Grandson fills 600 sandbags, but can't save home for grandmother, 93

Raymond Stelmashuk says he needed more help from the City of Montreal, and an earlier appeal to the military, to save his 93-year-old grandmother's home from being destroyed by the floods. “She thinks she’s coming back too. That’s the hard part."

Montreal mayor insists there is no shortage of sandbags in borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro

Raymond Stelmashuk says if the borough had been more supportive, his 93-year-old grandmother might have been able to keep the home her husband built from a fishing shack. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

Raymond Stelmashuk says for the past few days, the city has been dumping piles of sand two kilometres away from his grandmother's home, asking residents to fill and move their own bags.

"I made and moved 600 bags, between 600 and 650 bags," he says, standing on the flooded streets of the western tip of Pierrefonds-Roxboro, a hard-hit borough in Montreal's West Island.

As he looks at the flooded home his late grandfather built from a one-season fishing shack, Stelmashuk starts to cry.

People aren't sleeping, people are losing everything and they're worried about getting their feet wet.- Raymond Stelmashuk

The house has shifted off its foundation because of the floodwaters and may not be salvageable.

He's had a sleepless week, like many of his neighbours, racing to save their homes by buying sandbags or renting pumps to fight the rising water.

But it was all for nothing.

On Sunday, Stelmashuk said the home, at the end of Gouin Boulevard West, near the L'Anse-à-l'Orme nature park, was a total loss.

He says the fire department and authorities drive by multiple times a day, but they're not stopping to help.

"There's not a city person around, nobody's around. They keep coming and going, but they're not helping anybody."

At first the city pitched in, Stelmashuk says, but as the flooding worsened the support dwindled.

Earlier this week, six borough employees for Pierrefonds-Roxboro came by in a pickup truck with a single pallet of sand, he says.

"They didn't want to get their feet wet, so they asked where to put it as close as possible to their truck. Which is ridiculous," he says.

"People aren't sleeping, people are losing everything and they're worried about getting their feet wet."

Stelmashuk and his family were finally forced to move his 93-year-old grandmother out of her home.

"My grandfather built the house … This shouldn't be happening and the city should be way more organized."

This picture was taken on Saturday, when the water inside was inching up towards the floorboards. Stelmashuk says by Sunday morning water was gushing through the home. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

The house overlooks the L'Anse-à-l'Orme bay, but normally there's a safe barrier of grassy fields between the backyard and the water.

There is no issue in Pierrefonds of lack of sandbags.- Denis Coderre, Montreal mayor

But now the water floods past the fields, into the yard, through the house and into the street in front.

Stelmashuk believes that if the city had called on the military for extra help earlier, they could have saved the home.

The hardest part, he says, is what the loss will mean for his grandmother.

"She thinks she's coming back too. That's the hard part. She actually thinks she's coming back, but she's not."

Stelmashuk filled and stacked roughly 600 of these bags to try to save the home. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

Montreal mayor insists no lack of sandbags

Despite complaints from residents over the lack of sandbags and support, Mayor Denis Coderre insisted that Jim Beis, borough mayor for Pierrefonds-Roxboro, is doing a terrific job.

"There is no issue in Pierrefonds of lack of sandbags," he said on Sunday at a news conference.

"Everybody is doing a great job."

Despite pleas from neighbourhoods like this one, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre insists there is no lack of sandbags in Pierrefonds. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)


Jaela Bernstien


Jaela Bernstien is a Montreal-based journalist who covers stories about climate change and the environment for CBC News. She has a decade of experience and files regularly for web, radio and TV. She won a CAJ award as part of a team investigating black-market labour in Quebec. You can reach her at


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