Extreme weather, including widespread spring flooding, is ‘new reality’ of climate change: Trudeau
As swathes of the country face yet another year of spring flooding, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the extreme weather is the “new reality” of climate change.
Speaking briefly with reporters during a visit to a flood evacuation centre in Gatineau, Que., Trudeau called for all levels of government to work together to help with the response to the flooding as water levels continue to rise and stressed the need to prepare for more such events in the future.
“Once again, we’re here noting how the floods across the country are a challenge,” said Trudeau shortly after giving remarks in French in which he called the situation a “new reality.”
“At the same time, we also have to reflect that with climate change, we’re going to see more and more of these extreme weather events more regularly. It means we have to think about adaptation, mitigation and how we’re going to move forward together.”
Portions of western Quebec, New Brunswick, eastern Ontario and the province’s cottage country have been underwater since earlier this week as the winter ice pack melts and river systems in the regions surge.
Hundreds of Canadian Armed Forces members have been deployed to assist in the flood response.
That includes helping with evacuations, filling and placing sandbags and doing wellness checks on residents in flooding areas.
Residents in southern Quebec are also now being advised to prepare for a possible storm surge around the St. Lawrence River, including in Lévis and Quebec City, according to Environment Canada.
WATCH: Flood levels continue to rise in parts of New Brunswick
So far, roughly 2,800 homes have been impacted by the flooding in Quebec, forcing roughly 1,400 people out of their homes.
Residents in parts of Saint John, N.B., have been issued voluntary evacuation notices while the Ontario cottage country town of Bracebridge is under a state of emergency due to the rising waters.
The flooding also forced evacuations in Kawartha Lakes, Ont., and has caused road closures around the Parry Sound region as well as in Frederiction, N.B., where the Trans-Canada Highway through the city was shut down as of Wednesday morning.
WATCH: Canadian Armed Forces assist with Quebec and New Brunswick flood relief
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna pointed to a report from her department earlier this month that said Canada is warming at twice the rate of other countries and that along with that warming comes a higher risk of extreme weather events, including wildfires and floods.
“Sometimes, you have floods you think are once every hundred years, and now we’re seeing them every year,” she said. “Watching this, my heart certainly goes out to everyone experiencing this.”
McKenna added that while not everything can be attributed to climate change, “the trend is clear.”
“There will be more flooding, and we need to build resilience,” she said.
The question of how to do that is now something with which federal, provincial and municipal governments are grappling as they deal with the costs of regular extreme weather.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says the city is looking at how it can become more resilient to floods but added that she and others worry encouraging people to leave their homes on floodplains will isolate residents who choose to stay the next time a disaster strikes.
This comes after Quebec Premier François Legault said on Monday the province will cap compensation for flood damage at $100,000 per home but will give residents up to $200,000 if they leave their homes on floodplains to move somewhere else.
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