PRESS RELEASE: On May 24, 2001, the government of Quebec announced it would grant a first series of 36 sites located on 24 rivers of the province to private companies for the development and operation of hydro-electric power plants of 50 megawatts (MW) and less.
Our falls, rapids, and rivers form a collective heritage of priceless value at the social, economic, environmental, and tourism levels. However, our government, with no energetic, economic and social justification whatsoever, is about to sacrifice this public asset, at an enormous environmental cost, for the sole benefit of the private sector. The government has done so even before the implementation of Quebecis national water policy, thus jeopardizing it in advance. Therefore, how can we not be opposed to this inconsistent management and flagrant misappropriation of our collective wealth?
In Quebec, dam structures whose power reaches 50 MW are disguised under the description "small power plant:, even "micro power plant". Such works are substantial, as the Riviere-des-Prairies plant, in the North of Montreal, demonstrates. Even a 7 MW hydraulic plant looks imposing - unless compared to Hydro-Quebec's giant plants who can each produce over 5,300 MW.
At the end of the 90s, the province of Quebec had over 2,000 hydro-electric plants and other dams. Quebec's natural hydrography has already been highly modified. Today, 36 other falls and landscapes, mainly located on still free rivers, are about to be destroyed for a low additional capacity of 425 MW, adding to the mess.
The Quebec government approves the destruction of sites which are highly valuable, and representative of our hydrography, even before enacting its strategy on protected areas which was announced during the Summer of 2000. What happened to the government's promise to increase protected areas from less than 3% of the territory to 8%, a figure still under the world's average of 10%?
Refusing to acknowledge the heritage character of our rivers, the government as taken no measure to ensure the total preservation of the greatest number of them for the benefit of future generations. One way to do this is to designate protected natural waterways, (e.g. create linear parks around rivers).
Power plants of 50 MW or less are not large enough to make power line infrastructures profitable on long hauls. That is why they are built near inhabited places, on easily accessible sites. They then destroy much frequented sites and landscapes which are a source of leisure and wonder.
After destroying our forests, do we need to sell off our rivers? Please write and show your support against these projects:
Premier Ministre Bernard Landry
885, Grande-Allee est, 3e etage
Quebec QC G1A 1A2
* * *
Representatives of an Arctic environmental organization say the proposed Kitikmeot road-and-port project could be bad for caribou.
The 350,000 animals of the Bathurst caribou herd give birth near southern Bathurst Inlet, where mining companies and Kitikmeot leaders hope to build a multi-million-dollar deep sea port near the town of Kugluktuk aka Coppermine.
Fieldwork on the road-and-port study is already underway. Engineers and environmentalists began scouting the proposed port site and road route in late July. Work will continue next summer. Inuit depend on the herd for food, as do Dene in the Northwest Territories, who hunt the animals when they migrate south of the treeline in winter. Outfitters in both territories make money by helping sports hunters bag trophy Bathurst bulls.
The road and port -- which backers say could be completed in six years -- would allow more mines to be developed in the region, by slashing the cost of transporting building materials, and by making it easier to ship lead, zinc and nickel ore to market.
Kitikmeot leaders say the project will create hundreds of jobs for Inuit and pour more than $700 million into residents' pockets.
The federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, announced that Ottawa is jump-starting the project by contributing $3 million to a preliminary study of its feasibility and possible environmental effects.
The Nunavut government and mining companies are matching that windfall with another $3 million. Environmentalists say federal officials are hypocrites for funding research on the Kitikmeot road while opposing oil development in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
They say studies must be done to determine whether the existing mines in the area are hurting caribou. The Lupin, Diavik and Ekati mines lie along the Bathurst herd's migration route. In the late winter, ice roads in the region see heavy truck traffic.
Sui-Ling Han, the Nunavut government's manager of wildlife research, confirmed that the Bathurst caribou calving ground overlaps with the proposed port site.
Scientists say satellite data shows the Earth's northern hemisphere is greener now than it was 20 years ago, with denser vegetation and longer growing seasons.
During the past 20 years the growing season above 40 degrees North latitude has lengthened 18 days in Eurasia and 12 in North America, says a statement released by scientists with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the American
Eurasia, including Siberia and the Russian Far East, seems to be greening more than North America, gaining more lush vegetation for longer periods of time. The scientists say rising temperatures, possibly due to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, may be responsible for these changes.
* * *
The hamlet of Baker Lake has found its own way onto the Internet.It's a small-scale satellite-based data transmission system they're leasing from a Winnipeg firm called First Nations Power Tech-nologies.
At the heart of Baker Lake's new system is a small satellite dish that's about six feet in diameter. Through it, data from the Internet will flow into Baker Lake at a rate of 512 kilobytes per second, eight times faster than the service that the much-maligned Ardicom firm supplies to Baker Lake's government offices.
Ordinary Baker Lake residents will likely welcome this development. Although the school and Nunavut government offices are now connected to the Internet through a service provided by Ardicom, private Internet users have been forced to make expensive long-distance modem calls to southern Internet service providers.
* * *
Will there be a Survivor in northern Canada's future? Canadian tourism officials sent Mark Burnett, the producer of the CBS show Survivor, an info package a few months ago to pitch the idea.
The show, which has already visited the tropical island of Pulau Tiga, the Australian outback, and recently completed shooting in Africa, features contestants competing for "immunity" from being voted off each week.
In previous episodes, since temperatures were hot, contestants tended to wear little clothing, which boosted the entertainment careers of many of them - something hard to do in our buggy north.
They sent a two-page letter to Burnett a couple of months ago, along with a Roots leather bag filled with Canadian goodies (maple syrup, blueberry preserves) to convince him to consider shooting the fourth season of Survivor in Canada and hope for an answer by year's end.
Several renowned artifacts belonging to Pierre Elliott Trudeau will be on display for the first time when Canada's national Canoe Museum opens an exhibit profiling the late statesman and his thoughts on paddling.
The exhibit "Reflections: The Land, The People and The Canoe," commemorating the canoe's role in the lives of twelve respected Canadians, will be launched around the first anniversary of Pierre Trudeau's death. His family has generously loaned his canoe and famous jacket to the young museum, which already houses the world's largest collection of canoes and kayaks. Prime Minister Trudeau was pictured canoeing wearing the buckskin jacket on the cover of his Memoirs. Also on display will be one of his favourite paddles, made by the Peterborough Canoe Company, and a beautiful pair of beaded buckskin gloves.
The canoe played an important role in Trudeau's life and that of other notable -- and less recognized -- members of all Canada's cultures. Its legacy continues to serve as a unique but unifying Canadian experience.
Prime Minister Trudeau's view was that one can achieve balance through paddling: balance between physical and mental pursuits, nationalism and individualism, passion and reason, wilderness and society, past and present. The Canadian Canoe Museum exhibit featuring the Trudeau memorabilia will be housed in a significant main-floor space that will convey a sense of Canada's river panoramas, landscapes, wildlife and other character-influencing aspects of our environment.
"Reflections" will also highlight the aboriginal voices of Matthew Coon Come, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, William Commanda, respected elder of the Algonquin nation, Rick Beaver, Ojibwa artist and the late Haida sculptor Bill Reid. Canoeing icon Bill Mason, known for his films, paintings and books, is also given a special place in the new exhibit along with Eric Morse, the Dean of Canadian Wilderness Canoeists along with wife Pamela. Paddlers who are artists, voyageurs, families and women will also be showcased.
The permanent exhibit was launched at a special public event on October 12 at the Canadian Canoe Museum with Sacha Trudeau and other family members of those featured in the exhibit in attendance.
The Canadian Canoe Museum is in Peterborough, Ontario, the world's canoe-building capital for more than a century. "Reflections" will complement other dramatic exhibits that tell the story of Aboriginal, French and British cultures.
* * *
Eighty-seven days after setting out from Reindeer Lake in northern Saskatchewan, the four members of the Arctic Canoe Expedition reached their goal: Chantrey Inlet on the Arctic Ocean. Luke Manger-Lynch, Sam Moulton, Brook Yeomans, and Mike Wolfe paddled and portaged their way roughly 1,600 miles across Northern Canada via fourteen rivers and innumerable lakes.
After a year of planning, ACE 2001-- a major adventure fundraising expedition for Camp Manito-wish in Wisconsin with 15 corporate sponsors-- proved its hypothesis: that it was possible to start at Southend and reach the Arctic Ocean in a single season. Though other canoeists have paddled most segments of their route, to their knowledge no one had strung them all together in one continuous journey. The group began near where the roads end in the small Woodland Creek Indian community of Southend, Sask. Due to reports of lingering winter ice, they began their trip in true expedition style-- rerouting onto smaller bodies of water to bypass the larger, ice-choked expanse of Reindeer Lake.
Though they skirted ice for two more weeks, they were fortunate to paddle in ice-free conditions for the remainder of the trip. From Reindeer, the expedition slowly pieced their way north for the next three months-- alternately walking, lining, paddling and poling their way up some rivers, negotiating big downstream whitewater on the Fond du Lac, and linking together small, unnamed river systems and expansive lakes. When bodies of water did not connect, they portaged. Making three trips per portage over difficult terrain with heavy packs, it was a slow process through a wind-swept, bug-dominated world.
Relentless swarms of black flies and mosquitoes made the group deranged, and gale-force winds often kept the expedition pinned on shore for days at a time. Heading both up and down stream over varied terrain, in late June they began to traverse the transitional zone between boreal forest and tundra via the Elk River. For weeks they saw no one. In early July, the group entered the treeless tundra and eventually reached the Thelon River. Getting there required crash-portaging, shooting technical whitewater, and creative route finding and map work; the group navigated by maps where one inch equals four miles and carried no GPS.
Once on the Thelon-- the superhighway of the Far North-- they retrieved their sole resupply of 500 lbs. of food and 40 lbs. of fuel (flown in 55-gallon steel drums by floatplane from Yellowknife, NWT) and saw the only other canoe groups of the expedition (outfitters fly groups in and out). Here they were were also charged by four Barrenland Grizzlies in their campsite and were lucky enough to mill about with a caribou herd of thousands. After paddling over 400 miles down the Thelon, the group's major task was switching watersheds: leaving waters that drain into Hudson Bay and obtaining the rivers that run to the Arctic Ocean. After the river they had planned to travel up ran out of water (the Tibelik River), the expedition backtracked, making a substantial reroute via the Meadowbank River which flows into the mighty Back River.
The Meadowbank brought the group north under worsening weather conditions. Temperatures began to drop well below freezing and predominately northwesterly winds made canoe travel slow and exhausting. Once on the Back they crossed over the Arctic Circle, and, on August 24th, the expedition reached Chantrey Inlet
The expedition has now raised over $40,000 to send kids to Camp Manito-wish, a canoe tripping camp in Northern Wisconsin where three of the expedition members were campers and all four worked. Visit http://www.arcticcanoe.org for a city in your area and more information on the expedition and how to donate.
This article first appeared in Che-Mun Outfit 106 in 2001.