ENVIRONMENTAL LAW STUDENTS
by Éric Gagnon
Wednesday, March 13th, 2002
Lametti, Ladies and Gentlemen,
am pleased to represent the members of Rupert Reverence, a coalition
founded last October, in Chibougamau, essentially to protect the Rupert
of the last great virgin rivers on Earth, against unsustainable
destruction. Our mission, with regards to the Rupert River, is to protect
its integrity, to promote its beauty and to share its virtues.
stories like this one, we are often referred to as the good guys - those
who win in the end. This scenario is an excellent one, probably because
the odds against us are exceptionally bad. The bad guys we are fighting
include: Hydro-Quebec, the Government of Québec, the Grand Council of the
Crees, l'Association de l'industrie électrique du Québec, the consulting
engineers, and so on.
our side, we are a dozen Cree and Jamesians river lovers working hard with
a few hundred supporters and twenty or so supporting organisations and
businesses, plus the force of a universe, the same force that creates
suns, planets, mountains and rivers.
the good guy may seem enjoyable, but we find it's tough on personal
finances and on family life because we do this in our spare time, on top
of working at our normal jobs. And it is tough on us to see that our
income tax and municipal taxes are working against us!
But, believe me, this river is worth the effort… It is so beautiful, over 500 km long, without any roads or human habitation, with its pure water, fish as big as this, rapids, falls, nice flat sections larger than the St-Lawrence, unique species and landscape, an impressive historical and cultural curriculum. And all of this, 2 hours from town - the town being Chibougamau. Our vice president Robert and I always stress that these extraordinary conditions make the Rupert River QUEBEC'S SOUTHERNMOST LAST GREAT UNTOUCHED HERITAGE RIVER - a river to be protected and cherished forever as it is now.
projects planned on the Eastmain and the Rupert have nothing to do with
sustainable development, being altogether foolish and anachronistic. They
were conceived at a time when the ozone layer did not mean anything to
anyone, when recycling was unheard of and when highway 20 looked like a
garbage dump. Back then, hydroelectricity was considered to be clean,
renewable source of energy. The
most recent scientific studies today reverse this belief and prove that
the impacts of dams on ecosystems are profound, complex, varied, multiple
and essentially negative. The glory days of hydroelectricity, once the
pride of Quebecers, are well behind us. There is someone somewhere in
Hydro-Québec, with long sideburns and checkered bell-bottom pants who
plans the future through 1975 glasses.
Rupert flows through Cree hunting and trapping territory, which is also
category III land, in terms of the James Bay and Northern Quebec
Agreement, placed under the responsibility of Quebec's Ministry of Natural
Resources and the James Bay Municipality. In
other words, it is land belonging to Quebecers of all origins. As a
natural wonder, it also belongs to humankind as a whole. The Rupert is not
for sale or for exchange as part of any deal. Cree and Quebec politicians
as well as Hydro-Quebec would like you to believe that you have no say in
it. The sustainable development of James Bay is a major issue about which
nobody has really been consulted yet, and about which nobody has really
even been informed. Yet, Eastmain/Rupert
projects represent a 10 billion $ investment of public funds that will
literally rape our collective heritage and deprive the generations to come
of what James Bay has best to offer.
speaking of consultation, we were led to believe that the Cree were
consulted on the agreement – but this is not exactly true. Many
witnesses reported that several discrepancies have seriously hampered the
legitimacy of the process:
were held on different days in each community;
were held on different days in each community;
wording of the referendum question varied from one community to the next;
of the vote were divulged between each referendum;
real effort have been made to have the people in the bush and in
off-reserve schools to vote.
or evasive answers were given to serious concerns and questions from the
participants. Opponents were often ridiculed.
The Grand Council of the Cree basically told its people: “Do not try to understand, it is too complicated, have confidence in us, we have made the right decision for you.” Most of the Cree still feel uneasy about this all to quick process. Half of them showed their disapproval by not voting in the referendum – culturally, the Cree manifest their opposition to something by turning their backs to it – and yet their own representatives used this cultural trait against them.
care for our wild yet fragile environment. Pygmee weasel (mustela novalis)
and Lake sturgeon (acipencer
fulvensens), are endangered, as are about thirty fish and mammals. But
homo sapiens, human beings, still are the species most at risk. Homo
sapiens is about to lose the few virgin rivers left on this planet. By
losing these rivers, Homo sapiens is at great risk of losing a unique means of communion
with Mother Nature, upon whom his very life depends. Homo sapiens is at risk of
losing its capacity to acknowledge the beauty, the generosity and the
grandeur of the Great Tsey-Manitou, as the Cree call him, that Nature
mirrors. Homo sapiens is at
risk of forgetting that it is truly a privilege to be able to dip one's
hand or face in the pristine water of such a beautiful river; is homo sapiens really going
to allow cement and heavy machinery in it?
to 92% of the Rupert's water is going to be diverted northwards into the
Eastmain. If you thought that
diverting a plane could do some damage, imagine 800 cubic meters per
second of water… It is enough to fill a two story house in a single
second. The combined EM-1 and EM-1a projects involve the construction of 5
dams, 81 dykes, 1 000 square kilometers of affected land, 51 000 cubic
meters of cement, 165 lakes and 5
rivers transformed forever.
research has shown us that the impacts on habitats, on riparian vegetation
and terrestrial fauna, as well as on biodiversity are much greater than we
thought they were over the past 30 years. Modification of natural flow,
levels, temperature and biological content of water will all have a
disastrous impact on James Bay ecosystems.
Indigenous genetic stock like the internationally renowned Rupert Speckled Trout Strain is at risk. We already knew about the lethal impact of mercury, but we have only recently discovered that reservoirs are big producers of methane and carbonic gas, greenhouse gases which you all know contribute to global warming. And the worst environmental impact of all, according to our board member Jacqueline, could very well be the opening of such wilderness areas to uncontrolled public access.
a regional development standpoint, the Eastmain/Rupert projects threaten
the sustainable development of a region by destroying what it has best to
offer. The creation of temporary employment and of a local economic boom,
once past, will leave Cree and Jamesian families poorer than ever. Nowhere
in the world has construction of dams brought sustainable economic
prosperity in its vicinity. Where
are for example the 15 000 jobs the La Grande complex created in 1975? Of the 11 000 jobs-persons the Revelstoke Canyon dam in British
Columbia created, only 42 permanent jobs remained after the construction.
What is to be said about the conflicting position of the provincial
government, owner of Hydro-Quebec, interested in profit making and easily
forgetting environmental and sustainable development issues? Few people
know that the 3,8 billion $ the government of Quebec has promised the Cree
over the next 50 years is only a consolidation of already existing
programs and the transfer of responsibilities that the Government was
already paying for… The
Is Hydro-Québec selling too much electricity to the
K ayak and ecotourism
development to be sustainable, it must respect local culture and last over
generations. From the recreo-tourism standpoint, the hydro-electric
installations will have the effect of sabotaging the promising tourism and
recreation industry in
conclusion, from awe, purely and simply, spring the best reasons to
protect the Rupert: those that the River at times whispers and other times
roars in the ear of the passer-by, telling dimensions of grandeur, beauty,
sacredness, using a universal language too scarcely heard. We have all, at
sometime, experienced this deep appreciation for what nature offers us. An
inner state of reverence that brings about the desire to cherish, to
protect, to make a natural marvel known to all humankind.
Reverence's objective is thus to bring the river closer to the people, and
the people closer to the river, in order to give rise to a collective
desire to shield it against short sighted exploitation appetites and
suspicious financial and political, pre-electoral interests.
Reverence states that neither peace nor development can ever be
sustainable in a region where promises of billions will most certainly
appeal to the most shadowy aspects of human activity and where
hydro-electricity will accomplish its irreversible dismantling of
ecosystems, landscapes, heritage and pride.
Maps and information herein are not intended for navigational use, and are not represented to be correct in every respect.
All pages intended for reference use only, and all pages are subject to change with new information and without notice.
The author/publisher accepts no responsibility or liability for use of the information on these pages.
Wilderness travel and canoeing possess inherent risk.
It is the sole responsibility of the paddler and outdoor traveler to determine whether he/she is qualified for these activities.
Copyright © 2000-2014 Brian Back. All rights reserved.
We do not endorse and are not responsible for the content of any linked document on an external site.