Le Devoir
October 3, 2003
Louis-Gilles Francœur

To finally give a voice to rivers, Roy Dupuis sets up a Foundation that will give financial and technical support to citizens working to protect rivers.

The energy debate, the small power stations promoters, the real estate developers on the shores, the various polluters, and the government will now have to contend with a new actor, figuratively and literally, when it comes to water-related issues: indeed, Roy Dupuis, the Quebecer comedian of international reputation, has just set up the “Fondation Rivières” (Rivers Foundation). The Foundation intends to act as a watch dog for rivers, as well as to provide technical and financial support to citizens working towards the protection of rivers.

Not only is Roy Dupuis the vice-president of the new Foundation, but it is him who suggested its creation last year, after Michel Gauthier, producer of the documentary “Rivières d’argent” (“argent” means both “silver” and “money”, thus Money-silver river), ran out of money to continue touring the province of Quebec to show his documentary. Michel Gauthier is president of the Foundation, Alain Saladzius is its secretary. This year, Saladzius, founding member of the group “Adopt a River”, received three prestigious environmental awards. Also sitting on the Board of Directors of the Foundation, producer Frédéric Back, innu author-singer Florent Volant, and Pierre Gaudreault, of “Aventure Écotourisme Québec” (Quebec ecotourism adventure).

The coalition “Eau-secours” ( “Eau”, water, “Au secours”, Help!), instrumental in the setting up of the movement “Adopt a river”, warmly welcomed yesterday (Oct. 2, 2003) this new group aiming at protecting rivers and their ecosystems, as well as broadening the debate on our energy choices.

The new foundation, legally created last November, raised $80 000 in a few months for its activities and the support of citizens committed to protect their river. The Foundation hopes to raise one million a year – “Two!” says Michel Gauthier with conviction – to finance its education and awareness campaigns, aiming to dispel the myth of jobs generated, jobs that are only temporary and are often followed by a void and de-structure in the economical area. The managers of the Foundation are optimistic since Roy Dupuis has indeed a lot of experience with fund-raising campaigns.

“Rivers Foundation, explained Roy Dupuis in an interview to Montreal daily, Le Devoir, is not a battle ground, but rather an information tool, a social intervention tool. As soon as there is a war, there are losers who want revenge. What are needed, are true debates of ideas, debates that get to the bottom of the matter, allowing everyone access to all the information. Then, we can hope that promoters, as well as the rest of society, will evolve towards something else, a better vision for the future. For example, we have to show that there are other solutions when people present their solution as the only one. The Foundation will be a tool to help citizens and groups conduct these debates in depth.”

“It’s an important choice, wanting to commit to save rivers and, as well, the beauty of the world”, declared Roy Dupuis as an opening to his press conference. “The Foundation wants to give a voice to rivers and to those wanting to help the rivers”.

“Each time that we can intervene concerning a river, said Roy Dupuis, we have to ask ourselves if that river can be saved, if alternative solutions exist, if they were all examined, because often, financial concerns and the search for profit lead to fast decisions. Too fast. Rivers are too important to make rushed decisions.”

As to Alain Saladzius, he sent a message to the Charest government: “During elections, the Liberal Party promised an energy debate. Before launching some twenty odd projects in preparation at Hydro-Québec, and others of small power stations from the private sector, as we read in the headlines of Le Devoir, we have to have this debate. Not after. There is no emergency to start these projects, the government must start, for the sake of transparence, by making public all secrete contracts, without exception, binding Hydro-Québec to promoters.” Saladzius also said that the public has a right to know what the contracts between promoters and Councils of Mayors are worth, “partnerships are not equitable when 90% of the profits are pocketed by private promoters and Councils of Mayors refuse to divulge their negotiations with the promoters.”

As well as providing support to citizens, Rivers Foundation has many objectives. It intends to publish a guide for all falls and rivers of Quebec, so as to make them known, as well as support projects to promote some sites in a durable, respectful way. The Foundation will not hesitate to get involved to preserve the heritage, patrimonial character of certain sites, either financially, or serving as liaison with the particular governmental service, or even acquiring some sites.

On the judicial side, the Foundation will intervene to make sure laws are abided by, even by public ministries when they don’t respect their own rules. Assistants, militants, and researchers will be called upon to document cases, distribute the information throughout the Foundation network, as well as to the media.

The Foundation will be particularly interested in private and public river dams. It has already started in this venue, by forming an alliance with “Révérence Rupert”, an ecologist group of Whites and Cri Indians who protest the rerouting of the northern River Rupert, even though this project was ratified in principle by the Cri nation. The Foundation also has an interest in industrial, agricultural, and municipal pollution, erosion, and diffuse pollution. The problem of refilling, deforesting, which often goes together with privatization of shores, is also amongst its priorities. For example, recently the Foundation got involved in the case of the Tremblay forest, in Longueuil.

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