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'I don't know where the army is': Flooding evacuees in Gatineau feel left behind

Gatineau residents are raising concerns about the military response to the flooding crisis that has hit Quebec and are wondering why soldiers didn't come sooner to help with evacuations and sandbagging.

Some say soldiers were called in too late, while others say they didn't stick around long enough

CBC'S Ashley Burke reports from Gatineau, Que., where residents have been working for 5 days to protect homes from rising floodwaters 3:13

Gatineau residents are raising concerns about the military response to the flooding crisis that has hit Quebec hard and are wondering why soldiers didn't come sooner to help with evacuations and sandbagging. 

For the past five days, Guy Lantegiene has been building a wall of sand around his home, with help from volunteers, to save it from flooding.

It's a familiar scene across the city and other parts of Quebec and eastern Ontario as the number of evacuations – and the water levels – continue to rise. 

"I saw two trucks this morning with two guys and then never again. We need people to help us with sandbags, bring some bags. You know, all the people here are volunteers," he told CBC News Sunday.

"So, the army, I don't know where they are. I'm sorry, I can't help with that."

The federal government announced Sunday it would triple the number of troops deployed to the affected areas – from 400 to 1,200 by the end of the day.

While residents say they're grateful that the military was called in, some feel the soldiers either came too late or didn't stay long enough.  

Gatineau resident Guy Lantegiene fears the rising water level will soon spill over a wall of sandbags around his home. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

'It's too late'

Daniel Goneau, brother of Gatineau city councillor Sylvie Goneau, said the first floor of his home on Hurtubise Boulevard is under more than a metre of water and that he had to put his his 83-year-old father in a motel because his house is also flooded.

"I lost everything. Everything's gone," he said, fighting back tears. 

"The help, when we got it, was too late. And the army? Well, if you were here this morning, you saw the army vehicle and whatever and all the people here. A big show, big conference centre. Everything was great. Super. Where are they now? They're gone."

Gatineau resident Daniel Goneau said the military should have been called in sooner to deal with the flooding. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

Gatineau mayor faces criticism over military response

At a Sunday afternoon press conference, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin was asked about the criticism and suggested calling the military sooner would not have changed the outcome. 

"When the government of Quebec decided to call the army, the goal was to support forces on the ground, municipal forces on the ground. That's being done as we speak. That's what's needed, we need all the help we can get," he said.

"But at the end of this crisis we'll have to answer this question."

Approximately 100 soldiers were expected to be dispatched to Gatineau by Sunday afternoon, with other areas of Quebec set to receive more military support. 

Canadian forces have been deployed to help Quebec communities cope with rising water levels. Approximately 100 soldiers were expected to be dispatched to Gatineau by Sunday afternoon. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

West of Ottawa, the Quyon ferry closed Saturday night, cutting off the hundreds of daily commuters who use it to cross the Ottawa River between Fitzroy Harbour and Quyon, Que.

Ferry owner Don McColgan said he had to shut it down because the flooding made it too dangerous for vehicles to approach the docking area. 

Quyon residents Raymond Wilfred Bertrand and his wife, Florence Kearney, had to evacuate their home due to flooding. The couple, both in their 70s, are now staying in a hotel until the water recedes. 

Bertrand, 79, once served in the military as a young man. He said if the soldiers had been deployed sooner to help flood victims, they may have been able to save more homes.

Older people like himself can't be expected to be able to fill sandbags on their own, he said. 

Raymond Wilfred Bertrand of Gatineau said the Canadian military should have been called in two weeks ago to deal with rising floodwaters. (Idil Mussa/CBC)

"Insurance don't cover this. We lose it all," Bertrand said Sunday from his Quyon hotel. 

"We are paying the armed forces. It's all taxpayers' money. Why did they not bring them at least two weeks ago? I know they cannot protect everyone's home, but a lot of people didn't go and get sandbags because they couldn't."

Geneviève Landry says she was discouraged when she started seeing water leak into her basement. 0:27

With files from Ashley Burke, Idil Mussa, and Jérémie Bergeron‏