Martin C. Barry
Although there was less anger in the voices of residents from Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac and other North Shore municipalities impacted by devastating floods last spring, lingering frustration was still heard during a public consultation on new flood zones held on Dec. 5 at Polyvalente Deux-Montagnes.
One flooded-out Sainte-Marthe home owner, Jean-Guy Leprohon, spoke for many when he rattled off a long list of complaints. “The banks won’t lend us money,” he said.
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Deeper sense of loss
“We who have lost everything, we’ve lost not just material belongings. We have lost our homes and we aren’t receiving any assistance to be able to rebuild.”
Others at the meeting recounted how last spring’s ordeal led some flood-beleaguered home owners to commit suicide. “I have two neighbours who took their own lives,” said Alain Dominique also of Sainte-Marthe.
In the aftermath of last spring’s flooding – which was preceded by almost-equally devastating floods along the Rivière-des-Mille-Îles and Lake of Two Mountains in 2017 – the provincial government drastically redrew the region’s maps for flood-zones.
Special Intervention Zone
As well, the provincial government imposed a temporary Special Intervention Zone (ZIS) in flooded areas, where property development is suspended in the aftermath of the floods.
As a result, many property owners are affected by restrictions in the special zone. These are stopping renovations and construction, while also impacting the insurability of buildings and insurance rates.
“What we want from all this is that the security of people and property is better protected in the future,” said Stéphane Bouchard, director general for urban planning, territorial management and housing with the Municipal Affairs Ministry, who was chairing the meeting.
“It’s not normal that every year or in a regular manner there are hundreds of people finding themselves in situations which are difficult to deal with,” he continued. “We are trying to do things in a better way by using more preventive measures.”
While François Robillard, a municipal councillor from Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac got up to the microphone, the town’s mayor, Sonia Paulus, did not attend the meeting.
(The floods made their greatest impact in Sainte-Marthe, where a dike broke all at once and two-thirds of the town was submerged at one point.)
A time of uncertainty
“I would hope that you become aware of the uncertainty that the residents of Sainte-Marthe have been living in since the beginning of this drama,” Robillard said, noting there are several layers of flood zone regulations under several different jurisdictions, including the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal.
Benoit Ferland, city manager for the City of Deux-Montagnes, questioned what he said was the consultation committee’s tendency to refer to citizens and municipalities as though they are separate entities.
“It’s worth noting that municipalities have received good answers,” said Ferland. “But you cannot give answers to citizens if the answers are vague. I am very happy that you refer people to the cities and we are very happy to answer. But there are still uncertainties.”
Sonia Fontaine, mayor of Pointe-Calumet which also suffered from flood damage, agreed with Ferland that the level of post-flood communication between the provincial government, the municipalities and citizens isn’t good. “The truth is that people are confused,” she said. “They don’t know who to approach, they are mixed up, worried and insecure.”