“After the Romaine”, or imagining Quebec beyond the dams

The film opens with the imposing image of one of the dams in the Romaine complex. Roy Dupuis and the Innu poet Rita Mestokosho stand at its summit, with what remains of the dry river below. While the poet sings a traditional song, the actor and co-founder of the Rivières Foundation bursts into tears at the sight of the Romaine, whom he sees again for the first time since the filming of the documentary. Look for the currentcompleted before the construction of Hydro-Québec’s most recent megaproject.

“It was a very emotionally charged moment, with such deep singing. I didn’t expect to feel something so strong. And I had a feeling of guilt. I tried to prevent that, but I couldn’t. So I can’t help but feel guilty when I see what state this river is in, ”he explains in an interview with the Duty.

“I hope it’s the last. I hope that we will no longer need to sacrifice other rivers, especially since I am still not convinced that the Romaine project was necessary. But I am convinced that a lot of energy is wasted,” he adds.

Roy Dupuis insists at the same time on the environmental consequences of these industrial projects. “We often say it’s clean energy, because it’s produced using water. But it’s not clean. There are significant impacts, especially if we add up those of all the rivers that have been developed. But there has never been a study of the cumulative impacts of all these dams, and in particular of the immense flooded areas. »

After the Roman therefore calls into question the will of Prime Minister François Legault to build other concrete structures on the last great rivers of Quebec, in the name of the energy transition and the “largest ecological project in the history of Quebec”. This objective could also come back on the table during the CAQ convention in May, since “the addition of new hydroelectric power stations” was the first element of the regional consultation book proposed by the Political Commission.

More than a decade after their documentary Look for the current, the gaze of Nicolas Boisclair and Alexis de Gheldere turns this time to the Magpie River, located a few dozen kilometers west of the Romaine. Even though Hydro-Québec claims that no project is planned on this imposing waterway on the North Shore, a spokesperson reiterates to the Duty that the state-owned company “has not definitively renounced all development”. It is moreover to preserve the energy potential of the Magpie that the Legault government rejected in 2020 a project for a protected area of ​​2600 km2 along the river.

However, any new dam project would come up against strong opposition from the Innu, elected officials from the region and environmentalists, who have granted the river the status of “legal personality” with rights, including that of preserving its natural state. “There will be no dam on the Magpie,” warns the chief of the Innu community of Ekuanitshit, Jean-Charles Piétacho.

” The beauty “

But beyond the refusal to see this river on the North Shore pay the price for our increasing energy consumption, the documentary presents it to us through a five-day rafting descent in the company of a dozen young people, who discover a natural setting to which Quebecers still have “too little access”, emphasizes Roy Dupuis.

“If I think of the Magpie, the first word that comes to me is beauty, but not just aesthetic beauty. There is also the beauty of this river which nourishes an entire ecosystem and an immense territory”, adds the one who was on the expedition on this river renowned for its whitewater. The need for its protection is therefore beyond doubt. “There are fewer and fewer wild spaces on Earth, and this is the biggest threat to biodiversity. But we are privileged in Quebec and the less we encroach on these territories, the better. We need water, air, space and beauty to live well. »

In this context, the State Company “lacks courage” by refusing to definitively close the door to any project on the Magpie, according to Nicolas Boisclair. “If we put an end to this possibility and we said to ourselves that there are no more rivers available, we should look at the other options”, he underlines, criticizing the decision of Hydro-Québec to conduct an “analysis” for a possible hydroelectric project on the Petit Mécatina River, also on the North Shore. Any new dam project will be “very costly”, he adds, in addition to harming efforts to protect biodiversity.

Between the two documentaries, the position of the State Company in relation to large dams has however evolved, believe Nicolas Boisclair and Alexis de Gheldere. Both affirm that beyond the historical natural prejudice in favor of large hydraulics, more and more efforts are being made to develop, for example, wind and solar energy, but also the management of the energy already available. . The documentary also discusses the improvement of energy efficiency, tariff revisions, the renovations necessary to reduce the consumption of buildings, etc.

This momentum towards a new vision of the energy landscape, also hailed by Roy Dupuis, would nevertheless be much better planned if the government agreed to hold a “vast consultation” involving independent experts, for example under the aegis of the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur the environment. “We should have carried out such an exercise a long time ago”, drops the co-founder of the Rivières Foundation.

After the Roman

ICI Télé, April 20 at 8 p.m. and on tou.tv

To see in video

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