Quebec has yet again shown they have traditions they are unwilling to give up. After releasing the long-awaited Golder Report they withdrew their representative on the steering committee that is supposed to deal with the mining toxins affecting the area surrounding Chibougamau and Oujé-Bougoumou. We have seen unwillingness year after year to truly deal with the toxins released in the environment by older mines.
Year after year, study after study and community consultation after community consultation that have all affirmed and reiterated what was known over 10 years ago is left once more in limbo. The latest spark to assign this issue to purgatory was that OJ committee member Chris Covel insisted on Quebec living up to an agreement to release the report in English and French at the same time. He received clear instructions to attain the Golder Report in English so OJ would be able to look over the findings.
Initial delays in releasing the report were many. At first, Quebec said there was no budget to translate the report despite the agreement. Then Quebec said Golder Associates, the Canadian firm that produced the report, weren’t able to do an English version despite the fact this internationally active company has produced many English-language studies and reports.
Instead Quebec was already talking remediation measures they planned to undertake. This was protested as without being able to analyze the report OJ couldn’t comment or participate in what would be an effective way to clean up the affected areas.
It seems the blame is be assigned to Covel and his lack of tact. Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come commented on Quebec’s action. “In responds to your recent text, I have to say that despite the interventions of Mr. Covel, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife must show that it is taking the situation seriously by continuing to work on the steering committee and committing to the implementation of a plan to be jointly developed to remediate the damages caused to the Obatigamau River by the spill of mining effluents. The spill destroyed fish habitat in a long section of the river.
“The issue that sparked Mr. Covel’s outburst was the fact that the English translation of the report was taking a long time to produce. This was a legitimate complaint, perhaps not delivered in the most diplomatic of terms. The question remains as to whether MNRF created the situation or just took advantage of the situation to use as a rationale for leaving the steering committee table,” stated Coon Come.
In the meantime the “I’m hurt” stance allows the Quebec government to ignore the problems for a little while longer. They don’t have to spend money on a clean-up and their timing was amazing. They chose a time when co-chair Peter Campbell of the steering committee was in Australia. He is usually the referee for the committee when there are differences.
Quebec also chose a time when OJ Chief Louise Wapachee was up for re-election. Part of her last campaign platform was to prioritize dealing with the toxins affecting community members. Possibly Quebec’s actions could affect this election and they could even see the last of Covel for a while. It’s almost like being able to get rid of the lawyers on the opposite side of a court case.
Social acceptability when dealing with mines indeed.