• Carmen Marie Fabio

Hundreds rally to protest post-flood treatment


PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

These Rigaud residents joined counterparts from across the region who've been affected by the spring flooding and are frustrated at the lack of movement from the Ministry of Public Security on fixing their homes.

An angry and vocal crowd of over 200 gave up their Sunday morning to come to the Kirkland office of the Minister of Public Security (MSP) Martin Coiteux, protesting the lack of funding, leadership, and comprehensive plan in place to tangibly address damages from the spring flooding.

Residents from as near as Pierrefonds and as far as Rigaud and Gatineau were on hand, each with their own stories of frustration at being forced out of their home and not sure when they'll have the proper assessment, funding, and qualified reconstructions to allow them to resume their lives.

“The politicians can't see what's going on from their offices,” said co-organizer Steve Beauchamp. “There's no one coordinating efforts between the flood victims, the municipalities, and the minister. This is a humanitarian crisis.”

Emphasizing that the protest was not to be a witch-hunt, Beauchamp said energies should focus on having their collective voices heard and moving each dossier forward.

“If we need to establish guilt afterwards, that's what we'll do.”

Many in attendance sported T-shirts printed with words 'negligence' and 'abandoned' and were highly critical on the conflicting information they'd received from all levels of government.

“The process in place right now might be working for some people while others have been left out,” said a spokesman. “The processes are not in place to help us urgently.”

The group hoped to assemble a database of names of all flood victims and present a single cohesive file to the MSP and are calling for a proper triage system to be implemented based on damages and financial need, especially for people who lost not only their home, but their home-based livelihoods including daycare centres.

Organizers encouraged residents to keep vocalizing their concerns by phoning the MSP offices and – even if bumped to voicemail – to leave a message.

“We want this to be resolved,” he said. “Winter is coming. There's an urgency to act now.”

Rigaud resident Tina Bseilis, whose Chemin Point-Séguin home flooded, was told by inspectors in May to remove insulation and drywall so mold would not grow to prevent a health hazard.

“The government is now saying that no inspector came to my house,” Bseilis said, a sentiment echoed in some form by many in attendance. Following repeated phone calls to the MSP, Bseilis has now been told that they're analyzing her file. “I don't know what that means or how long that means.”

Another Rigaud resident Claire L'Heureux said she's fed up of living in a hotel in Vaudreuil-Dorion and questions the financial wisdom of the accumulated hotel and meal fees for her and her husband, saying the money would've been better spent fixing their houses.

Some in attendance at the rally said their hotel fees are $575 per person per week, including food, while others said it's as much as $110 per day.

“We've had our evaluation of damage since July 21,” said L'Heureux, “and since that time, we had to wait three weeks for officials to determine who was responsible for giving us the technical file – the MRC, the MSP, the town.... We were left with the impression everyone was pointing the finger at someone else.” Questions also arose concerning values assigned to houses, with some flood victims saying values were assigned on their homes' current states rather than their pre-flood condition while others saying a value was assigned prior to their own purchase date and did not include extensive renovations done by the new owners.

Organizers raised the point that with climate change, extreme weather conditions are more common and stand to affect many more people.

“It could be a heck of a lot worse,” said one. “What is going to happen when you have a Minister of Public Security who is not able to handle this crisis? Under normal conditions, this is a manageable thing. This (situation) is unacceptable.”

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