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Letter to ministers: For an energy transition that respects the last wild rivers

Après la romaine_hydroélectricité_Fondation Rivières - Transition énergétique

April 20, 2023

Mr. François Legault, Prime Minister of Quebec
Mr. Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of the Economy, Innovation and Energy and Minister responsible for Regional Economic Development
Mr. Benoit Charette, Minister of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks
Mr. Ian Lafrenière, Minister responsible for Relations with First Nations and Inuit

cc: Philippe Archambault, Head of Media and Government Affairs, Hydro-Québec

Subject: For an energy transition that respects the last wild rivers

Prime Minister,

We are deeply concerned to learn that Hydro-Québec plans to launch preliminary studies to evaluate the hydroelectric potential of the Petit Mécatina River, on the North Shore, especially following the release of the documentary After the Roman on the airwaves of Radio-Canada which highlights the exceptional character of Magpie River. 

If this project were carried out, 43 %s in the Côte-Nord watersheds would be subject to hydroelectric development and a modification of their hydrological regime, which would bring the number of power stations in Quebec to 174 on 121 rivers. This is what we learned from the commission of inquiry of the Bureau d'audiences publique sur l'environnement (BAPE) on the Romaine River project in 2009. 

There are few large intact rivers left such as the Petit Mécatina, the George and the Rivière à la Baleine.

Places of ancestral anchorage of indigenous cultures, they are at the heart of ecosystems preserved from industrialization. Your government has made a commitment to protect 30 % of the territory by 2030, but where are your commitments to protect our last major rivers which ensure the health of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems? No river has yet obtained the status of aquatic reserve, a mechanism for protecting biodiversity announced more than 20 years ago.

Furthermore, we were surprised to learn that the CAQ Political Commission presents the construction of new hydroelectric power stations as an essential condition for successful electrification of Quebec. Nothing, to date, however, allows us to make such an assertion. Even Hydro-Québec has not published a notice to this effect. In addition, the CAQ presents hydroelectricity as a clean energy. However, we know that the hydroelectric sector has major social and environmental effects. These consequences could also be more significant than we believe: the cumulative impacts of all the dams in Quebec have never been evaluated.

The firm Dunsky Energy+Climate, which your government has mandated to equip you to establish strategies towards carbon neutrality in Quebec, emphasizes the potential for reducing energy consumption and the wind potential.

The construction of new hydroelectric dams is not one of the options favored by this firm of experts.

This opinion is shared by the vast majority of specialists, including the director of the chair of energy sector management at HEC Montréal, Pierre-Olivier Pineau, professor of physics and scientific director of the Trottier Energy Institute at Polytechnique Montréal, Norman Mousseau and engineers Bernard Saulnier and Réal Reid. In fact, according to the latter two, Quebec could save approximately 3.2 G$ per year, become carbon neutral and ensure its energy self-sufficiency by pairing the production of wind and solar sectors with the storage capacities of Hydro-Québec's hydraulic reservoirs currently in operation. exploitation.

Keeping the door open to dams on untouched rivers keeps us in our old ways. There is better to do: your government has a duty to support public policies to minimize the demand for electricity associated with the electrification of transport by promoting active and collective mobility, to modernize construction and renovation standards to move towards buildings with net zero energy consumption, improve the insulation of buildings, encourage the installation of heat accumulators and heat pumps, promote geothermal energy, diversify sources of supply of renewable energies such as solar and wind, to optimize existing dams and wind farms. Let's be visionary.

The energy choices we are about to make are too important to be made hastily.

Considering that we have already artificialized too many rivers and that the effects of dams are permanent, we invite you to take the time to consult Quebec society, including indigenous communities, as you promised, through a vast public debate.

While awaiting a response on your intentions on this subject, we ask you to receive, Mr Prime Minister, Gentlemen Ministers, our distinguished greetings.


  • André Bélanger, general manager, Fondation Rivières
  • Roy Dupuis, co-founder and spokesperson, Fondation Rivières
  • Richard Rémy, founder and guide, Karavaniers
  • Emilie Dubé, project manager, Eau Vive Québec
  • Emmanuel Laferrière, director of operations, Canot Kayak Québec
  • Chantal Levert, general coordinator, Quebec network of environmental groups RQGE
  • Irène Dupuis, president, Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly Living environment
  • Elisabeth Gibeau, coordinator, Common Front for the Energy Transition
  • Rébecca Pétrin, general director of Eau Secours
  • Emmanuelle Rancourt, project manager, Nature Québec
  • Jean-François Boisvert, president, Montreal Climate Coalition
  • Alex Beaudin, municipal councilor of Rivière-Saint-Jean and Magpie
  • Carole Dupuis, spokesperson, UNEplanète eco-citizen movement
  • Christian Bélisle, administrator, Friends of the Kipawa River
  • Jean-Pierre Finet, spokesperson, Group of environmental energy organizations
  • Mathieu Bourdon, founder, Noryak Aventures
  • Charles Kavanagh, Association Eaux-Vives Minganie
  • Caroline Desbiens, professor, Department of Geography, Laval University
  • Laurie Guimond, professor, Department of Geography, University of Quebec in Montreal
  • Etienne Boucher, professor, Department of Geography, University of Quebec in Montreal
  • Jani Bellefleur-Kaltush, Innu filmmaker
  • Gabriel Rondeau, citizen of Magpie and guide, Noryak Aventures
  • Geneviève Lalumière, citizen of Magpie and market gardener at the Minganie Agroforestry Solidarity Coop – Le Grenier Boréal
  • Yasmine Fontaine, master's student in geography and certification coordinator
    Territorial guardian of Laval University
  • Laura Fontaine, member of the Innu community of Mani-utenam

This letter was published in The duty

Photo : Productions du Rapide-Blanc - Movie After the Roman

More dams? We can do better!

Tell the government to stop building new dams to protect Quebec's last great rivers


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