‘He thought more of the community than himself’: Ottawa councillor lets his own home flood to save others
Amid the destruction and the tens of thousands of sandbags along Bayview Drive in Constance Bay, there sits a home, swamped.
“He tells me it’s been written off, more or less,” says Bayview Drive resident Paul Graveline.
Glancing at the home, Graveline shakes his head in disbelief.
“They didn’t sandbag it,” he says. “I asked Eli why they didn’t and he said ‘Well, because it’s not about Eli, it’s about the community.’”
The Eli he’s referring to is Ottawa city councillor Eli El-Chantiry. In West Carleton, he’s just Eli.
“He’s looked after us since day one,” says Graveline.
He says Eli has been so busy in the flood zones from Constance Bay to Fitzroy Harbour and Dunrobin, he chose not to sandbag his own Bayview Drive home.
“He thought more of the community than himself.”
The councillor and his wife own a home in Constance Bay, rented out by a tenant.
“We wanted to help other folks and our tenant, she was with her son,” El-Chantiry says. “The house is affected.”
It’s not known how much water, if any, is inside the home, but from the outside it looks bad. The councillor, though, has no regrets about walking away.
“I didn’t sandbag because I want to help other people so I left it,” he said. “I want my effort and my concentration to be for the rest of the community and that’s what I did the last time and we did the same this time as well,” El-Chantiry says, “it’s my job to help my community.”
That helping hand hasn’t gone unnoticed in the area.
“We have shot him messages just to say thank-you so much for helping us,” says fellow Bayview Drive resident Peter Dixon.
Dixon and his wife moved to Constance Bay from Toronto two years ago.
“I’ve never seen someone so shoulder to shoulder with the people. It’s just unbelievable.”
Graveline says when residents meet El-Chantiry on the street it’s not always a love-in.
“He has to go home with an earache every night,” he laughs. “But he’s always got time for people. He’ll say ‘Yeah, I’ll look into it’ or ‘Send me an email’,” says Graveline.
“He’s always replied to a query.”
El-Chantiry doesn’t like all the attention.
“I’m just doing my job,” he says.
He admits the last two years have been exhausting, not just for him, but for everyone in West Carleton.
“We’re still helping the folks in Dunrobin with the tornado and the effects of the tornado on their property. It’s heart wrenching to be honest with you.”
So the councillor says he’ll remain focused on the job. And as a councillor and resident he says he’s grateful to the city of Ottawa for being prepared and to the volunteers, the Good Samaritans and the military,
“The army of volunteers who came out to sandbag, they brought us sandwiches and cookies, you can never say thank you to these people. That’s what keeps you going.”