This group helps Montrealers ward off heat waves, one air conditioner at a time

·2 min read
Marie-Frédérique St-Onge is the project co-ordinator at Action Prévention Verdun, an organization that is working to distribute air conditioners in the community. (Chloë Ranaldi/CBC - image credit)
Marie-Frédérique St-Onge is the project co-ordinator at Action Prévention Verdun, an organization that is working to distribute air conditioners in the community. (Chloë Ranaldi/CBC - image credit)

In a time when heat waves seem to be getting hotter and more frequent, a community organization in Montreal's Verdun neighbourhood has been working to give air conditioners to those in need.

"It's very important for people with health problems to be able to remain comfortable during the heat waves and we firmly believe this kind of comfort safety should be accessible to everyone," said Marie-Frédérique St-Onge, a project co-ordinator for Action Prévention Verdun.

Montreal, like much of southern Quebec, has been experiencing a heat wave over the last week with daytime highs above 30 C.

Earlier this summer, staff and volunteers helped transport people to vaccination appointments. They noticed how hot it was in many people's apartments.

The non-profit teamed up with local citizens and the regional health agency to get funding for the air conditioning units. The units were then given to people who don't have the means to purchase their own.

Volunteer Lucie Nadeau says people have been extremely grateful to receive the units.

"Yesterday, we went to see a lady who needed fresh air for sure," said Nadeau, and once it was installed and plugged in, "the lady was so happy."

St-Onge said the list of people who need an air conditioner is "pretty much endless." So far, the project has "pretty much scratched the surface."

She said the hope is to install about 100 units next year.

Montreal heat waves have been deadly in the past.

According to Montreal Public Health, extreme heat led to 66 deaths in 2018.

That works out to 6.4 deaths per day, per million inhabitants.

Better public awareness and improved institutional responsiveness meant there were far fewer deaths than in 2010, when there were 9.3 deaths per day, per million inhabitants, but the 2018 deaths were nonetheless "avoidable," public officials have said.

Montreal city officials have launched a number of measures in the years since in an effort to prevent heat-related deaths, including a special intervention plan when the city is facing extreme heat.

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