'We are very frustrated': Gatineau flood victims no closer to rebuilding home

Geneviève Mercier and Renaud Arnaud thought they'd be celebrating their daughter's second Christmas in their Gatineau home. Now they aren't even sure they'll be able to move in next Christmas.

'My Christmas wish would be just to have the courage to go through what's next'

Geneviève Mercier, her husband Renaud Arnaud and daughter Leonie are displaced from their Gatineau home this holiday due to the spring flooding. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

Geneviève Mercier and Renaud Arnaud thought they'd be celebrating their daughter's second Christmas in their Gatineau home.

Now, more than eight months after their home was flooded, they say they aren't even sure they'll be able to move in next Christmas.

After widespread flooding this past spring turned their street into a canal, Arnaud worked quickly to rip out every inch of his home in the Pointe-Gatineau neighbourhood that touched water in an effort to prevent mould.

Mercier remembers vividly her friends who helped with the cleanup say it would be a memory they'd look back on at Christmas dinner and laugh about.

But that hasn't happened.

"We're exhausted," said Mercier. "We're even wondering if we're going to be able to move in next Christmas in 2018."

They're one many Gatineau families who remain displaced from their homes this holiday season due to the flooding.

They consider themselves among the lucky ones. They're employed and have a place to live — a condo they are renting. Other flood victims are living out of hotel rooms or squatting in family member's basements.

Renaud Arnaud had to rip out anything in his home that touched water to avoid mould. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

2nd inspection

But their problem remains the same as it was in the summer: they still haven't received a permit from the City of Gatineau to rebuild.

In July the couple was awaiting a provincial inspection report, one that was necessary before they could get the provincial approval needed to have the city sign off on a rebuild.

Though that report came, the provincial approval did not, and in the fall Mercier says another inspector visited their property and questioned whether the flood caused the damage.

She said that provincial officials were skeptical about the damage during a phone call, but she hasn't been able to get an answer as to why, and what their next step would have to be.

In the meantime, work on the home has been at a standstill for months. The floors and walls are ripped out. There's no heat.

"It doesn't make any sense," said Mercier. "We're still at stage one. We are very frustrated."

Flood victim Geneviève Mercier is wishing for courage this holiday season 1:25

The burden of paying both a condo and a house they can't fix has been a financial hit for the couple, Mercier said, one she doesn't think they can keep up forever.

But the couple isn't willing to give up on rebuilding the yellow house. It belonged to Mercier's father, who has passed away, and is filled with memories she wants to hold onto.

They wanted to raise their daughter Leonie there and create new memories together as a family. But the flood happened before they could move in.

The couple's condo wall is covered in blueprints and plans to rebuild their flooded home. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

'You have to learn how to let go'

Despite the setbacks, the couple is focused on making this holiday special for their daughter. They've put up a Christmas tree and plan on celebrating with family at their homes. 

"You have to learn how to let go," said Arnaud. "That's what we actually learned as a family."

"We try to focus on our daughter. That's the best thing that happened to us in the past two years," he said. "We try to also forget all the challenges that come with our home and look at what we've been able to accomplish."

Those accomplishments include hiring an engineering firm to draft the blueprints to rebuild their home.

For the next week or two, they plan to forget about the flooding and makeup for lost time together. 

"My Christmas wish would be just to have the courage to go through what's next," said Mercier. 
The couple is trying to focus on making their daughter happy this Christmas and take a break from worrying about their home. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)