• Carmen Marie Fabio

Canada's Defence Minister tours flooded area of Rigaud

PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (left) meets with Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. (centre) and Vaudrueil-Soulanges MP Peter Schiefke in a flooded Rigaud neighbourhood May 5 to see the damage firsthand.

Canada's Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan arrived in Rigaud Sunday, May 5 to offer thanks to the contingent of volunteers, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, firefighters, and police officers for the efforts made over the last two weeks in battling rising flood waters and helping area victims.

Along with elected municipal and provincial officials, Sajjan was accompanied by Liberal MP Peter Scheifke for an informal meet and greet at the Rigaud Fire Station before taking a drive down to Denise Street off Chemin de la Baie in the Pointe-Séguin area to see the devastation firsthand.

“Our hearts go out to the families affected by the floods,” Sajjan told The Journal, “but it also goes to show how the municipality has come together, especially with all the first responders, police, fire, and also the Coast Guard.” He added the federal arm of the military would always be present at the time of need for all Canadians.

Sajjan made it a point to extend thanks to all the volunteers who had pitched in to help make and transport sandbags in an effort to hold off the encroaching waters. “I heard stories of so many people coming from the communities to volunteer to help out their neighbours,” he said. “It's heartwarming – it made me proud.”

It was the second time since 2017 that Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. Had the opportunity to host elected officials to tour the exact spot after former Premier Philippe Couillard arrived with several MNAs to meet some of the affected residents in the previous flood. In the interim, a number of homes have disappeared from the landscape with owners relocating to higher ground.

Sajjan said given it's the second 'Hundred-year flood' in a two-year period and though responders were better prepared, there are important lessons to be learned from this.

“We have made changes from the past,” he said, crediting inside knowledge gained from local representation including Schiefke in helping the department of National Defence with future planning and logistics for potential emergency situations.

When asked about mitigation efforts in future flood scenarios, Sajjan said though the office of the Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale federal government has some initiatives in place, it's the municipalities on the front-lines who can best inform the provinces where to make the appropriate decisions concerning future flood prevention.

At the same time, Sajjan acknowledged the extent of the emotion involved for people who may have lived their entire lives in the same home to have to relocate due to unpredictable weather patterns and natural disasters.

“These are going to be very tough, but important, conversations to have.”

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