SNC Technologies, a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin has put forth a proposal to build a long-range artillery test site near Chibougamau. The site would be used to test 105-millimetre shells being manufactured for the Canadian armed forces as well as NATO.
A similar range was partially closed down in 1999 at Nicolet. That range still operates today, but the long-range testing has been shelved.
Paul Dixon, one of the people who would be most affected by this range because of the proximity to his trap-line knows he’s not alone, “a lot of people down south are opposing this, somebody took an excerpt from a web site for me, and that’s when I found out that a lot of people down south are opposed to even firing ranges for revolvers for the police. These are big shells.”
Dixon is also part of the Cree Trappers Association, which has already met with SNC-Lavalin to discuss this proposal. “Everybody down south is saying not in my back yard, what am 1 supposed to say? Also, down there they’re saying it’s going to disrupt tourism, what about me? It’s not going to disrupt anything that 1 do?
“In that meeting (with SNC-Lavalin) people were very strongly opposed to the firing range, especially the few guys that have hunting cabins not far from there, they’re going to be staring down the barrel of the gun.”
Emile Laroche, vice-president of operations at SNC Technologies assured people that “based on results of the first study, we did not expect much impact” the proposed range would have on the local fauna.
According to Chibougamau mayor, Donald Bubar, the land in question is under the jurisdiction of the municipality of lames Bay, thus the nonnative mayors who make up the council have already voted for zoning to allow the range.
“I think the mayor is talking through his hat,” quipped Dixon, who adds there would be five or six more Dixon families affected by the project.
The chief of Waswanipi, Robert Kitchen, could not be reached for comment, but according to Dixon, “1 like the chief, he will respect the trappers’ decision, that’s what he’s saying and that’s a comfort, rather than what the mayor was saying, like he was a conqueror, he wanted to conquer me, and it sounds like he wanted to shove the projects down our throats.”
What if the project doesn’t go through, or there are protests? “We’re always open to discussion,” Laroche said.
Dixon remains frustrated: ”1 think we’re living in a fake world where people that want to develop here in the north come up and come with an agreement saying if this project goes for another 40 years we guarantee you’re still going to hunt around this area, they don’t know what they’re talking about, every time the government comes around we’re always tempted at what we’re going to get, it’s not what we’re going to lose, they never look at what we’re going to lose.”