Opponents of the Town of Chapais’ proposed pig farm are in for a pleasant surprise as the Sierra Club of Canada is looking to unite all opposition groups under one flag in their fight against the industrial pig farming industry.

The Sierra Club is trying to bridge the gap between opposition groups separated by distance and linguistic lines.

“We want to link all the anti-‘mega-pork farm’ groups that are very active around the province now but are isolated from each other,” Claude Martel, Sierra Club’s Director of the Quebec chapter told the Montreal Gazette March 5.

The move would enable better communication between the community of Waswanipi and their southern counterparts in the struggle to stop Chapais Mayor Jacques Berube from installing farm to house 20,000 pigs in the region.

After a provincial moratorium on industrial pig farms was lifted in 2006, opposition groups became frantic. Pig farms, they say, are dangerous when located too close to a town or city.

Effects on humans from drugs used to accelerate growth in the 7 million hogs produced in the province and then excreted into fields and water tables all over the province are as yet unknown. But according to Johanne Dion, who will act as spokesperson for the new Quebec chapter along with longtime activist and author Holly Dressel, we shouldn’t be taking any chances.

“The problem is contamination of the water table in micro parts per million, that is very hard to measure and we don’t know the effects this is having on human health,” Dion said in the Gazette article.

A call to Brian Craik, who sits as one of the board members on the Quebec/Cree Comité de Examen (COMEX), confirmed that although the proponent raised the question of a pig farm in 2003, it is currently at a standstill.

The town of Chapais was given a preliminary directive along with follow up questions that needed to be addressed before moving onto the next stage of public consultations and a deeper look into how the project will effect the area, Craik said.

“We’re expecting it anytime and then we’d organize hearings,” Craik told the Nation. “We have already received a letter from Waswanipi saying that they don’t want the pig farm.”

Craik said that the last meeting COMEX had with the Chapais contingent was in October 2005.

According to Mayor Berube, the project will provide 300 jobs over 7 to 10 years and would help to strengthen the economy of the slumping town of less than 2,000. It will be located at least 14 kilometres away from the town. It would also provide Berube’s personally owned potato farm with enriched manure to boost production.

Craik sees it as a way to economically strengthen Chapais, but he doesn’t think a pig farm is necessarily the answer.

“They’re pretty desperate for a project in Chapais,” said Craik. “He’s going to use pig manure to grow his potatoes, so he’ll directly benefit from it.”“Chapais is almost a dead economy right now. Real estate prices are really low and it seems to me that some of those people must be wanting to get out of there.”

A pig farm as far north as Chapais has been called into question because of the extreme climate that is foreign to commercial hogs. Craik also fears that the smell from the farm would not be good for tourism.

Craik had copies of a letter that Chapais sent to Waswanipi’s newly elected Chief John Kitchen in August 2006, asking him and his council to participate in the project. Kitchen quickly replied that he had no intention of participating and was firmly against it.