Rigaud residents still seeking answers months after flooding
YLJ FILE PHOTO/JAMES ARMSTRONG The Town of Rigaud was especially hard hit during the 2017 spring floods which saw many residents forced from their homes and still awaiting compensation to repair or rebuild.
The Town of Rigaud held a special information session December 7 for the victims of the spring 2017 flood. The objective of the meeting was to offer tips and technical information regarding temporary work that can help flood victims move back in their homes this coming winter while they wait for their claim for compensation to be processed by the government.
The meeting brought together a panel of the main stakeholders associated with the ongoing crisis following the flood, including representatives from the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, the Ministère de la Sécurité publique (MSP) and various municipal employees. Most of the information presented was given out by Rigaud's assistant fire chief Éric Martel and consultant Sylvain Leroux of Bâti Consult. Martel began the presentation with a brief definition of the temporary work involved and its importance.
"It’s something that you must do, that you must do urgently, but that will not be permanent," Martel said. "If you don't perform the temporary work, your home will suffer additional damages, or it will hinder upcoming work."
What defines temporary?
The temporary work consists mainly of installing insulation material in living areas, crawl spaces and basements in general; and recommendations for boarding up houses of residents who will not be occupying their homes over the winter. Electrical safety and heating considerations for all concerned were also high on the list of mandatory precautions underlined by Martel and Leroux.
Leroux fleshed out the presentation with additional technical information as to the types of materials to be used, electrical safety and water pump issues. Most hands in the room were raised when Leroux asked for a show of hands of residents who had still not moved back into their homes.
Still waiting for compensation
While the attendees listened stoically to Leroux's presentation, many of them had other matters besides temporary repairs on their minds; attendees who spoke out said they were still waiting for compensation from the government and while advances were promised to help with the temporary work mentioned during the meeting, residents complained of not yet having received any amount.
Running out of patience
"You talk, but we are seething inside, because we’re not getting this or that. We can't find out anything. We want to know: what is the problem? What can we do to move back into our homes? We are seething, sir. Try to understand us a little. Try to put yourself in our shoes," one aggravated resident said.
Leroux answered that he was very sensitive to the resident’s plight, and he stressed the importance of following the recommendations offered during the meeting to preserve the resident's home.
YLJ FILE PHOTO/CARMEN MARIE FABIO About 200 flood victims from across the province attended a rally in front of the office of the Ministère de la Sécurité publique to voice their frustration with the lack of funding and leadership or comprehensive pre-winter planning.
Questions regarding the status of requests for compensations were directed at Éric Drolet of the MSP. "What is going on with your agents?" One resident asked. "I've talked with many flood victims and things have not moved ahead for a single one of them. We are not moving forward; we're moving backward. We were living in mud when the flood came; we're still living in mud in December."
The resident thanked the organizers for holding the meeting, but she felt that it was held a bit too late, just weeks before Christmas.
"Where's the money?" another resident asked after stating she had sent all the required paperwork but was still waiting for a decision. "How do you prioritize the claims?"
Drolet replied that cases were treated in the order the Ministère received them. "We have, after all, 6,000 claims to process," Drolet said. "We've hired people. Everyone is doing their best."
Drolet said it was difficult to find candidates and retain employees to process the claims. Residents complained about their claims being repeatedly transferred when evaluators went on vacation or quit and having to start the process all over again once a new case worker was assigned to their claim.
Your Local Journal asked Drolet if the process of allocating compensations and advances would not proceed more rapidly if fully empowered agents were deployed in the field to meet the flood victims, assess their needs onsite, and allocate funds as appropriate. Drolet answered the approach had been tried in other towns, but that it had not proven to be efficient.
Marie-Andrée Gagnon, Communications Manager for the Town of Rigaud said the minutes of the meeting would be made available on the town's website in the near future. In the meantime, residents can find more information on Rigaud's special website for flood victims at www.ville.rigaud.qc.ca/…/securite-ci…/inondations-crues-eaux.