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Swimming in the Port of Quebec: an inspiration for the Old Port of Montreal

Vieux-Port de Montréal_Crédit Matias Garabedian


Montreal, May 31, 2022 – Fondation Rivières is delighted with the announcement of the Port of Quebec to develop a port bath in the Louise basin this summer and believes that the Old Port of Montreal Company would have every interest in following suit – the Jacques-Cartier basin holding all the features needed for swimming. Just as the Port of Quebec collaborated with the Société des Gens de Baignade, Fondation Rivières invites the Société du Vieux-Port de Montréal to do the same with the Foundation to design such a development.

Strong swimming potential in the Jacques-Cartier basin 

Safety of swimmers, quality water, sublime landscape: the Jacques-Cartier basin in the Old Port of Montreal has all the characteristics conducive to the development of a basin similar to that of the Port of Quebec. In dry weather, the water in the Old Port of Montreal is indeed of excellent quality: in such a context, it has only experienced one contamination event in ten years, between 2011 and 2021, according to the data from the Aquatic Environment Monitoring Network (RSMA) of the City of Montreal. After an episode of heavy rain, it would be enough to close access to the swimming area for a period of 24 to 72 hours, as at Verdun beach – the duration of closure varying depending on the extent of the overflow of the water networks. sewer. 

In August 2021, the Canada Lands Company launched the initial phase of the Old Port of Montreal Master Plan aimed at revitalizing the Old Port, representing an investment of $50 million. However, the Canada Lands Company, manager of the Old Port of Montreal Corporation, told Fondation Rivières in 2021 to refuse to integrate swimming areas, considering that the Old Port is dedicated to navigation. “It would be enough to move the marina a hundred meters and more than 800 people could swim in the heart of downtown Montreal without harming navigation activities,” retorts the general director of Fondation Rivières, André Bélanger, who wants an adjustment vision of the Company. 

Remember that a port bath project at the end of the Quai de l'Horloge was abandoned in the summer of 2020. Installed in the St. Lawrence River, outside the protected zone of the Old Port, this bath project port was exposed to a strong current, unlike the Jacques-Cartier basin.  

Grand Splashes to claim access to bodies of water 

In 2021, Fondation Rivières in collaboration with the Bathing Society organized a Grand Splash in the Port of Quebec in order to claim access to swimming. This mobilization took place as part of Grand Splash Week, a series of annual festive events during which citizens are invited to take to the water in safe places, which are not do not have the status of public bathing areas, but which have everything it takes to become one.

It was the mobilization of the Société des Gens de Baignade to demand a public bathing site in the Louise basin in 1994 which was at the origin of The Grand Splash Week, today managed by Fondation Rivières. The Foundation salutes the efforts and perseverance of the Société des Gens de Baignade. 

An issue of social and ecological justice

Despite the island character of Montreal, its banks still remain largely inaccessible: of nearly 170 km of banks, 120 km are private and only 50 km are accessible to the public. However, these are all far from the city center and are concentrated in the west of the island as well as along the Lachine Rapids, where public transportation is poor. The development of a swimming area in the Old Port of Montreal would make it possible to compensate for this imbalance, in addition to allowing the population to cool off during heatwaves. This would be a concrete gesture in terms of ecological transition, which is part of the City of Montreal's strategy to combat and adapt to climate change.

About Fondation Rivières

For 20 years, Fondation Rivières has worked to preserve, restore and enhance the natural character of rivers and contributes to ensuring water quality and access to water for the Quebec population. The Foundation has been organizing the Grand Splash week since 2019, which takes place this year from July 1 to 10. 


Source :

Sophie Lachance
Project manager for communications and mobilization 
Fondation Rivières
514-272-2666, ext. 307

Photo credit: Matias Garabedian

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