Prime Minister visits Marché Laflamme as Aylmer residents rally after storm
Aylmer residents may have been surprised to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Marché Laflamme on the afternoon of May 26. The impromptu visit was facilitated by Greg Fergus, the Member of Parliament for Hull-Aylmer, and came at the end of several difficult days for people in the area.
The Outaouais region, along with other parts of southern Ontario and Quebec, was affected by a powerful ‘derecho’ thunderstorm on Saturday afternoon, May 21. According to Hydro Québec, the aftermath of the storm left more than 100,000 homes without electricity. While teams worked around the clock to restore power, the unprecedented scale of damage to the electrical grid caused by fallen trees resulted in many homes being left without power for several days.
Despite the many challenges brought on by the storm, Aylmer residents almost immediately began rallying to provide support to affected neighbours. The active “Aylmer Community Group” on Facebook was used to communicate updates and offer assistance. As the power returned to some homes, resources like fuel, generators, space in fridges and freezers as well as opportunities for charging electronics were regularly offered. Some residents even opened their homes to those left without running water and in need of a shower days before a relief centre was established at the Paul Pelletier Aquatic Centre. Following the storm, many residents also volunteered to remove large tree branches from popular walking trails.
The Prime Minister’s visit to Marché Laflamme was no doubt inspired by the business’s decision to give back to the community in a moment of adversity following the storm. Despite suffering thousands of dollars in lost products, the grocery store donated their produce to community members rather than letting the food go to waste after suffering several days without electricity.
Myriam Laflamme, the manager of the grocery store, shared how discouraged she felt when she made the Facebook post on May 23rd mentioning that, “It will take a week to bring everything back, it is like reopening a store. These are not small orders; these are really huge orders.”
The ensuing support of the community however, lifted her spirits. “People were really helpful during the vegetable distribution, and helped with bringing boxes back inside. Lots of people came out to volunteer, to help with cleaning and organizing the store,” said Laflamme. She estimates that approximately 500 people came to pick up the donated fruit and vegetables. Laflamme also noted that she was happy to see that some families, including a Ukrainian refugee family, were especially grateful for the produce and personally thanked her.
As the Laflamme family has been operating grocery stores for four generations, Laflamme was unphased by the setback caused by the storm. “We have been here since 1959; the whole community of Aylmer comes here. We are really local.”