West Island, Montreal

It affects us all.

The “West Island” is the unofficial name given to the cities, towns and boroughs at the western end of the Island of Montreal, in Quebec, Canada. It is generally considered to consist of the municipalities of Dorval, Pointe-Claire, Kirkland, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Beaconsfield, Baie-D’Urfé, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, the village of Senneville, and two boroughs of the city of Montreal: Pierrefonds-Roxboro and L’Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève.

Hi, my name is Ciara.

I’m 15 years old. I live in the West Island of Montreal, in a large suburb along the Saint Lawrence River.

I’ve lived here my whole life. I go to High School here and all of my friends live nearby. It’s the only home I’ve ever known.

When the floods first started, water seeped into our basement in the spring with the runoff of melting snow.

We lost important documents, photos, and a ton of other stuff that first year. It was a huge hassle, but nothing too alarming.

We didn’t yet know that the flooding was connected to climate change. That would come later.

  • Linking the floods to climate change is difficult due to the variations in weather from one year to the next. However, when extreme floods occurred in both 2017 and 2019 in Quebec, scientists had greater confidence that the floods were indeed linked to climate change. Inundations of this extent are expected to only occur once in 50 to 100 years.

  • More extreme weather events, higher levels of precipitation and earlier spring thawing are occurring due to global warming. Although less snowfall in winter and a reduced water level in the St Lawrence River could mitigate some of the effects, climate change is expected to increase the risk that major floods will continue to occur.

For more information, please see our Resources page.

A few years ago was the worst yet.

When it got really bad, the flood waters rushed through the house like in a movie!

  • In 2017, over 1000 houses were flooded in the West Island.2019 also came with substantial flooding. While residents in the West Island were better prepared, more than 10 000 residents had to leave their houses in the Southern part of Quebec.

For more information, please see our Resources page.

When we ran outside, the whole world looked different.

The neighbourhood banded together and helped each other out that year. We spent days and weeks sandbagging. It was hard work.

Lots of people came from other towns to help out, even the army came!

We had to stay at a hotel for a couple of months while our house was repaired. We all shared a double room. It was chaotic! My brothers distracted me constantly while I tried to catch up on my studies. Everybody was in a bad mood, we fought constantly.

Sniffers went to stay with friends, that was the hardest part for me.

We eventually did get to move back into our house, which was repaired and adjusted to deal better with floods. We even lifted the tool shed up off the ground!

The flooding returns most years, but we never know how bad it’s going to be.

Scientists have now made links between rising temperatures, weather changes and the flooding.

They say it’s not a matter of if the floods will continue, but how bad they will get.

Of course, we see other effects, not just the floods. Each summer is hotter than the last. One recent summer, 66 people died in Montreal during a prolonged heatwave.

  • In 2021, multiple Canadian temperature records were broken. Most remarkable, 49.6°C was recorded in Lytton, British Columbia, a temperature that was 4.6 degrees higher than the former Canadian record set in 1937.

  • Meanwhile, Montreal in 2021, experienced the hottest August ever recorded.

  • In 2018, at least 66 deaths were linked to a heat wave in Montreal.

For more information, please see our Resources page.

Some neighbours are leaving the area. I’m not sure I want to – my friends, my school…how could we leave everything? But my family’s anxiety before the Spring each year is getting worse.

While most Montrealers are happy when it starts to get warm, the melting snow and first tulips are a sign that things are about to get bad for us again. My parents get really on edge.

Our house can no longer be insured, which is scary. So even if we do want to – or have to – leave one day, how would we ever sell our house?


  • Most insurance companies do not cover flood damage and if they do, they comprise only zones of low or moderate inundation risk.

  • The government of Quebec offers a buyout program granting house-owners:  this program provides compensation for rebuilding (up to a maximum of $200,000) or relocation for a similar amount, plus compensation for the land up to $50,000 (amounts in effect in 2019). However, compensation is time-limited and municipal laws may prohibit reconstruction or even
    repairs in high-risk flood zones. 

For more information, read: Inondations au Québec : qui paie pour quoi et comment [in French].

My parents were planning to use this amount of money for their retirement. Now I hear them having serious talks about money, which they never did before.

There are lots of ways to prepare a house for flooding:

  • Raising up all belongings from basement floor
  • Clearing drain ditches around our home
  • Clearing snow and ice from catch basins
  • Adapting basement
  • Drainage systems
For more information, please see our Resources page.

I asked my dad… “since the floods will keep coming, will somebody eventually help us? Maybe the city?!”

He just sighed and said that I should stop worrying, that he and Mom will figure it out. I know that my parents have started talking to a counsellor to help them deal with the stress of this situation.

Montreal was rated to be poorly prepared for flooding risks in a report by the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation in 2021.

Measures by municipalities to be taken now to improve resilience to flooding include:

  • Regularly updating the flood mapping
  • Making sure all residents are aware that they are living in a flood risk zone (47% are unaware!)
  • Rigorously enforcing bans on construction in at-risk sectors
  • Handing out free sandbags
  • Creating an early warning system
  • Protecting wetlands and green spaces that can take up water
  • Avoiding sealed surfaces (such as large, paved areas)
  • Giving rivers the space to burst their banks; and
  • Elevating buildings and free up funds to support and help communities adapt.

For more information, please see our Resources page.

But it doesn’t change the fact that there are big, difficult decisions for my family to make about our home.

  • The Quebec flooding did not only cause physical and infrastructural damage, they were also shown to have major impacts on the mental health of affected populations:  44% of the citizens whose houses had been inundated suffered from post-traumatic stress symptoms one year after the event, compared to 3% in the rest of the population.

  • Community and clinical approaches to prevent or reduce mental health impacts of extreme weather events in a context of climate change have been developed by Lily Lessard and colleagues. Learn more about this toolkit by watching the following webinars : (in French)  Les premiers secours psychologiques en cas de désastre: une réponse pour réduire la détresse liée aux inondations and Trousse d’interventions pour réduire les impacts sur la santé mentale lors des événements météorologiques extrêmes dans un contexte de changements climatiques.
For more information, please see our Resources page.