Municipal workers reinforce a dike at the end of Legault St. in the Pierrefonds-Roboro borough of Montreal Wednesday April 24, 2019.
John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette
As the flood waters began to creep over the barriers in Pierrefonds-Roxboro and Île-Bizard last weekend, West Islanders braced themselves for a repeat of the trauma experienced in 2017. This time around, though, things are different. The borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro spent the past few weeks preparing residents, even going so far as knocking on doors to discuss ways to prepare for the anticipated flooding and to find out what the needs would be.While people pulled together admirably in 2017, the sense of community is even stronger this time around. Strangers are cooking and baking for people they have never met, people are showing up to help strangers in the middle of the night, and restaurants and store owners are generously offering food and drink to those in need. What we are seeing right now is the true spirit of the West Island.Devastation, fears and sadness have been intertwined with resilience, strength and resolve. People have flocked to Pierrefonds from all parts of the city. Some have done so because they realize that it could happen to them; others because they feel helpless and want to support their community.Being on the ground and having family members in the neighbourhoods most severely affected, I have heard countless people offer to help however they could. Even those with pinched nerves or bad backs were tying sandbags or using their vehicles to transport sandbags to neighbours in need. The stories of generosity and even heroism are endless. And through it all, there have been the stalwart efforts of Pierrefonds-Roxboro Borough Mayor Jim Beis and his city councillors. They have gone above and beyond this past week, and have taken to posting daily updates via Facebook Live videos notifying residents of what to expect and where help is urgently needed.Related
These sorts of real-time updates are critical in a time of crisis. These are things that matter to homeowners who are struggling to survive and keep a roof over their heads.Social media has allowed residents to communicate and co-ordinate in an efficient manner. Help is directed where it is most needed. Many volunteer-run groups are co-ordinating with city officials to direct help to specific addresses. Beis and his city councillors have been filling sandbags, driving around their region and keeping in touch with residents from every single affected street. Meanwhile, residents of Île-Bizard have flocked to social media to complain about their own mayor’s lack of presence, apart from photo ops. These are the types of things that make or break confidence in our elected officials.Within the first 48 hours of the flooding, Premier François Legault and Mayor Valérie Plante visited Île-Bizard. While their visits made political sense, they made much less practical sense; residents found key passages being used to transport sandbags closed during the visits, and were told this was due to security reasons.This was also the time that the premier of our province chose to inform residents who were desperately trying to save their homes that the province would not continue to bail out those in flood-prone areas, and would offer homeowners $200,000 to leave their homes and start elsewhere. His message was poorly timed and highly insensitive. Talk about kicking someone in the teeth while they’re down. I urge Legault to find one home in the West Island of Montreal for $200,000. What our residents need right now is the comfort, support and compassion. Not an ill-timed, insulting offer of pennies on their hard earned dollar.The next few weeks will be a marathon, not a sprint. While homeowners and volunteers work hard around the clock to save homes and protect businesses, I’d like to see our elected officials from all levels of government offering their moral support, at the very least.Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed is the founder and editor in chief of CanadianMomEh.com, a lifestyle blog.twitter.com/canadianmomeh