mind. The last thing I want when I have to go is the obligation to buy a coffee or something…

    This is an important issue with an ageing population, among people with certain temporary or permanent medical conditions, and of course among pregnant women!

  2. Hey, let’s all go out and clean them! Maybe we cannot repair them but why not clean the ones that are just dirty? After all, we citizens/residents are the ones who made them dirty. Oh no, I forgot, here in Montreal.. we have to expect the government to do everything… :(

  3. You have hit an interesting area, Adolfo. The City here is run like organized crime, and some decent opposition would make a whole lot of things a lot easier. But the lack of opposition in fact comes from a ho hummed out population that is too plugged in to it’s security toys to venture out too much. Change requires an an effort. Not worth it for most citizens. Until of course da shit falls in their back yards :P

  4. just a hint of a revanchist local state, maybe?

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