New soil raises environmental concerns

·4 min read

In the past few days, construction at the Centre de PêcheChez Robert has been gaining a lot of attention.

A statement issued on October 22 by the mayor of Oka Pascal Quevillon, claimed that contaminated soil, along with construction waste, was used to replenish the banks of the Lake of Two Mountains at the Centre de Pêche in Kanestake.

According to the owner, the statement lacked context.

“We have an ice fishing business,” said Shelly Simon. “It serves absolutely no purpose for us to dump contaminated soil on our property, it would defeat the entire purpose.”

Simon inherited the busines when her father passed away in 2006. She explained that he started the business in the mid 80s, with only one cabin and that he kept the centre going right up until his dying days. Clients either rent or store their own cabins. Since she took over, Simon lost a lot of cabins due to the growing number of floods.

It’s a sign of the times, she said.

Over the years- she started to level her yard to protect her ice fishing centre. She said this year is no different, apart from the fact that her spouse, Jean Pépin, has more time to help due to the pandemic.

The couple is dealing with a contractor from Montreal that brings soil to the site - a common agreement that benefits both parties.

“I don’t want contaminated soil,” said Simon. “I don’t want it to effect the lake, nor my well. It would be shooting myself in the foot!”

The Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) was quick to rebut the mayor’s comments.

On the same day, the MCK published on their Facebook page a declaration stating that the Centre de Pêche Chez Robert has been working closely with the Kanesatake environmental department, and “complied with all of the proper procedures to make sure that the work done on the land was done in an environmentally sustainable way.”

“If there’s anything that was dumped there that shouldn’t be, Shelly wants it out,” said Mohawk Council grand chief Serge Otsi Simon.

The ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques also confirmed that an inspection occurred on October 14 where soil samples were taken for further analysis. Additionally, the grand chief said that Kanesatake’s environmental department conducted its own testing and sent it to McGill University for analysis, which will be completed in 30 to 45 days.

However, The Eastern Door received information from an anonymous source disclosing that the soil received from the site was, in fact, contaminated and originating from construction waste. While the extent of pollution remains unknown, Simon’s spouse said no one asked them to stop any soil filling.

Contaminated or not, Simon said the way the issue was brought to light was wrong.

“Now people already have an idea that what we are doing is bad and illegal,” said the owner, adding that Quevillon never took the time to call and verify what was going on before publishing his statement on social media.

“We got nothing to hide,” she said.

Simon observed Kanehsata’kehró:non writing negative comments against her. “I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need that,” she said. Although one might be tempted to connect this to the controversial G&R recycling site that’s beencausing tension since 2016, the anonymous source confirmed that there is no connection between the trucks heading to Centre de Pêche Chez Robert and the ones dumping at G&R.

Pressure continues over G&R

The municipality of Oka, along with Mirabel, St. Placide and Two Mountains Regional County Municipality (RCM) adopted a motion on October 6 regarding the G&R recycling site. The resolution is demanding that the MCK revoke the permit allowing the dump to operate until 2044.

“The ultimate goal is that it needs to stop,” said Quevillon.

Although the Quebec government withdrew the site’s authorization to operate their activities, issued in 2015, various sources have reported seeing trucks coming in and out of the dump.

“Not only Kanesatake community members are dealing with severe aftermath affecting their health, safety and environment because of this business, but also citizens from the neighbouring municipalities,” said the statement signed by Marie Daoust, general director of the Oka council.

Kanesatake grand chief Serge Otsi Simon responded to the demand by saying that although he wants to work in a respectful way with the municipalities, they have no jurisdiction over Kanesatake.

“We are doing what we can,” he said.

Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door