Citizens vs the Plan Nord

La Romaine – Photo Credit Michelle Moore

Since it was launched back in May this year, the Plan Nord has been presented as a sustainable development project that will benefit isolated communities, Aboriginals, and Québecers as a whole.

Jean Charest, Plan Nord Action Plan:

“Northern Québec is fascinating because of its immense territory and the scale of its potential. Today, the context lends itself to its rediscovery. The Norths’ mining potential affords us an opportunity to capitalize on the development of the emerging countries by ensuring the responsible development of the territory’s resources. Through its energy potential, Northern Québec, where some of the world’s biggest hydroelectric developments are located, offers us an opportunity to participate even more actively in the fight against climate change by developing clean, renewable energies.”

The context he is referring to is the high demand for precious metals in international markets. Only when demand became high enough was it seen as profitable to further develop industry in the north. Prior to this there were already several mines and hydroelectric dams but with the rising prices markets are willing to pay, the Québec government set off to expand such projects and add many new sites.

They claim that these projects help the residents of these communities, but these people have been asking that a road be built (the expansion of the 138 highway) for decades now. Their only modes of transportation were boat, plane and snowmobile. The road would make it easier and cheaper for them to visit family, go to schools, hospitals, grocery stores, and be connected to the rest of Québec itself.

All that time the governments’ response was that it was not economically feasible for the small population it concerned. Since the plan was launched, road construction has begun showing that the government cares more about profit than the communities themselves. This point is also illustrated in the above photo where the la Romaine (currently where they are building one of the largest dams) Transport Canada sign had been broken for over a year.

The majority of citizens in these regions have fought every step of the way to stop the Plan Nord. Still, others content themselves with getting a piece of the pie, after all, these regions don’t offer much employment. Citizens have picketed, they’ve marched, they’ve gathered signatures for petitions, they’ve written articles and they have attended the infamous public consultations.

They have also put together documentaries to gain awareness and clarify many of the myths being propagated by the government and Hydro-Québec.

Issues concerned with hydroelectric dams are exposed in Chercher le Courant, a film by Nicolas Boisclair and Alexis de Gheldere with Roy Dupuis, founder of Fondation Rivières. It discusses the environmental impacts of such projects and investigates Québecs’ great potential for wind and solar power as truly environmentally sound alternatives.

Another is focused on mining and how it can devastate the land and its’ surrounding communities. In theatres now, Trou Story by Richard Desjardins and Robert Monderie, strives to explain the process of mineral extraction as well as the environmental impacts associated with it. Their website offers a trailer and an interactive look inside the film.

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Categories: Politics, Quebec Environment

Author:quebecenvironmentalissues

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