Quebec flood victims lose patience as anniversary nears

Île Bizard flood victims Tauseef and Weena Bhatti say they are fed up with navigating the province's complex web of inspections, estimates and documents, all while living in a hotel with their four children for more than eight months.

77 flood victims still being accommodated by the Red Cross

Tauseef Bhatti and his wife Weena have been living at in a hotel with their four children for eight months now. Their home in Île Bizard was flooded last year. (CBC)

For the Bhatti family, the Holiday Inn stopped feeling like a holiday long ago.

"It's very, you know, confined space. It's not comfortable at all," Tauseef Bhatti told CBC News.

"We were OK thinking, 'It's a temporary thing. We're going to be out of here anytime, any month.'"

Tauseef, his wife Weena and their four children have been crammed into two hotel rooms for eight months and counting.

The family has been in limbo for nearly a year as they try to navigate the complex web of inspections, estimates and documents that make up their flood compensation file.

They haven't found their way out yet.

"Every time they told us something, we followed those directions, and then after one month, two months, three months, we got that thing ready — all the paperwork, [and] they changed the goalposts," Bhatti said.

A provincial government-appointed estimator said it would take $181,000 to fix the family's flooded home in Île Bizard.

But the province's aid program will only approve repairs if the cost to fix the house is less than 50 per cent of its value.

Bhatti says that means demolishing the family home.

A spokesperson from the Public Security Ministry says flood victims who aren't satisfied with their estimate can appeal.

Bhatti says that's what he's doing, but the process is confusing and slow.
This is the basement of the Bhatti family's home. The Bhattis are still waiting for the government to complete its flood compensation file. (CBC)

Red Cross still footing bills

The Bhattis aren't the only flood victims still in living in hotels.

The Red Cross is still helping 77 families with accommodations. The organization says it provided emergency support to more than 2,400 households affected by last year's floods.

The 2017 spring floods forced thousands of people from their homes and caused severe property damage in several cities and towns.

The province has paid out more than $100 million in claims.

This is what Gouin Boulevard West in Pierrefonds looked like during flooding in 2017. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)
The Vallées, a hard-hit family in Pointe-Fortune, not only lost their home, but also their business, a casse-croûte they have run for more than two decades. 

Line Vallée said the provincial government's response has been poorly communicated and disorganized. 

After months without answers, she filed a complaint with the Quebec ombudsman out of frustration.

Vallée said she was surprised when someone called her back from the province's Public Security Ministry within a few hours.

"I don't know why they always leave people in the dark [without knowing] where they have gotten in their files," she said.

Emergency plans for flooding

The 2017 spring floods forced thousands of Quebecers to leave their homes. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Vallée also criticized the province for spending a significant amount of money to temporarily relocate flood victims.

"It would have been better to have more money for our houses rather than pay us for a hotel all this time," she said.

Without income for a year because of the loss of their restaurant, the couple is also having difficulty making ends meet.

Last month, the provincial government ordered each municipality in Quebec to come up with an emergency plan to respond to flooding.

Two-thirds of Quebec municipalities do not have up-to-date plans to respond to natural disasters, the province said.

With files from Radio-Canada reporter Fannie Bussières McNicoll