L’Isle Verte – one year later – well past time to prevent nursing home fire deaths- sprinkler retrofit in all care homes: Open Letter


January 14, 2015

Toronto, ON: CARP released an open letter to federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for nursing home safety across Canada to take immediate steps to prevent future fire tragedies as occurred at L’Isle Verte, which killed 32 people one year ago, by legislating retrofitting of fire sprinklers in all care homes and to enforce compliance with the national building and fire codes. Click here to view CARP’s Open Letter to Ministers responsible for safety. CARP is calling on governments to: 

  1.      Legislate requirements for fire sprinklers in all nursing homes
  2.      Legislate requirements for proper safety and evacuation plans including
         staff training
  3.      Enforce compliance with legislative requirements

A year has passed since the fire tragedy at the Résidence du Havre nursing home in L’Isle-Verte, Quebec, killed 32 people and left 15 others injured on January 23, 1014. Since 1969, 140 Canadians have died in nursing home fires, including the fatalities at L’Isle Verte.

The L’Isle Verte fire revealed not only that elderly residents of care homes are at risk of death or serious injury in the case of fire but also that such tragedies are preventable. New homes now must have sprinklers, fire-safe doors and walls and comprehensive fire safety plans. Home built before 1997 [generally] do not.

The perversity of maintaining this double standard was shown in high relief by the news photos of the L’Isle Verte aftermath – with the newer part of the complex standing largely undamaged beside the frozen pile of rubble that was the older section in which all the deaths occurred.

“It is well past time for governments to act to make all nursing homes safe. When their own fire safety codes require sprinklers, fire doors and evacuation plans for new homes, why is it so difficult to mandate retrofitting of homes built before they saw the wisdom of those rules? There has been plenty of delay already – 46 years since those first major fires, 18 years since they put in the new rules. And 140 preventable deaths. How much longer should we wait?” said Susan Eng, VP Advocacy

The Coroner’s inquest into the L’Isle Verte tragedy, which wrapped up its investigation and witness reports in preparation for a full report, confirmed the patchwork of regulations and inconsistent standards of safety and care and emergency preparedness that put the nursing home residents in danger.

Governments are failing to act to prevent future fire tragedies in care homes

Governments have been slow to act, despite the lost lives in nursing home fires over the past decades. While all new care facilities built in Canada since 1997 are required to have fire sprinklers and meet fire safety codes, no province has yet mandated immediate retrofitting of sprinklers in homes built prior to 1997, despite the fact that sprinklers reduce the risk of fire-related deaths and injuries by over 80% compared to homes which do not have sprinklers, according to the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC).

Only Ontario and Newfoundland are currently taking steps to mandate fire sprinkler retrofitting in existing facilities. But even so, Ontario will not enforce retrofitting until 2019 for public homes and 2025 for private homes. Ten years is much too long to take action on a preventative measure that has proven to save lives.  In most other provinces, legislatures are still only discussing the issue or have taken no action at all.

The L’Isle Verte fire showed that sprinklers are crucial, even if they are not the only solution.  Other building code requirements and safety measures for existing care homes are also needed, such as strategically placed self-closing doors, fire separation walls and doors, and clear safety plans and regular staff training.

The tragedy at L’Isle Verte, and the deaths and injuries it caused, was largely preventable – as attested to by witness after witness at the Coroner’s inquiry and coroner’s inquests in too many other nursing home fires. The testimony at the L’Isle Verte Inquest detailed the lack of all the essential fire prevention measures now required of newer facilities – which may have prevented those 32 deaths.

It is highly likely that the report of the Coroner’s Inquest will once again call for mandatory retrofitting of all nursing homes with sprinklers and other fire safety measures.

Click here to read CARP’s Open Letter to Ministers Responsible for safety
Click here to view CARP’s News Releases
Click here to read Stop the nonsene. Require sprinklers in all nursing homes
Click here to read Fire and Ice, a year after a nursing home fire devastated a small Quebec town.

CARP is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to advocating for a New Vision of Aging for Canada, social change that will bring financial security, equitable access to health care and freedom from discrimination. CARP seeks to ensure that the marketplace serves the needs and expectations of our generation and provides value-added benefits, products and services to our members. Through our network of chapters across Canada, CARP is dedicated to building a sense of community and shared values among our members in support of CARP’s mission.


For further information, please contact:

Sarah Park   416.607.2471
Director, Communications
[email protected]


Michael Nicin   416.607.2479
Director of Policy
[email protected]


Anna Sotnykova  416.607.2475
Media & Communications Coordinator
[email protected]