Chapais Mayor Jacques Bérubé is not letting go of his dream to create a massive, 100,000-strong pig farm outside his northern community despite Cree and environmental opposition.
As recently reported in the Nation, Bérubé is now seeking financial aid from a Polish firm to help give life to his stalled hog project. He followed that up recently by sending a four-page letter to Waswanipi Chief John Kitchen begging him to reconsider his opposition towards the project.
The letter read, in part:
Not only is Chapais’s project not dead but it is definitely stronger than ever. It is even getting more and more support from the population in general, politicians, various government and regional authorities, and potential investors. It is getting that support because it has changed a great deal since 2005.
“He said the project has changed, but it hasn’t been changed,” Kitchen told the Nation. “I verified that with the environment people. I never saw any changes. It’s still the same old project.”
The “environment people” Kitchen was referring to is the joint Cree-Quebec board called COMEX that is set up to review the environmental impact of proposed projects as well as to determine if it makes economic sense. They also take into consideration the impact of each project on the tallymen and their traplines.
A call to Brian Craik, one of the two Cree representatives on the board, revealed that, to his knowledge, the project had not changed and that the questions COMEX posed to the mayor in 2005 to clarify details of the project are still unanswered.
Kitchen said he is looking out for people like the late Lawrence Dixon and his family. Before he died, Dixon was vehemently opposed to the project for fear of the impact hog waste and other associated elements would have on the land and the water.
“To me this project doesn’t really exist,” said Kitchen. “It’s not working down south and I don’t see it working up north.”
The letter went on to further explain the need for such a project and in it, Bérubé claimed to be “shocked” by Waswanipi’s opposition.
We are amazed by your attitude toward this mission and especially by your propensity to associate this initiative with a lack of respect for the Crees. The town of Chapais quite simply carried out one of its most important duties—especially in the current context—which is to work towards stabilizing and diversifying the economy of our community and of the region.
Kitchen said Waswanipi felt slighted by Bérubé’s approach. “I think he did his homework backwards. Instead of taking the project and doing it, he should have met with the tallymen and with the Cree Nation. He didn’t do that.”
The letter also said: “Chapais’s project to produce and process natural pork is going to redefine Québec’s pork industry, mainly because it is green and quasi-organic, and due to its biosafety and profitability. ”
Bérubé is “just making things up now,” Kitchen said, concerning the new environmental spin.
Kitchen added that he is always willing to speak to Chapais town council to explain why Waswanipi is against this project.
“No matter what I would not accept it,” said Kitchen. “I do have people I have to protect who are trappers and tallymen like the Dixons. If they don’t want this kind of project, I’ll stand and support them. I remember Mr. Lawrence Dixon’s words and I’ll stand behind them.”
Kitchen said a couple of proposals contained in the letter to meet with a facilitator as well as an invite to a hog farm in Europe were a “waste of time and money.”
Bérubé’s letter concluded by saying: However, these are also Category III lands, which are clearly defined in the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement. As we understand it, it is your land, our land and Québec’s land.
“It’s still Aboriginal land,” Kitchen concluded. “As long as we still practice our traditional lifestyle on that land, we do have a say on it.”