I often wonder if Hydro-Quebec directors ever weigh the benefits of having the premier of Quebec’s Montreal office in their building against the number of protests that happen in front of their headquarters. This was one of the protests that involved both Hydro-Quebec and Premier Landry as a representative of the Quebec government. Quebecers from all over the province were protesting to save small rivers in Quebec from being dammed. Some 40 of Quebec’s top entertainers were on hand to support the Adopt a River protest with such heavy hitters as Richard Desjardins, Roy Dupuis, Suzanne Methot, Paul Piche, Richard Seguin and Florent Voilant, just to name a few.
Even Hydro-Quebec sent out a spokesperson who insisted that they were environmentally friendly and didn’t want to offend anyone. He pointed out the agreements signed with the Inuit and the Cree this year as proof of the new corporate spirit of Hydro-Quebec. Though his message seemed to be at least politely received it did not elicit the cheers that other speakers received. I had a chance to talk to a few people while covering the event.
Roy Dupuis was certainly first on my list. You may remember him from the Nikita series or the mini-series The Last Chapter.
Dupuis said he got involved because he heard about the cause and wanted to do something.
Dupuis thinks Adopt a River is a good thing for Quebec. “What we are trying to do is to give information to the people about what’s really happening. That’s the point of Adopt a River,” he told The Nation. Dupuis says he sees private companies trying to own a resource that belongs to everyone. “We’re talking to the Quebec government to do something about this. We should not accept these conditions and go forward with these plans,” said Dupuis. He encourages people to “join us and adopt a river.”
The only Cree not with the media was Billy Capissit, a Ouje-Bougoumou resident. Capissit said he came down to join his friend Eric Gagnon of Rupert River Reverence. Capissit said he hopes to save the Rupert River. “It would be a disaster if it’s flooded,” Capissit said. He said that the Rupert was a pristine river and he considers it to be a heritage river for everyone. Capissit said he hoped that the world hears all about all the rivers in Quebec that need saving and people Adopt a River.
Eric Gagnon came in from Chibougoumou, driving most of the night and sleeping in his car. He said he came even though the event isn’t against the big dams but rather over the issue of small private dams. “We are taking every opportunity to show ourselves and we think a dam is a dam and a river is a river and we wanted to support them,” Gagnon said. He expects he will get some help out of this himself. Gagnon said that the same filmmaker who made a documentary on the small dams is planning to do one on the Rupert River. The filmmaker has teamed up with Roy Dupuis to do the film on the Rupert battle. Gagnon says his list of contacts with other groups in Quebec grows daily. “It’s important that we stand together in the defense and protection of rivers,” said Gagnon.
Gagnon says Rupert River Reverence is considering a tour because his group feels that Crees may be having second thoughts about the deal. “We would like to have the opportunity to provide them with the information they should have always had and never got,” said Gagnpn. “We would like to have some experts with us to give specific examples of the impacts.” Gagnon said that Hydro-Quebec is not currently doing impact studies for EM-1 and the Rupert Diversion. “They are doing studies to show these projects are viable,” he said, adding it wasn’t a neutral study. Gagnon warns that when the consultation process takes place in a few years that there will probably be no counter-expertise to what Hydro-Quebec will propose and the studies being done by the promoters. He compared this to tobacco companies being responsible for reports on determining whether or not cigarettes can affect your health. As a result of this Gagnon says that the consultation process is flawed and not a tool he expects will save the Rupert River from diversion.