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Quebec needs a Ministry of the Environment
by Fred Tyan, Pontiac News, 2 February 2007


The environment may be a significant concern for Quebec voters - poll after poll says so - and it may be in the heart of every politician sitting in the National Assembly - they tell us it is - but if actions speak louder than words, governmental action on the environment is so silent it must be dead. It's safe to assume Quebec has no functioning Ministry of the Environment.

Partisans of the present government point to the Ministerial offices, big budget, and a great number of press releases and advertisements. Anyone else need only look at the history of the Cantley dry dump to realize there is no such ministry or it is totally ineffective and is merely window dressing. After immense public pressure and undebatable scientific data, the so-called Minister of the Environment ordered the Cantley dump closed. Our page 3 story details how that "order" has been filed in the waste basket

In nearby Danford Lake, citizens and cottagers are asking for an environmental review - BAPE hearings - and communications with the public, only to find their concerns and interests thwarted by the dump promoters and municipal politicians. The environment is at the bottom of the list for this project.

Gatineau intends to build a facility on the site of a condemned and still-polluting Cook Road dump. Citizens are outraged; the Ministry of the Environment is absent. Forest clear-cutting and watercourse damage were reported at two sites in the Municipality of Pontiac last year: the Ministry of the Environment, as it calls itself, shut itself out of any investigation.

Fish kills and nuclear contamination in the Ottawa River, downstream from Chalk River, are left to volunteer organizations to monitor, as is water quality in the Gatineau and La Peche rivers.

Elsewhere in Quebec, the privatization of part of Mont Orford Park is being fought by citizen and outdoors groups. When the then-Minister of the Environment objected, he was replaced.

The Gleaner newspaper published a photo of junk and furniture floating in Saint Anicet's La Guerre River. The pretend-Ministry of the Environment in the Monteregie region refused to comment on the state of the river. Similar complaints have been carried by the SPEC newspaper in the Gaspe. Two years ago, The Nation, a Cree newsmagazine in northern Quebec, detailed immense mining contamination of northern lakes which are the water and food source for many communities. The role of the pretend-Ministry of the Environment appeared to be to deny damage or danger.

This is a partial list of the non-action by what is supposed" to be a Ministry of the Environment. A real Ministry would be active in protecting greenspace and water sources around the cities, including Gatineau's cancerous sprawl. It would be an intervenor in the question of contaminated drinking water across Quebec. It would cooperate with the Ministry of Natural Resources in protecting forested land - as in forest road building in Val des Monts or in the Gatineau River Valley last year - and in watching the effects of industrial pig and poultry farms. It would check illegal burning at town dumps. It isn't.

And that's what we have for a Ministry of the Environment in Quebec: one that isn't.

Fred Ryan



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