Support to protect ruins at Deschênes Rapids snowballing as petition gathers signatures
The ruins of the region’s first hydroelectric plant in Deschênes are once again at risk. On April 19, the Ministère des Transports et de la Mobilité durable du Québec launched a call for tenders for the demolition of the ruins. This came after many years of citizens and resident associations working to preserve the ruins and get them recognized as historic.
After learning of the plans, Deschênes Councillor Caroline Murray filed a petition with the National Assembly asking the Quebec government to preserve the site and recognize it as a heritage site. The petition also asks the government to take into account the environmental impacts of the demolition and the site’s historical value.
Murray’s petition was seconded by André Fortin, Member of the National Assembly of Quebec. The petition was also supported by the Association des résidents de Deschênes (ARD) that is represented by Lynne Rodier, a doctoral candidate in social museology and regional heritage studies at the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO). ARD has been on the frontline with their work to save the ruins for many years.
"Removing the remains of the dam would not only remove a piece of the area's heritage, but it also carries a significant environmental risk,” said Rodier.
Within 12 hours of the launch of the petition, Mathieu Lacombe, Minister responsible for Outaouais and Minister of Culture and Communications, asked his department to initiate a new analysis of the site to see if it now fits the criteria of a heritage site, as the criteria recently changed.
“The request for another analysis from Minister Lacombe will put the call to tenders for the demolition on pause. We are hoping that this analysis will yield a different result from the last and the ruins will be designated a heritage site,” said Murray. “The local politician also highlights that remains of the Deschênes ruins are an emblem for Aylmer and for Gatineau.”
As of May 11, the petition had 348 signatures. Murray encourages residents to continue to sign the petition as the analysis is being done, in case there is a need for it later on in the process to save the ruins. The petition can be found on the Assemblée Nationale website: https://www.assnat.qc.ca/fr/exprimez-votre-opinion/petition/Petition-10179/index.html?fbclid=IwAR2PrdMcvctZ5FLMVFkWCW68IJiOOY4BXnibwS7h6sjzS-LjM1M8DcWlTWM
"The remains of the Rapides-Deschênes can be better secured, while preserving and enhancing the historic character of the site,” said André Fortin. “The solution presented by the Ministry of Transportation, to demolish the remains, is avoidable.”
The public is invited to an exploratory walk of the ruins followed by an information session at 7pm on Wednesday May 17 at 6 pm at the André-Touchet Community Centre located at 57 Vanier Road. The event is organized by ARD. https://www.facebook.com/events/1867161376992034
Photo caption: The region's first hydroelectric dam ruins in Deschênes on May 11.
Photo credit: Sophie Demers