• Carmen Marie Fabio

Rigaud Mayor Gruenwald welcomes response from provincial security ministry


PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Frustrated flood victims were urged by the September 10 rally organizers to voice their complaints directly to the office of the Minister of Public Security. Martin Coiteux announced new measures to help flood victims two days later.

The Minister of Public Security (MSP) Martin Coiteux responded to the Sunday, September 10 outcry from hundreds of victims of the spring flooding who protested in front of his Kirkland office about the lack of funding, leadership, or comprehensive plan in place to insure their homes are fixed and inhabitable before winter’s arrival.

At a press conference held in Pierrefonds the morning of Tuesday, September 12, Coiteux acknowledged the situation has been problematic as residents encountered significant delays and mixed messages in an effort to secure reports from provincial inspectors in order to apply for both permits and monetary compensation to fix their respective homes.

Residents from as near as Pierrefonds and as far as Rigaud and Gatineau attended the protest, 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 to the over 200 attendees. “There's no one coordinating efforts between the flood victims, the municipalities, and the minister. This is a humanitarian crisis.”

Coiteux’s announcement revealed steps are being adopted to speed up the processing of financial help for people still out of their homes and those with basements missing insulation and drywall.

He said meetings with flood victims would be organized to include all relevant levels of governance and public security in one location to address all concerns raised by homeowners.

Just before going to press, the office of Soulanges MNA Lucie Charlebois issued a communiqué detailing the planned measures the government will take in expediting the processing for flood victims. See bottom of the page.

“I’m excited they’ve adopted a position that when we have a system in place that doesn’t function adequately, they’re willing to sit down, review it, improve it, and go forward,” said Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. of Coiteux’s announcement. “That’s the main message I got.”

Though Gruenwald acknowledged the process of paperwork was frustratingly slow and unclear, he said the issue is not being taken lightly by the provincial government.

“The citizens are also responsible for some of the reasons things are going slow,” he said. “There are difficulties in communications, difficulties in completing the forms…” Gruenwald said city officials are willing to sit down with anyone who needs help in completing the necessary paperwork, even if it means an evening or weekend appointment.

“If someone says they can’t come during the day, no problem, we’ll find a time that’s convenient for them,” he said.

“We have realized it’s September – the leaves are about to fall – and after that, it’s the snow. I’m preoccupied and concerned with this. If people need help later on, I have to start now otherwise I won’t be in a position to help.”

At least one Rigaud resident at Sunday’s rally said after being billed for utilities she hasn’t used since the flood – phone and electricity – she’s withholding her municipal taxes, not willing to pay for a house she can’t live in.

Sharon Tower of Chemin de Grand-Quai in Rigaud said she’s been asked to leave her house but is demanding the request be made in writing and said she refuses to go and live in a trailer, one of the potential proposals that was discussed at an August 30 press conference to accommodate flood victims for the winter.