A car sits in the flooded main road, Tuesday, April 16, 2019 in Beauceville, Que. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot)

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Quebec’s history, mythology and culture are intertwined with its rivers and lakes, but recurring floods that experts say will only get worse because of climate change are forcing Quebecers and their political leaders to rethink their relationship with water.

In 17th century New France, land was distributed to settlers in long, rectangular strips with access to the river. More than 300 years later, Quebec entered its modern era in large part through the development of its massive hydro-electric potential.

READ MORE: Quebec’s Beauce region hardest hit by springtime flooding, province on alert

Alexandrine Bisaillon, a researcher with the climate change think tank Ouranos, said the province was founded on the belief that water can be controlled. But as increasingly frequent spring floods force evacuations and damage property, Quebecers are being forced to adapt.

“It’s a question of whether we want to be masters of water or live with water,” she said.

Rivers across the province are being monitored closely and authorities say they fear water levels over the weekend could rise as high as they did in the spring of 2017, when thousands of homes were flooded around the Montreal area.

Jason Thistlethwaite, professor of environment and business at the University of Waterloo, said Quebecers can expect flooding to get worse because climate change is making winter temperatures more volatile.

Sudden waves of warm weather followed by quick drops in temperatures increase the risk of ice accumulating on the rivers in the winter, he said. The ice jams act as a dam, holding back water, and when the ice begins to melt and move, the dam bursts.

That’s exactly what happened in Beauceville this week, when an ice jam broke and water rushed through downtown, flooding at least 230 buildings in the small town south of Quebec City.

Across Quebec, prime locations are often by a river or lake. Restaurants and tourist areas boast of a view of the water. But Thistlethwaite said Quebec might want to adopt a practice known as ”making room for the river.”

Instead of looking at the shoreline as high-priced property on which to build, Quebecers should consider returning these areas to nature and turning them into parks, summer sporting facilities or public land, he said.

The provincial government’s new compensation program for flood victims is in line with this approach, Thistlethwaite said. The new rules announced on April 15 limit total compensation for victims of recurring floods to 50 per cent of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000.

Once damage exceeds that amount, people can no longer claim compensation for that home, but they can receive up to $200,000 to relocate to an area outside the flood zone.

The new rules, Thistlethwaite said, are “very progressive of the government of Quebec, and they should be emulated across Canada.”

In Beauceville earlier this week, a displaced resident told The Canadian Press she was ready to move. Sylvie Dufour’s car was washed into her yard and her basement was filled with several feet of ice and water, right up to the main floor.

She welcomed a compensation plan that would allow her to move once and for all. “If I get $70,000 to relocate tomorrow morning, I’m the first to raise my hand,” Dufour said.

Bisaillon said Quebecers have some tough choices over the coming years. “Water is a collective good,” she said. “But we also privatized access to it. Can we take this opportunity to give back access to the water to the public?”

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial Fair Deal Panel comes to Lacombe

Panel asks whether Alberta is getting a fair deal in confederation

PHOTO: Kinsmen Auction supports Team Jigger

Over $30,000 auction items and cash donations were made to the event

Local Artist Donna Spencer featured at Lacombe Performing Arts Centre

LPAC is pleased to have “Wanderings: A Collection of Thoughts” currently on display

Lacombe Highway 12/Highway 2A water mains repairs continue

Discovery of multiple leaks on aged water infrastructure prompts repair

Granden Auto, Town of Blackfalds at odds over storage yard

Business owner believes the Town wants his business out of the downtown

WATCH: Night Among the Stars Celebrity Dance-off supports Lacombe BBBS

Over $12,000 raised for Dancer’s Edge Parents Association and Lacombe BBBS

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Wetaskiwin RCMP Investigate Shooting incident in Poplar Grove

VW sedan may be linked to Wetaskiwin gun incident

Wetaskiwin RCMP seeking witnesses to car-jacking

Armed theft resulted in two subjects facing multiple charges

Federal emergency group meets on pipeline protests as rail blockades continue

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Most Read