Quebec says $6.5M for Gatineau flood claimants in mail next week

Quebec officials were in Gatineau this week, meeting one-on-one with the residents behind 724 claims from last spring's massive flood, but delays and bureaucracy continue to frustrate many claimants.

Despite big push this week to resolve claims, frustrations with bureaucracy remain

Manon Trudel and her partner Royal Souliere, left, as well as her father, Reginald Trudel, had to leave their home during the flooding in Pointe-Gatineau. Now their home will be demolished. (Amanda Pfeffer)

Quebec officials descended on Gatineau this week, meeting one-on-one with the residents behind 724 claims from last spring's massive flood, promising cheques next week worth millions of dollars in disaster relief.

Yet a number of claimants continue to be frustrated with bureaucratic delays and uncertainty with repairs or decisions that need to be made before winter settles in.  

"We are still living in trauma," said Manon Trudel, who finally received a permit to demolish her home this week.

She was one of the claimants who had a chance to meet with representatives from Quebec City about her claim.

While Trudel said the meeting was positive, she and her partner and her father now have to wait for the demolition of their home before they can receive money to buy a new one; a problem that has prevented the bank from giving them a mortgage on a new home.

"We're still living through this — it's like a bad dream, you know," said Trudel.

Altogether, 1,200 people in the Gatineau area made claims after record-smashing floods not seen in generations affected both sides of the Ottawa River, in Ontario and and in Quebec from Maniwaki to Montreal and beyond.

For months since the flooding, Quebec claimants have complained about the complex bureaucratic processes needed to start their claims, saying they were preventing them from beginning repairs or knowing whether their home will be salvageable.

$6.5M in cheques go out next week

Denis Landry, the director of recovery for the Quebec Ministry of Public Security, says officials met with 724 claimants over three days. (CBC)

This week, Quebec officials came to Gatineau, as they have for a number of communities, to settle outstanding claims.

"The idea was to do something concrete with each claim for financial assistance that we've received," said Denis Landry, the director of recovery with the Quebec Public Security Ministry, in a French interview with CBC.

He said officials wanted to meet with people one at a time "claim by claim" to allow people to start their repairs, or begin arranging for demolition, so they can begin getting into a new home before the winter sets in. 

Landry said cheques will be sent out next week to Gatineau residents — in total worth more than $6.5 million. He said more than $12 million has gone out to the region to date "with more to still to come."

Cheques on hold until demolition begins

Royal Souliere's flashlight shows the crack in the foundation that led them to decide to have their home demolished. The family awaits the money to buy a new home. (Amanda Pfeffer)
But there have been a number of hiccups for those who require demolition, according to Trudel and others in the Pointe-Gatineau area — one of the areas hardest hit by flooding.

Last June, Trudel said officials told her the home could be salvaged and gave her a roadmap which included lists of suppliers.

The family spent much of the summer running around collecting quotes from engineers to fix the foundation and contractors with heavy equipment to make sure the home met new guidelines to rebuild in that area.

But when they presented the estimates to officials last month, she said they were told the home was located in a so-called "zero-to-20-year flood zone" and would not be able to rebuild, in accordance with provincial legislation. 

Henri Sabourin's home on Rue Moreau will be demolished on Tuesday. He said he won't see any money to buy a new one before then. (CBC)
As a result, they will not get their money until the home is demolished, creating a problem with buying a new home they hope to purchase, since the bank requires the money in hand before accepting a new mortgage.

The Trudels are not the only family facing a cascade of problems moving forward because of delays receiving compensation.

Henri Sabourin on Rue Moreau said his home is set to come down on Tuesday after Thanksgiving, but he has yet to receive any assurance he will be receiving the money in time to move into a new residence on Nov. 1.

Sabourin said, after 40 years living in the neighbourhood, it's been sad to see the homes on his street begin to come down.

Gatineau applies for rebuild exemptions from province

Last spring home owners in Pointe-Gatineau were forced from their homes by rising waters. Now some of them have had to demolish them. (Amanda Pfeffer)

While the provincial legislation would normally prevent homes from being rebuilt after demolition in the zero-to-20-year flood zones, Gatineau council voted on Tuesday to ask the province for a waiver for some areas.

The municipal council will send its request for a collective exemption to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Land Occupancy. The targeted areas are located in the Pointe-Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp districts.

For homeowners like Trudel, receiving the demolition permit this week was a relief. 

"When I got that permit, I was very happy," said Trudel, though she said the administrative nightmare continues.

"You think you are alone, but when you start to talk to people you realize that we're all in the same boat."