The movement to halt the diversion of the Rupert River gained strength September 14 with a massive protest in front of Hydro Quebec’s headquarters in downtown Montreal. Protesters lined the block Hydro-Quebec occupies on Blvd. René-Lévesque, setting up stands to hold laundry lines that featured garments painted with messages such as “Save the Rupert.”
The protest, which included various environmental groups from the US and Canada, symbolized the dirty laundry Hydro-Quebec is trying to hide: protesters claim that Hydro suppressed information that could have led to a different outcome in regards to diverting the Rupert for their latest multi-billion-dollar project to sell energy to the United Sates.
“Our goal here today is to have Hydro-Quebec recognize that they did not study the alternatives and we want the project to be stopped so that the alternatives can be studied,” said Rupert Reverence spokesman Nicholas Boisclair.
“I don’t think it’s going to be easy to stop but we have to continue to denounce the lies of Hydro-Quebec,” Boisclair added. “They said that there were no other alternatives and now we know that they hid a $4.5 billion wind energy project that would have resulted in less expensive kilowatt-hours than the project to divert the Rupert River.”
Daniel Green of the Sierra Club said Hydro-Quebec is leading a massive disinformation campaign in the United States. “Today what is interesting is that our American friends have finally woken up and have understood the impact of this project. There is a myth going around that they are clean. When you ask an American, ‘Why do you want to import large hydro?
’ They will say that it’s clean energy, but it’s clean compared to what? Coal? Coal emits mercury and I say, well, so does hydro.”
Green said Hydro-Quebec has been touting its wares as a green product in the north eastern US. “Large hydro is dirty, large hydro is polluting, large hydro destroys fish habitats,” said Green.
Among the many US organizations taking part in the protest, some were seeing shades of the past as a handful of them were simply returning to the spot they had protested in the 1990s when H-Q was trying to develop the Great Whale project.
Quoting Yogi Berra, American activist Doris Delaney of the group Protect said, “It’s like deja-vu, all over again, being here. I am from Pennsylvania and I have been very active in James Bay issues for 25 years. And we think that damming the Rupert is just a terrible idea. We would like to see windmills so that is why we are here.”
Hydro employees watched the protest with discomfort, slipping into and out of the building as quickly as possible while security guards whispered into their walkie-talkies. But some employees quietly joined the crowd to take in the various protest speeches that were delivered on a stage in front of the building.
Former Chisasibi Chief Abraham Rupert spoke about the community’s anxiety over the project. “I am a little excited as to what the outcome might be, and how it’s going to go but also to know that there are people out there in the south that support the Cree and oppose the diversion. The people of the Cree Nation need to know that there are people in the south that support them.”
Rupert noted that the community of Chisasibi recently held its own referendum in regards to the Hydro project. “I think that says it all: 90 per cent of the people opposed it and said no to the diversion.”
Rupert was delighted to see so many supporters from the US as they have the power to express their discontent to their own governments who are in control of where each state purchases its energy from. He wanted them to know the threat Chisasibi faces.
“There is an anxiety that hangs over the community about what if something happens. Anything that man creates can break down and that has been known to happen. Even Montreal was completely blacked out in the ice storm a few years ago.”