Flood victims, still unable to go back home, await new government action plan

When Tauseef Bhatti, along with his wife and four children, were forced to leave their flooded home on Île Bizard seven months ago, they never imagined they would still be living in a hotel for the holidays.

Of families forced from their homes last spring, 123 of them still living in hotels

The Bhatti family has been living in a hotel since they were forced from their flooded home in May. From left: Minah, 8, Bia, 19, Tuba, 13, Weena Sehar, Tauseef Bhatti and Aadn, 15. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

When Tauseef Bhatti, along with his wife and four children, were forced to leave their flooded home on Île Bizard seven months ago, they never imagined they would still be living in a hotel for the holidays.

"We are technically homeless right now, but with the hope that we might be able to go back one day," Bhatti said.

The Holiday Inn is home for now, while Bhatti is waiting to find out if his house can be salvaged or if it'll be demolished.

He says the Public Security Ministry is still processing his file, and he's very unhappy with how long his family's had to wait.

"Seven months now in this situation. We're all of us physically, mentally deteriorating."

A third of claims still in pipe

Bhatti isn't the only victim who's unsatisfied with how the situation in the wake of last spring's catastrophic flooding has been handled.

The Public Security Ministry commissioned a poll among flood victims and found the majority is strongly dissatisfied with the province's flood assistance program.

In all, more than 6,000 claims were made by homeowners. More than 2,000 of those are still being processed.

At a public meeting in Quebec City Tuesday to discuss the flooding, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said he understands the frustration.

"The reason why we're having this meeting today is that I want to hear everybody, and I want us to be able to use the experience of everybody to improve things for the future," Coiteux said.

Public Security Minister Martion Coiteux said an action plan is underway to shorten delays and make it easier for flood victims to file claims. (CBC)

Action promised

So far, the province has paid out more than $100 million in claims:

  • The biggest share, more than $34 million, went to the Outaouais.
  • Victims in the Montreal area got more than $26 million.
  • The Laurentians received $19 million.
  • Homeowners in the Montérégie received more than $10 million.

Coiteux said that while the recovery program is a generous one, it is complex for citizens to navigate.

"There are definitely ways to improve things. We have to simplify the program," Coiteux said, adding that an action plan to make the recovery process easier for citizens will be announced in the coming months, before the next spring thaw.

"We need to make sure that the centre of our attention is the citizen affected."

With files from CBC's Matt D'Amours and Angelica Montgomery