Another development project has been done in by opposition from the Crees.
A project to send Quebec’s garbage to James Bay for disposal was a done deal until the Crees came along.
Environment Minister David Cliche had approved the plan to import up to 80,000 tonnes of garbage each year on May 1. After vigorous protests from Crees, Cliche backed down in early June, calling his earlier decision a mistake.
According to Cliche’s latest decision, the new dump in Chapais will be for local use only.
Deputy Environment Minister Jean Pronovost wrote a terse letter on June 4 announcing the surprising reversal to the COMEX environmental panel, which held hearings into the dump last year.
“After discussions, it has been decided to amend the project,” Pronovost wrote, without explaining the reasons for the change of heart.
France Amyot, Cliche’s spokeswoman, would only say that Cliche changed his mind due to public pressure, especially from Crees. “It was very obvious that people were concerned,” she told The Nation.
A news article about the Cree concerns appeared in The Montreal Gazette on June 3. The next day, Cliche travelled to Lebel-sur-Quévillon to meet with an irate Ouje-Bougoumou Chief Abel Bosum, who complained that the dump could place his community at risk of contamination from toxic pollutants. The dump site is near streams which empty out into Lake Opemiska, on whose shores O.J. is located (see The Nation, June 7).
Crees were also concerned that the North was being turned into Quebec’s trash can.
Jonquière engineer Gérard Morin, who will operate the dump as a private business, angrily refused to answer questions from The Nation on Cliche’s latest decision, saying he didn’t want any more “lies” printed about him.
Cliche’s latest decision isn’t the first time he has changed his mind on this project. The first time the minister met with Chief Bosum to discuss the dump, on March 29, Cliche promised he would not approve it because he said each region should solve its own garbage problems and not dump them in someone else’s backyard. Then, on May 1, the dump got the green light even though it had already been rejected by the COMEX environmental committee. Now, it would appear that Cliche has changed his mind for the second time.
Cliche’s spokeswoman, France Amyot, denied that there was any disagreement within the government about the dump, but was at a loss to explain why Cliche didn’t just stick by his original promise to the Crees. “On that, I can’t say. I only started working here in March.”