Poison? Hydro-Quebec faces complaints

Environment-conscious groups and citizens gathered Friday in front of Hydro-Quebec’s headquarters to protest against its project aiming to tame one of the world’s most endangered rivers, the Rupert River.
Born from an initiative of Project Laundry List and Rupert Reverence, the protest attracted a crowd of around 150 concerned citizens, members of the Cree communities, and several environmental organizations.
“It’s good to have hydro-electricity, but there’s a limit that they already crossed a couple of years ago,” said Nicolas Boisclair, board member of and spokesperson for Rupert Reverence.
Project Laundry List is a non-profit organization whose objective is to convince the people that small decisions can make a big difference on environmental issues, and Rupert Reverence, a coalition formed in 2001 with the aim of preventing the continuation of the Rupert River diversion.
The laundry theme was actively presented by a clothes line on which participants were invited to hang messages on recycled t-shirts.
The diversion of the Rupert River, which includes the construction of four dams and a would-be resultant forebay and tailbay flooding with a total area of 346 square kilometers, is part of the James Bay Project. The James Bay Project, which was initiated in 1971 by former Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa, is considered one of the largest hydro-electric projects in the world and has been a topic of much controversy from the start, especially from the Crees, who are, and continue to be, heavily affected by it.
Throughout the press conference and during interviews, complaints were voiced against Hydro-Quebec and its project.
“The community had to be relocated from its original site and we lost the use of the river, we lost the fishes, they’re contaminated. We lost a couple of young lives,” said former chief of the Cree Community of Chisasibi, Abraham Rupert, in reference to the first Rupert River dam.
Citing a number of concerns, Abraham Rupert said that the project has been an issue of contention from the beginning. The Grand Council of the Crees had signed an agreement back in 2002, giving the green-light for the project. Many Crees, however, claim that they were misled about the agreement. They argue that they thought that through it, they would simply consent to the environmental inspection procedure; rather than the actual project.
Matthew Mukash, the Grand Chief of the Crees, however, consented to the project in a meeting with Quebec Premier Jean Charest in March, 2006.
Closely tied to the impacts on the Cree communities are the impacts on the environment. According to Daniel Green, scientific advisor for the Quebec Chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada, “the first one is mercury contamination caused by the flooding of territories in the north. Another impact [concerns] a species of trout found exclusively in the Rupert’s basin. which might be threatened by the project. We’ve taken samples of the Rupert’s basin last summer and we found very high concentrations of mercury in the soils,” said Green.
Sylvain Th


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