A test from the past…

Climate change. Who really believes that there is a deadly threat out there which could harm all of us? Nobody, according to our inaction.

Trees are cut, our water plans are getting dirty, storms hit us more often and animals disappear on the planet. What are we doing to solve those problems? Nothing but talking.

Sewage is poured in the Ottawa River when there is excessive rain in Ottawa. Who cares? The governments, federal, provincial, regional and local claim that we should reduce the pollution and worry about the environment. But when a company wants to force a population to accept to be polluted by a new cement plant, our elected representatives follow the advice of professional lobbies: change the rules and go for heavy industry in a rural community, near a village. Who cares! Let’s crush the people!

Action Champlain, on behalf of the Prescott-Russell population, was waiting for a decision: Are we going to be crushed by the Government of Ontario or not? We should know within three months if our elected representatives are heading for less pollution or more pollution. We should know who calls the shots in our province: our representatives of the big-industry guys. On April 12, we learned that Colacem, with the complicity of some of the UCPR mayors, has won its case: L’Orignal will get polluted by Colacem cement plant for the next 50 years! This tells me that our governments are corrupted and that they lie to us when they claim wanting to fight climate changes.

To be fair, we should trust our lawyers who did a wonderful job during the public hearings held on ZOOM in December 2020. To be realistic, we should be ready as well to learn that the cement industry is unstoppable. If the worst happens, our faith in our justice system will diminish for sure. Again.

In this type of conflict between the heavy industry and populations, we should not rely only on legal means. In my opinion, if the government let us down, we should fight back by blocking roads with tractors, everywhere in the region. After all, we are a rural and agricultural area. Yes, we should take extreme measures, peacefully, to have our rights to clean air respected. A plan B is essential when our government is not listening to his citizens anymore. (Knowing the people in the region, I doubt that any serious opposition will stop Colacem.)

Because the Colacem project was not an immediate threat to our communities, people had different views on the matter. Humans do not react to long term threats as they react when the threat is immediate. That kind of attitude (we will see later…) opens the door to all industrial developers, no matter what the opposition does.

Where is our rage? How come we cannot mobilize everyone to oppose a threat to our health? Are we all asleep? What kind of threat do we need or judge important enough to react as a whole group? Even the Covid-19 pandemic is not believed to be threatening by some people. Solidarity is gone. Do not expect tractors and people to block roads in sign of protest. Those times are gone. Chacun pour soi…

Anyway, the fight is over. The 410-feet chimney will be the new landmark for Prescott-Russell. The poor people will breathe toxic particles and the rich people will move somewhere else. The promise of a healthy life in a rural and agricultural area has been broken and we cannot go back to what we had. How foolish we are! And we will not stand up!

Pierre Simard