Soldiers won't help Quebec flood clean-up

May 25, 2011 at 8:42 AM

MONTREAL, May 25 (UPI) -- Canadian soldiers are sandbagging flooded areas in southern Quebec, but won't be used in clean-up operations, a federal minister told the province.

Some 500 regular and reserve troops have been deployed along the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain since historic flooding began a month ago south of Montreal. The seasonal flooding has inundated at least 3,000 homes and some 1,000 people were forced into shelters or other housing, CTV News said.

Provincial emergency officials said the Richelieu hit a 100-year high May 6. The water level has since gone down, but is expected to creep up again by 10 inches early next week, the report said.

However, federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews denied a provincial request to keep the military in place when the flooding eases.

"As you can appreciate, the role of the Canadian Forces is principally based on defense activities and, as a result, they must maintain a capacity to act in that regard when events occur in other provinces or overseas," Toews wrote. "Furthermore, the services you're asking for … would place the Canadian Forces in competition with the private sector, at the local or provincial level, which could perform this type of repair work."

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