Montreal Fire Department | Confusion over the inspection of emergency exits

Valérie Plante called on the Comptroller General of Montreal for help on Tuesday after learning that firefighters had been putting the pedal to the metal in the application of emergency exit regulations since 2018.

What there is to know

THE Globe and Mail revealed Tuesday the contents of an internal document of the firefighters of Montreal which establishes a “moratorium” on part of the application of the standards on the emergency exits.

The Plante administration, surprised by these revelations, asked the City of Montreal’s ethics guardian to take a look at the file.

The Official Opposition at City Hall is calling for an independent investigation.

On social networks, the mayoress of Montreal announced that she had “asked the comptroller general of the City of Montreal to accompany the Montreal Fire Safety Service (SIM) to clarify the situation”, she indicated on her account. Twitter. “The safety of Montrealers is our priority. We will not compromise to shed light on this tragedy. »

At a press conference, the number 2 of the Plante administration confirmed the decision. “It’s important to shed light on the facts that have been alleged,” said Dominique Ollivier. We still have a new management team in place. We find it important to be accompanied by the comptroller general in order to be able to fully grasp the times when there could have been breaches, if there were any. »

The Comptroller General is the guardian of ethics within the City of Montreal.

In the morning at the municipal council, the mayor said she was “enormously concerned” by the situation.

She confirmed that a “moratorium” on certain aspects of escape route inspections had been “put in place” five years ago by the SIM. Reason: Due to a lack of training, the evidence produced by service inspectors was sometimes not sufficient to bring delinquent owners to justice.

“We really want to shed light on this situation because it is not what we want,” continued Plant, Tuesday. “Security, we must not skimp with that. For our administration, it is absolutely fundamental and essential, just as it is for the SIM. »

Conflicting information

It’s the Globe and Mail who lifted the veil on the situation on Tuesday. The daily reported that an internal memo from 2018 announces to employees a suspension of “requests for expertise” in connection with the regulations on the possibilities of evacuation. According to two sources in the newspaper, this interruption led to a halt in evacuation inspections.

THE Globe and Mail understands that this moratorium was suspended without fanfare in the wake of the fire at Place D’Youville, which killed seven people in March. On Tuesday, the mayor of Montreal explained that according to the information received by her team, the moratorium had rather ended in 2021.

In the afternoon, the director of the SIM, Richard Liebmann, tried to clarify the situation. In a press conference where he had to repeat long and complex explanations many times, he argued that the “moratorium” mentioned in internal documents was in fact a simple change of approach.


Richard Liebmann and Valerie Plante

“These are the criminal prosecutions that we suspended while we raised our level of expertise to ensure that if we continued, we could force the return to compliance,” said Mr. Liebmann, specifying that the service continued. however, to distribute statements of offence. “The pace of inspections has never slowed down. We put the emphasis on the quality of the inspections and not just the quantity. We have always pursued a stable number of inspections. »

Contrary to what Mayor Valérie Plante had said the same morning, the director added that the moratorium had not yet been lifted at the present time, but that it was “in the process” of being lifted, a process which is accelerated with the fire in Old Montreal.

” I’m worried ”

These explanations did not convince Aref Salem, leader of the opposition at City Hall, who was still scratching his head after Richard Liebmann’s press conference. The elected official asked for an independent investigation to be launched into this situation.

“I am worried today. I am not satisfied with the explanations that have been given,” he said.

Mr. Salem pointed out that this file highlighted the lack of leadership of the Plante administration, which had obviously not been informed of the situation before the publication of the article of the Globe and Mail. “It seems that the City works alone, that there is no pilot in the City. »

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