Clearcutting of Gatineau Park to make way for extension of Highway 5 began at 6:00 am on Tuesday, February 21, 2012.
Protesters and media began trickling in at about 11:00 am; although a Couillard Construction employees tried to kick them out, they stood their ground. Two people climbed the 300-year-old Mother Tree to voice their opposition to the project, while others took journalists up Brown Lake Mountain to get a view of the road an excavator bulldozed through the valley.
At about 12:00 pm, a Couillard Construction foreman told protesters that things would get rough if they tried to set up a picket.
The Occupy Gatineau Park group says it intends to continue protesting in the days ahead. Below is the press release they issued today.
Wakefield, Quebec, February 21, 2012 – Heavy logging equipment rolled into Gatineau Park today to begin clearcutting for the La Pêche phase of the controversial A5 highway near Wakefield Quebec.
A coalition of environmental groups and citizens known as A5X had anticipated the assault for several weeks.
Contractor personnel hauled in tree-harvesters, hydraulic excavators and other industrial logging machinery to begin deforesting inside and outside the eastern boundary of Gatineau Park.
Soon after they heard that work had begun, demonstrators showed up to speak to the press, with some climbing the trees to voice their protest. They confirmed they intend to block access to ecologically sensitive areas inside the park.
Last January 5, opponents to the highway erected an incident command post on Brown Lake Road to train protesters in tree-sitting and other methods of civil-disobedience.
Highway 5 consists of four lanes and has a minimum width of 150 metres. Construction of the section that will link Chelsea and La Pêche will require clearing over 88 hectares of mature forest and the blasting of Brown Lake Mountain. As well, it will cut off public access to Brown Lake and seriously affect local wells and the regional aquifer servicing Wakefield.
Numerous federal and provincial government departments dismissed measures proposed by conservation biologists and citizens to limit the number of lanes and size of the traffic interchange into Wakefield – measures that would have minimized the project’s “Amazonian” impact on Wakefield and Gatineau Park (see www.a5x.org for alternate design proposals).
Information: Anne Winship (819) 459-4452, cell.: (613) 290-9010; Jamie Roberston (613) 863-4667; Jean-Paul Murray, (819) 827-1803; Ian Huggett (819) 665-2937.
On Monday, the A5X group held a demonstration in front of the Gatineau office of Stéphanie Vallée, parliamentary secretary to Quebec Premier Jean Charest. They wanted to hand her a letter asking the Quebec government to freeze all preparatory work and clearcutting in Gatineau Park. Unfortunately, no one was in Ms. Vallée’s office — at 10:30 am — so the letter was left in the mailbox.
The photos shown above were snapped on Tuesday, February 21, 2012.