Ottawa

'It has to end': Flood victim fed up with having to repeat buyout process

Louise Duplessis says she has to start the buyout process again after her Gatineau, Que., home was damaged in the 2019 floods — even though the province of Quebec had already offered her money to walk away.

Quebec government offered Louise Duplessis $250K to walk away in 2018

Louise Duplessis wants the province of Quebec to honour its original agreement to pay her $250,000 to walk away from her flood-damaged home on boulevard Hurtubise in Gatineau, Que. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

A Gatineau, Que., woman is fed up with the Quebec government after learning she has to repeat the buyout process for her flood-damaged home, more than a year after first being offered money to walk away.

Louise Duplessis's home on boulevard Hurtubise was one of thousands of homes affected by rising river levels this past spring.

It was also the second time in the past two-and-a-half years she's experienced flood damage to her home, as it was also hit by the 2017 spring floods that devastated the region.

Both times, it was groundwater rising more than a metre through her basement floor that caused most of the destruction, but the floodwaters themselves also damaged her property.

Dupliessis's home ended up almost completely surrounded by water when the Ottawa River rose in May 2019, with groundwater seeping into her basement. (Submitted by Louise Duplessis)

'Let me get out of here'

After the 2017 floods, Duplessis provided the province with numerous documents, from a mould report to an engineering report on her home.

She said that engineering report showed 11 cracks in her foundation, damage that would cost $260,000 to repair because the house would have to be raised, a new foundation laid down and repairs made to the basement and drywall.

In February 2018, Quebec's public security ministry offered her $200,000 for her home and $50,000 for her land.

I've done everything they've requested. Everything.​​​​​- Louise Duplessis

She then received a demolition permit from the City of Gatineau. But before she could tear down her house, it flooded again in May 2019.

"We panicked. It's like, 'No, we can't go through this again. ... I'm exhausted," Duplessis said.

"I begged them, please, finalize my file. Let me get out of here. I got to get out. We can't do this again. They told us we had no choice."

Louise Duplessis holds the letter she received from the province in February 2018, in which the province offered to buy her property after the 2017 spring floods caused significant damage to her home's foundation. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Living with her brother

Duplessis said she was told she would have to start the whole buyout process again.

"This has been going on for two-and-a-half years. That's not acceptable. Not after everything I have done here," she said.

"I've done everything they've requested. Everything."

Since the 2017 flooding, Duplessis and her husband have been shuffled between hotel rooms and temporary furnished apartments. They've also spent nearly eight months staying in her brother's one-bedroom apartment, while he sleeps on the couch.

She said she doesn't want to move back into her home while she waits for a decision on her file, as she received a mould report last week showing there could be elevated levels of penicillium and/or apergillus spores in the basement.

The basement of Louise Duplessis's home in Gatineau, Que., was flooded when the Ottawa River surged over its banks in May 2019. (Submitted by Louise Duplessis)
 

Ministry says payouts underway

In a French-language statement to CBC Ottawa, the Ministère de la Sécurité publique du Québec, which administers the disaster relief program, said all "eligible disaster victims" have received monetary advances to begin repair work.

A ministry spokesperson told CBC News that flood victims seeking compensation — including those like Duplessis who are hoping for buyouts — have had to reapply because the details of the program have changed since the 2019 floods. 

The City of Gatineau has approved six demolition permits related to the 2019 floods and another permit is being assessed, spokesperson Yves Melanson said.

Duplessis said she hasn't yet received a new demolition permit, however. She also said she's been denied insurance money because her homeowners' insurance doesn't cover damage from overland flooding, which has forced her to rely on government assistance.

For now, Duplessis wants an end an ordeal that's has been taking a toll on her mental health. 

"We're still trying to keep our heads up, still trying to have a little hope, a little light somewhere," she said.

"I'm just wishing for it to end so I can start healing."