Rustico residents raise concerns over Belcourt Centre

By Maureen Coulter
Nov. 2, 2014

When Judy MacDonald sits in her office at the Barachois Inn she can see the Belcourt Centre from her window.
The Diocese of Charlottetown plans on tearing down the older building to replace it with a new one. This has raised some issues within the community because many people would rather see it renovated or, at the very least, have some input into the process.
The centre was built in 1932 after the original building burned to the ground.
It was in the middle of the Depression when people had no money, yet the community came together to build a new one, said MacDonald.
But a public information open house was held Nov. 2 at Rustico Bay Senior’s Club to share plans for a new Diocesan Spirituality Centre on the site.
The advisory committee, which has experience in project management and construction, recommended the diocese build a new centre instead of renovating.
MacDonald would like to see the report about the status of the building because she doesn’t feel the possibilities of restoration have been explored.
She helped bring the Farmer’s Bank of Rustico and the Doucet House up to code and she doesn’t see why they can’t do the same with the Belcourt Centre.
“We were holding the Farmers Bank up with trees and we completely restored the building and it has a beautiful contemporary inside while saving the exterior structure.”
It’s important to preserve those buildings because they are symbols of the Acadian culture in the community, she said.
Arthur Buote has lived in Rustico his whole life and said the community has a very strong attachment to the Belcourt Centre.
It was wrong for the committee to make this decision without consulting the community first, he said.
“I don’t think they are doing the ethical thing.”
People in the community are not necessarily opposed to a new centre, they just want to be part of the discussion, he said.
“We know that we absolutely need upgrades, we understand that because it’s an old building, but what we want is we want to keep the character of that corner.”
Gerald Gabriel serves a liaison between the diocese and the advisory committee and he spoke to the crowd of approximately 75 people about the plans for the new building.
He told the crowd the option for renovation is not the preferred choice.
“We have funds that have been donated specifically for a spirituality centre in religious education and the most pragmatic and prudent use of those funds is to build new.”
The new building would be modern, more energy efficient and eco-friendly, he said.
“Our task is to create a quality spirituality centre. We have to address the needs of the existing users or the future would be users.”
Another open house about the new spirituality centre was to be held Nov. 4 at the St. Paul’s Parish Centre in Summerside.