Rivers have always had a place in human society from providing a source of water to being a source of spiritual renewal as well as being the lifeblood of the surrounding ecosystem. Even though rivers are quite powerful forces, when no one around fights for their protection, their untamed beauty can be easily destroyed by creeping industrialization.

Fighting to protect the Romaine River in northern Quebec, Alliance Romaine organized a benefit concert in order to spread the word on the river’s permanent destruction by the construction of a massive hydroelectric facility. This project will have negative effects on the locals and members of the Innu community of Ekuanitshit who live in close proximity to the river.

The project to dam up the river began in 2009 and includes four separate dams along the 500-km stretch of the Romaine River. As it currently stands, one of the dams has been completed with work just beginning on the next one.

The effects of this project on the ecosystem include mercury contamination, loss of biodiversity, and the creation of reservoirs, which will slow the process of dissolved oxygen in the water thereby making it less sustainable for aquatic life. Along with damage to the environment, the local culture will take a hit because of the influence the river has had on it.

Alliance Romaine member and event organizer Isabelle Cadieux had plenty to say about the issues surrounding the dam project. The lack of transparency and the fast-tracking of the project by the Quebec government have caused many to be suspicious of the proposed benefits of the project.

“For one thing,” Cadieux said, “it will be the taxpayers who will pay the most, both in a loss of money from Hydro-Québec exporting the electricity at a loss to the general public and for future generations who will not be able to enjoy the Romaine River.”

The Montreal event featured local Quebec and First Nations artists who entertained the 150-strong crowd at Comité Social Centre-Sud on June 8. The show started with a bang with the performance of the Buffalo Hat Singers whose traditional sounds sent shockwaves throughout the venue.

Many of the concert-goers wore the red square in support of the social protest movement sweeping across Quebec. When asked why, Alliance Romaine member Charlotte Coutu said, “All of the problems are traced back to the same source.” That source being the Charest government.

“What the government is trying to do is to divide all of the movements and make it easier for them to fight opposing voices,” Coutu explained. “But we are trying to do the opposite, by showing that all of the movements in Quebec are united.”

In total, 12 artists performed at the event. The evening featured the rock stylings of Cannon Wagon and Tricot Machine, which caused an impromptu mosh pit to form mid-performance, while the poetry readings by Natasha Kanapé, Laure Morali and Mademoiselle Phébus gave the audience plenty to ponder about the plight of Aboriginals and nature in contemporary society. At the end of the event, artwork donated by local artists was raffled off to the attendees.

Most of the proceeds from this event will be going towards organizing a canoe trip on the Romaine River June 27-30. The purpose of the trip is to draw media attention to the plight of the river. The stretch of the river they will canoe down is already in an advanced stage of deforestation.

For more info on the Romaine River: allianceromaine.wordpress.com