Flood victims say more homes would be lost if not for volunteers, military

By Terry Pedwell   

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The City of Ottawa said thousands of people had registered to fill sandbags.

OTTAWA—Many more homes would have been lost to this year’s devastating spring flooding in Eastern Canada over the weekend were it not for the back-breaking efforts of volunteers and the military, flood victims in Ottawa said Monday.

Emmett Power’s home in the west Ottawa community of Constance Bay was just centimetres from filling with water after the Ottawa River breached its banks and surrounded the dwelling he and his family bought in 2009.

It would be hard to imagine what the situation would be like without the help he received since last Thursday when the river began to rise, said Power.

“It would be very, very difficult,” he said. “The volunteers have been great. They’ve been delivering sandbags to us continuously and on demand when we needed them.”


The Power family home, like so many others along the river, was not fully out of danger Monday. Officials were predicting the river would rise even further Tuesday and Wednesday, despite having already surpassed the water levels seen in 2017—an event that was depicted at the time as a once-in-a-century flood.

Power said he and his family are ready to leave if they must.

“But I’m going to go down with the ship,” he chuckled, revealing a sense of humour intact despite his exhaustion from days of heavy lifting and sleepless nights.

A 20-minute drive west, upriver from Constance Bay, Henry Wilson was spending another day helping an ill neighbour reinforce a wall of sandbags where water-facing lawn furniture would normally sit.

Wilson praised those who helped with trucks, shovels, bags and muscle over the weekend, but said he hoped the effort wouldn’t be wasted.

“She’s been trying to win maybe a losing battle here yet,” Wilson said of his neighbour. “So far we’re winning it, but it’s been endless work.”

The flooding has forced thousands of people out of homes in New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario since last week.

The City of Ottawa said thousands of people had registered to fill sandbags, set up walls to slow the water from reaching properties and deliver food to overwhelmed flood victims.

So far, more than 9,000 people had volunteered across the capital, including over 3,300 people on Sunday alone, said Pierre Poirier, the city’s head of emergency management.

There were far fewer Monday, at over 600, but that’s to be expected on a weekday, he said.

“The number of volunteers will continue to fluctuate, but we still need all the help we can get. In fact, today we had a number of schools sending volunteers as well.”

Many more than those who registered with the city volunteered their time and efforts as part of community organizations.

Roughly 800 people each day turned out to help at the Constance and Buckham’s Bay community centre over the weekend.

The Canadian Forces said it has deployed approximately 750 military personnel since April 25 to support flood relief efforts in the National Capital Region, including helping fill sandbags and heave them into walls around homes and critical infrastructure—such as the road to one of Ottawa’s two major water-treatment plants.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited two Ottawa-area locations on the weekend and encouraged more people to volunteer as he commended those who already had.

Conservative Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer also thanked those who were helping.

“I was there in Constance Bay yesterday and it was great to see the co-operation between the Armed Forces, the different levels of government, the individuals from the community coming out just to help each other,” Scheer said Monday.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also had words of praise, calling the flood fight a “team effort.”

“It’s absolutely amazing to see the co-operation and the volunteerism and the folks just coming out in droves to try and help each other out.”


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