Carbon monoxide detectors still missing from some Quebec schools despite minister’s request

Click to play video: 'Are all Quebec schools equipped with carbon monoxide detectors?' Are all Quebec schools equipped with carbon monoxide detectors?
In Quebec, some schools are still not equipped with carbon monoxide detectors two months after a leak sent dozens of children to hospital. Global's Anne Leclair reports – Mar 20, 2019

According to Quebec’s education minister, some schools in the province still aren’t equipped with carbon monoxide detectors.

This, despite the fact that Jean-François Roberge made a formal, written request to school principals on Jan.17. Three days earlier, close to 50 students and staff members from a LaSalle school ended up in hospital, suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Some are still dealing with the lingering effects.

“They are not installed yet in each school,” Roberge told Global News. “They are continuing to install them right now.”

READ MORE: Nearly 100 students require pediatric follow-up 2 months after Montreal school carbon monoxide leak

While some schools have yet to comply with his request to install carbon monoxide detectors in all schools and buildings where combustible fuel is used, the minister insists they soon won’t have a choice.

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“We’re working on a regulation that will be just like a law,”  Roberge said, adding that his government expects it to be in place by April or May.

WATCH: Some LaSalle students still suffering after carbon monoxide poisoning at school

Click to play video: 'Some LaSalle students still suffering after carbon monoxide poisoning at school' Some LaSalle students still suffering after carbon monoxide poisoning at school
Some LaSalle students still suffering after carbon monoxide poisoning at school – Mar 19, 2019

At least two ongoing investigations are looking into what went wrong at the LaSalle school on Jan. 14. The school board in question is currently conducting an internal investigation, and in a letter to parents on Jan. 28, the board blamed the incident on a ruptured joint in the heating system, despite an inspection conducted in the fall.

In that same letter, the school board explained that the school was equipped with a detection device at the time of the leak and that it somehow failed to work, despite an inspection a few months prior.

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Montreal police are also investigating the incident. Meanwhile, all five school boards on the island of Montreal have confirmed to Global News that they’ve complied with the minister’s directive and that all their schools and buildings with combustible fuel are now equipped with detectors.

READ MORE: Montreal public health physician calls for mandatory carbon monoxide detectors in schools

“We have the detection units necessary in all of our schools,” said English Montreal School Board (EMSB) spokesperson Mike Cohen. “They’re constantly being reviewed and naturally we will adhere to whatever regulation the government puts forward.”

The upcoming government regulation will likely tackle air quality checks, the installation and inspection of detection devices as well as fuel-burning facilities to ensure they’re in good working order. The minister insists his recent directive has saved at least one school from a close call, when a gas leak was detected at Lajoie elementary school in Outremont on Feb. 1. A detector had been installed following the minister’s request just days before.

“Just after I sent the letter they had a problem, they had a leak,” said Roberge. “And because of the detector nobody had any problems.”

Back at the LaSalle school, students say several more detectors were installed since the incident but the school board has not confirmed that information.

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Public health physicians in Quebec have been calling for mandatory detectors in schools for years. They welcome the government’s latest move that will force schools to install and inspect carbon monoxide detectors.

“It takes very tragic events, sometimes, to change how we do things,” Dr. Maxime Roy said. “We had done a survey with schools in 2017. We haven’t done one now but I’m pretty sure we could say with confidence today that most schools have a CO detector or a CO alarm.”

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