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Quebec won’t rush on sprinkler law after deadly seniors-home fire

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois speaks to media with L'Isle-Verte, Que. Mayor Ursule Theriault to her right, during a press conference in L'Isle-Verte after visiting the wreckage left from the fire at Residence du Havre on January 23, 2014.

COLE BURSTON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Quebec government is willing to make sprinkler systems mandatory in elder-care facilities, but it will await the recommendations of an expert committee before undertaking any regulatory or legislative changes.

Premier Pauline Marois got a firsthand look Sunday at the effects of a devastating fire that destroyed the Résidence du Havre last week, meeting with townsfolk and extending her condolences to the victims' families.

"If only we were able to ensure events like this never happen again – that's what I first thought," she said.

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The incident has raised questions about whether the provincial requirements concerning fire safety – and the use of sprinklers in particular – and night supervision are adequate.

Ms. Marois said that while the clamour to act swiftly is understandable, her government will wait until a working group commissioned to consider the matter a year ago reports back.

"If they recommend to us to change the rules, to change the law to implement sprinklers, we will do that, and we will adopt the rules," she said.

It's not clear exactly when the working group – comprising of bureaucrats from the health, public safety and municipal affairs departments, among others – will report, but Ms. Marois said she supports Health Minister Réjean Hébert's calls from earlier this week to expedite matters.

Only one of the Résidence du Havre's two wings was equipped with sprinklers, although the facility met all the current regulatory requirements.

The police-led probe into the blaze will surely yield some important lessons, Ms. Marois said, but cautioned that "we must first wait for the investigation to be concluded."

Ms. Marois's visit was the second time in six months – the first being the train explosion in Lac-Mégantic last summer – that she has had to travel to a stricken community to empathize with a grieving population.

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"Our elderly are our memory, they're the ones who built the society in which we live, it's always heartbreaking to see them go in such dramatic circumstances," she said, later adding that, "It's unacceptable that such things could happen, but at the same time all the steps have been taken to bring a little bit of relief to those involved."

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More

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