Report uncovers internal challenges in Montreal fire department

January 2, 2024

According to a confidential report obtained by The Globe and Mail, the Montreal fire department has been grappling with significant internal challenges for over a decade.

These include the aftermath of a suicide, ongoing internal crises, regulatory changes, and persistent miscommunication.

These issues have contributed to the implementation of various moratoriums on the enforcement of fire safety standards, impacting the city’s ability to effectively manage fire risks.

A decade of challenges in Montreal fire department

The report, authored by senior auditor Étienne Quenneville and commissioned by Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, was initiated following The Globe’s revelations about these moratoriums, which may have contributed to Montreal’s deadliest fire in recent times.

The report delves into the decade-long turmoil in the fire department, starting with the 2012 suicide of Stéphane Archambault, a section chief in the prevention branch.

His death, linked to a toxic work environment by media reports at the time, plunged the department into a crisis that it seemingly has not fully recovered from.

Moratoriums in fire safety standards linked to internal turmoil

Following Archambault’s death, a series of departures of key department leaders occurred, leading to the abandonment of significant projects and the establishment of activity moratoriums.

The Quenneville report, as detailed by The Globe, points to a range of issues plaguing the department, including siloed operations, lack of communication, and insufficient training and supervision.

These internal challenges have directly impacted the enforcement of fire safety standards, leading to prolonged suspensions of crucial safety activities.

Investigations continue in wake of deadly Montreal blaze

The impact of these moratoriums was brought to light following a tragic fire in March 2023, which claimed seven lives.

The Globe’s investigation found that a suspension in enforcing evacuation route standards hindered legal actions against a building owner with multiple safety violations.

Internal emails within the fire department, uncovered by The Globe, revealed a direct connection between the moratoriums and this fatal incident.

Additionally, the report uncovers a complex relationship between the fire department and the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ), further complicating the enforcement of fire safety regulations.

The report’s findings, while not directly addressing the March 2023 fire, underline the challenges faced by the department in maintaining effective fire safety enforcement.

It concludes with a call for clear communication regarding the status of suspended activities but stops short of providing specific recommendations.

FSJA Comment

The revelations from the Quenneville report, as reported by The Globe and Mail, shed light on a decade of challenges within the Montreal fire department.

The connection between internal crises and the suspension of crucial fire safety enforcement raises serious concerns about administrative efficacy and public safety.

The tragic fire in March 2023, which claimed seven lives, underscores the dire consequences of such administrative lapses.

Moving forward, it is imperative for the department to address these issues transparently and implement effective measures to ensure such tragedies do not recur.

Note: This article is based on information from a confidential report, as reported by The Globe and Mail.

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