Frustrations come to the fore at Pointe-Claire public consultation on spring floods

Residents packed a conference room at a Pointe-Claire Holiday Inn Monday night to voice their concerns to the Quebec government about its response to the spring flooding earlier this year, and many left frustrated.

Experts from three Quebec ministries hear from flood victims

City workers pick up debris from removed from a flooded house in the Pierrefonds borough of Montreal on May 14. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Around 600 people packed a conference room at a Pointe-Claire Holiday Inn Monday night to voice their concerns to the Quebec government about its response to the spring flooding earlier this year, and many left frustrated.   

They wanted answers and, better yet, compensation, but the government officials in attendance, representing the ministries of the environment, municipal affairs and public security, made it clear they were only there to provide information and listen to their concerns. 

Special intervention zones

The consultation began with a broad-strokes explanation of new "special intervention zones" that the government is proposing for some of the hardest hit municipalities in Quebec that could become law this fall.

The proposed zones would cover areas considered at high-risk of flooding, defined as 0 to 20 years, in 211 Quebec municipalities, including Montreal.

In those areas, the government order would forbid all new construction and severely restrict the rebuilding of houses damaged in the spring floods. 

The questions were many but the answers were few at Monday's public consultation on the spring floods. (Stephen Smith/CBC)
With some exceptions, houses that suffered damages totaling more than 50 per cent of the building's value could not be rebuilt under the government's proposed order. 

The decision to allow the reconstruction of homes would be based on evaluations made by inspectors from Quebec's Public Security Ministry or an accredited expert.

In Montreal, the order would primarily affect parts of Pierrefonds-Roxboro, L'Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève and Ahuntsic–Cartierville.

The order would also introduce what the government is calling "immunization measures" for houses located in zones with a lower risk of flooding, defined as 20 to 100 years.

Such measures would prohibit features like windows and doors below a given flood line.

The government said the draft order is designed for the public's safety and the protection of property.

'It's scary'

Though the atmosphere in the room remained largely calm, the proposed new measures left many with new concerns, and added to their frustration with the government's response.  

Vincent Richard said the Quebec government's proposed special intervention zones are 'scary' and don't address the urgent needs of flood victims. (Stephen Smith/CBC)
"It's scary," said Vincent Richard, a resident of the hard-hit des Maçons Street in Pierrefonds-Roxboro. "If this [order] comes in the fall, right before winter, people won't be able to do their renovations."

"They should be helping the people now... this is the time for action."

Others,  like homeowner Steve Gittens, wanted to know what was being done to secure the dams that he and clearly many others in the room believe are responsible for the floods.

"Nobody's talking about this, and it's the main reason we had a flood," the Ile Bizard resident told the room, to loud applause.

Itsik Romano gestures at the floodwater that took over his Pierrefonds neighbourhood in this photo from May, 2017. (Shari Okeke/CBC)
Earlier Monday, one of the organizers of an awareness campaign in Pierrefonds, Itsik Romano, said residents are not getting the information they need from the government and that he hasn't received compensation yet.

Romano said he has spent $20,000 so far to decontaminate his home on des Maçons Street.

At the meeting, he expressed frustration that Martin Coiteux, Quebec's Minister of Public Security and the Minister responsible for the Montreal region, did not attend the meeting.

"This used to be considered a state of emergency," he said. "Since many families here have yet to receive the help that your office promised back in May, can you please explain to us where is the elected minister of public security?"

$6.2 million paid out so far in Montreal

A spokesperson for Coiteux stated in an email to CBC Monday that the government has paid more than $6.2 million to people affected by the flooding in the Montreal region, and that 921 files for compensation have been opened.

Across Quebec, 3,232 compensation requests have been filed and 2,949 have been completed, an official said Monday night.

The government held similar meetings across the province Monday, including one in Rigaud, one in Laval and one in Deux-Montagnes, areas that were also affected by the flooding.


  • An earlier version of this story stated that Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux was expected to attend tonight’s meeting at the Holiday Inn. In fact, Coiteux was never scheduled to attend.
    Jul 10, 2017 4:22 PM ET

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak