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Opposition to Chateauguay project

Courtesy Anna Zeliszczak

A plan by the city of Chateauguay to build housing along Highway 30 will result in the destruction of wetlands just next door to Kahnawake if it gets approved by the government of Quebec. An online petition against the development has already been signed by over 5,600 people.

Asked if the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) had been briefed yet about this plan, Chateauguay mayor Éric Allard said no. The band council will eventually be consulted – but only once Quebec’s environment ministry gets to considering whether or not to authorize the project.

“The obligation of consultation belongs to the government of Quebec, and we collaborate with the government. If Kahnawake wants to have any documentation about this, we will provide it without any question,” Allard told The Eastern Door following a public consultation about the plan in the city on June 20. 

That public meeting saw about 100 in attendance, with many taking to the microphone to denounce the project. 

The city hopes to see 1,500 to 2,000 housing units built across the 28.6-hectare parcel of land bordered by Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Pierre-Boursier boulevards that’s known by locals as Faubert’s land. The project proposes a mix of buildings between two to three storeys and six to eight storeys. 

At the public consultation, elected officials for the city weren’t able to confirm how many wetlands there are on the land when asked. They also maintained 30 per cent of the land, which will include some of its wetlands, will remain protected should the project move ahead.

“The housing you want to construct on Faubert’s land can be built somewhere else,” said Chantal Payant to Chateauguay’s mayor, one of the activists in the city against the project, pointing to a plan the city already has to build housing along Anjou Boulevard. 

“When we build around a habitat like this, even when we make efforts at the same time to protect it, we ultimately destroy it by fragmenting it. The relationship between the fauna and flora gets destroyed,” she said, to applause from the crowd gathered. “Let Faubert’s land live.”

Others there denounced the city for not sharing more information about the plant and wildlife on the land, leaving citizens uninformed about the potential harms the development could pose to the environment. 

Such a study will be carried out by the promoter involved, the mayor and Julie Larose, the city’s director of urban planning, both said. That study will remain private until the promoter involved is ready to present its finalized project proposal to the city, the mayor said, to the displeasure of many in attendance, something that will only happen later in the public consultation process.

The mayor also emphasized Quebec’s environment ministry will carry out its own studies of the land before considering whether or not to grant an authorization to destroy wetlands there. 

“We’re following the experts in the matter,” he told The Eastern Door after the public consultation. “They have experts on these types of matters. They will come if the need is there and they will analyze, and they will investigate, and all those questions will be answered.” 

The Kahnawake Environment Protection Office (KEPO) said this development project is one that’s on their radar. 

“Since European colonization we’ve lost significant amounts of wetlands in the region, and so any additional loss of wetlands is definitely of concern, especially if we’re talking about the health of the watercourses that are in Kahnawake,” said Timothy Law, general manager of environment protection at KEPO.

It’s not only Chateauguay that stands to lose out on the benefits those wetlands provide to the environment, but Kahnawake too, he stressed.

“Wetlands provide a variety of different ecosystem services,” he said. “Acting as a sponge, they help to filter out different contaminants, sediments, nutrients, and so they help to contribute to cleaner waters.

“They can absorb quite a bit of water and slowly release that over time, and that helps to mitigate flooding,” he added.

Law said their office will be called upon to provide guidance to the MCK in the instance it’s approached by Quebec’s environment ministry for consultation.

The MCK has yet to share its position on the proposed development with The Eastern Door. Joe Deom, spokesperson for the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation at Kahnawake (207 Longhouse), meanwhile said he had been unaware of the project prior to being contacted about it by The Eastern Door.

miriam@easterndoor.com

This article was originally published in print on June 28 in issue 33.26 of The Eastern Door.

Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.

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Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.