Do you ever get the feeling we’re living in some twisted kind of communist society? That’s how it felt reading Quebec historian Russel Bouchard’s book about the 1996 flood in the Saguenay-Lac St. Jean region.
Bouchard tells the story of how big multinational companies were responsible for the disaster and covered it up, blaming it on an “act of God.” In the end, 10 people lost their lives, 15,000 were forced from their homes and damages totalled $ I billion. And the disaster didn’t even have to happen, Bouchard suggests.
“Like at Chomobyl, the government is getting ready to bury the truth in a heavy sarcophagus of lead,” writes Bouchard.
“It felt like the worst moment of the Duplessis era… even worse, the Inquisition.”Bouchard compares Quebec to a “banana republic, under the dictatorship of Pinochet.” Needless to say, he is not related to Premier Lucien Bouchard.
It is a scathing book written by the best-known historian of the Saguenay-Lac St. Jean, Quebec’s nationalist heartland. Bouchard isn’t one to shy away from controversy. Nothing can be written about Bouchard’s 30 books without mentioning The Last of the Montagnais. In this somewhat strange book, which I admit I haven’t read, Bouchard actually claims there are no more Innu left.
I asked him about this book and he explained that the Innu intermarried with French Canadians. I guess he’s never heard that 30 per cent of French Canadians are intermarried with Natives. He even claims he is part-lnnu himself. Well, at least he didn’t say he’s part-Cherokee.
But Bouchard’s latest book about the 1996 floods is worth serious attention. It’s the story that was carefully censored from the big business-controlled media. As a matter of fact, since the book came out in March, this is the first review of it anywhere, including the Saguenay media!
Bouchard takes the reader step-by-step through how the disaster unfolded. Dams in the region were either totally mismanaged or supervised by distant bureaucrats in Quebec City. Because of that, what should have just been a heavy rainstorm turned into a world-class catastrophe. Without the dams, the heavy rain wouldn’t have caused the same problems.
Bouchard accuses the premier of going out of his way to defend the multinationals and Hydro-Quebec by blaming God. And this was before anyone even had any facts about what had really happened.
Bouchard also doesn’t let the Nicolet Commission off the hook. The commission held aninquiry into the flood and was run by Roger Nicolet, an engineer. Yes, that’s the sameRoger Nicolet who later got the job of holding an inquiry into the Ice Storm disaster.Bouchard believes the government rewarded Nicolet for covering up what really happened inhis report on the flood. Bouchard also questions Nicolet’s impartiality. He notes thatNicolet owns an engineering firm that has done business with engineering giantSNC-Lavalin. SNC-Lavalin has a very close relationship with Hydro-Quebec, which ispotentially liable in both disasters. Small world, eh..