Montreal's icy sidewalks treacherous for seniors, disabled

Michel St-Jean only has 6 per cent of his vision, and Montreal’s slippery and uneven, snow-packed sidewalks make any trip outside perilous.

Some seniors worry about breaking bones if they slip on ice, so they stay isolated indoors

Michel St-Jean is almost completely blind and said the city should have cleared snow sooner. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Michel St-Jean only has six per cent of vision, and Montreal's slippery and uneven, snow-packed sidewalks make any trip outside perilous. 

"You can't go out because it's dangerous," St-Jean said. "Can't go to the bank, go to [buy] groceries, go to work."

He said the city should have cleaned up the streets before the snow and ice froze rock solid.

It's been a rough week for St-Jean, since the city delayed clearing sidewalks after a storm last Tuesday night. The administration hoped the mild weather would melt it.

By Sunday night, that gamble clearly hadn't paid off, and the city ordered clearing operations to begin.

Many seniors housebound

While the conditions were challenging for St-Jean, many senior citizens were worse off, some opting to stay indoors rather than risk slipping on the ice and injuring themselves.

Maureen McCrory is a member of a Westmount senior citizens social activity centre called Contactivity. She said many seniors live alone, and the treacherous roads and sidewalks force them into further isolation.

"You become housebound," she said. "Some become depressed."

Maureen McCrory puts grips on her cane before leaving her seniors' activity centre Monday. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Jean-François Parenteau, responsible for citizen services on Montreal's executive committee, apologized Saturday for not making a plan to clear the snow earlier.

He was criticized by the acting leader of the opposition, Lionel Perez, for endangering the safety of Montrealers.

"Were not talking about one day, it was five full days" before the city started carting the snow and ice away, Perez said of the delay on Radio Noon Tuesday.

"The administration should not take risks in the future," he added.

Mayor Valérie Plante pointed out Sunday that the city continued to put abrasives on the sidewalk throughout the week.

Montreal budgets about $160 million for snow removal every year, enough for about five major snow falls.

With files from Simon Nakonechny, CBC Montreal's Radio Noon and The Canadian Press