By Catherine Solyom, Canwest News ServiceFebruary 7, 2009 6:01 PM
Source: Montreal has â€˜nothingâ€™ for family of woman killed by plow (external - login to view)
MONTREAL — No visit, no condolence card, not even a phone call.
Almost two months after Rajaa Benkiran was plowed over by a snow removal truck — the first of four similar deaths this winter that has forced the coroner to convene a public inquest — the 49-year-old’s family has received nothing from the City of Montreal except a bill for $13, for a copy of the police report.
The driver was allegedly talking on a walkie-talkie at the time Benkiran was crossing a street near the Universite de Montreal, around 8 p.m. on Dec. 15, said her son Reda Alami Marrouni.
“It’s as if people are ants that you crush without even knowing it,” said Reda, 20, the eldest of two sons.
When the incident appeared in a short news brief two weeks before Christmas, a police spokesperson was quoted as saying: “It was a simple accident. She probably thought she could make it in time.”
Now that three other people have been killed by snow removal trucks — all three on Feb. 3, at two different intersections — Benkiran’s death appears less of an anomaly.
“The city said they were taking all safety measures necessary,” said Benkiran’s husband, Abdeslam Alami Marrouni, who brought his family to Canada from Morocco in 2007. “Now we see the results: three dead in one day. This is like a country at war — a war of traffic.”
The Moroccan consulate in Montreal stepped in to help pay the costs of sending Benkiran’s remains to Morocco for burial.
But the city has offered nothing. Social services has given a loan to the family — which lost its main breadwinner when Benkiran was killed because her husband has only been able to get low-paying jobs in Canada — that they must repay once they receive an insurance settlement from the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec.
“We’ve got nothing from the government or the city, not even a sympathy note. It’s as if we are ghosts here. Miserable people hit by a snowblower. . . . We’re just immigrants,” said Abdeslam.
Reda says when his mother was struck and killed, on a street where students come and go all day long, he was studying for math exams at Universite de Montreal. His father was away in Morocco so between exams he made funeral arrangements, talked to police and looked after his 13-year-old brother, Mohammed.
Reda says he still has not received a copy of the police report, but an investigator told him four days after the incident that the driver was using a walkie-talkie and wasn’t paying attention.
“I didn’t even have time to cry for my mother,” he said Saturday. “And my brother is still really upset and has nightmares all the time.”
The family has hired a lawyer and will be seeking compensation, however, Reda said — lots of it.
“If you ask for just a little money, it won’t hurt them enough. The only way they will feel it and do something about the problem is if you make them pay a lot. I want the city to hurt as much as we are hurting.”