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The Year in Review

Compiled by Caleb Nickerson, Chris Lowrey and J.D. Potie

It’s that time of the year were we look back on all the happenings in our little piece of the planet, from good times to bad and all the issues inbetween, here’s our list of the top stories starting with …

January
Dog sledding returns to the Pontiac

The Pontiac International Sled Dog and Skijoring Race kicked off on Jan. 5 as racers from around the world came to Bristol for the third annual event.
The event, which took place at Timberland Tours, featured racers from several countries competing in 4- to 8-dog sled races and 1- to 2-dog skijoring – featuring dogs pulling their humans behind them on cross country skis.
Although temperature fluctuations made a drastic difference in terrain between a warm, sloppy Saturday and a cold, icy Sunday, racers had a blast competing for a share of the $10,500 in prize money up for grabs.

MoP residents hit with 4.3 per cent tax increase
Several factors contributed to the announcement that taxpayers in the Municipality of Pontiac were facing a 4.3 per cent increase to their property tax rates.
Mayor Joanne Labadie said the main culprits for the increase were the natural disasters that tore through the municipality – including a tornado and two severe floods in the last three years.
Labadie said that not only has the municipality lost taxpayers as a result of the disasters, but many residents saw their home evaluations drop, causing a further decrease in tax revenues.

Pontiac Voice lends support to CISSSO CEO ousting
Local community group Pontiac Voice lent support to several politicians from the Outaouais in calling for the dismissal of Centre intégré de Santé et Services Sociaux (CISSSO) board members, specifically CEO Jean Hébert.
The call for dimsissals came on the heels of MRC Vallée du Gatineau Warden Chantal Lamarche spoke to CISSSO’s board after hearing the concerns of the mayors in her region.
Lamarche criticized CISSSO and Hébert specifically for prioritizing urban regions at the expense of rural ones.

Abattoir opens doors
With several dignitaries and local farmers on hand, the owners of Abattoir les Viandes du Pontiac opened its doors to welcome the public on Jan. 14.
Owner Alain Lauzon thanked the local politicians on hand and the residents in the community for welcoming him and his business partners with open arms.
After a brief ribbon cutting ceremony, the business owners gave guided tours of the facility.

Pontiac MP Will Amos and Pontiac MNA André Fortin performed the official ribbon cutting ceremony opening the Abattoir Viandes du Pontiac on Jan. 14, 2019. The two were joined by several stakeholders from the region for a tour of the facility.

Contractor files legal motion against LiveWell
Deslan A.I.M. Environmental, the company responsible for getting the property for the planned cannabis growing facility in Litchfield cleaned up, filed a legal motion against the property’s owner, LiveWell Foods Inc. on Jan. 16.
In the legal claim, Deslan A.I.M. Environmental alleges that it is owed $1,679,118 by LiveWell for unpaid wages and fees for the clean up work.
In a statement, LiveWell CEO David Redimonti said that LiveWell “remains committed to the Litchfield project and is continuing to work with all supplier-partners involved.

Fire destroys Quyon home
A fire gutted a home in Quyon in the early morning hours of Jan. 9.
According to Municipality of Pontiac Fire Chief Richard Groulx, crews got a call around 6 a.m. and responded to a home on Chemin St-Andrew.
“When the first unit arrived there, the fire was in the basement,” Groulx said at the time. “By the time we got set up to enter the building, the fire was already on the second floor, pretty bad.”
There was nobody home at the time of the fire.

Fatal fire in Municipality of Pontiac
The third fire in less than two months broke out in the Municipality of Pontiac on Jan. 19 when a home was engulfed in flames in Breckenridge.
By the time firefighters arrived, flames were shooting out of every entry in the house, according to Municipality of Pontiac Fire Chief Richard Groulx.
The two cars in the garage complicated matters for the firefighters, who eventually got the blaze under control hours later.

Job posting stirs controversy
A help wanted ad posted on Jan. 16 for the recently opened Abattoir les Viandes du Pontiac in Shawville attracted hundreds of comments on social media.
The posting was looking for a person of the Muslim faith who is in relatively good physical condition to serve as a butcher.
Many of the comments took issue with the religious requirement, while others were downright racist.
Since the slaughterhouse produces Halal meat – a niche market that makes the abattoir viable – a Muslim must be the person conducting the slaughter.

Wood workers mull future of industry
Several Pontiac residents formerly employed in the lumber industry gathered at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Fort Coulonge on Jan. 26 to discuss the future of their industry in the region.
The event was organized by Ronald Godin of the Anishinaabek Fort de Coulonge Kichesipirini.
Those in attendance voiced their frustration with the lack of jobs in the Pontiac and a lack of progress on various projects.

Sorting Centre fined $40k
The Pontiac Sorting Centre was hit with a $40,747 fine on Jan. 31 by the Ministry of the Environment for several environmental infractions
The charges stemmed from an investigation that took place in May of 2013 and were related to the improper storage of asphalt shingles, failure to waterproof the sorting surfaces with the installation of concrete blocks and storing wood and metal on a non-asphalt surface.
A Sept. 8, 2015 visit to the sorting centre by the ministry found that the company had also failed to properly store residual materials – later revealed to contain asbestos.
The sorting centre is seeking approval to run an asbestos disposal facility at the site.

The Pontiac Sorting Centre was fined more than $40,000 for non-compliance infractions by Quebec’s Ministry of the Environment.

Toller meets with Forestry Minister
MRC Pontiac Warden Jane Toller met with Quebec’s Minister of Forests, Fauna and Parks, Pierre Dufour, on Jan. 29 to discuss the future of forestry in the region.
Toller said she was satisfied with how the meeting went and that Dufour was receptive to several of her proposals.
Toller pushed for provincial help addressing both a labour and equipment shortage in the region and also suggested a forestry school in the region

February
CBC’s Still Standing comes to Bristol

CBC announced on Feb. 6 that stand-up comedy show Still Standing was going to be filmed in Bristol on Feb. 16.
The show features stand-up comedian and CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries star, Johnny Harris, as he visits small towns across Canada that are down on their luck.
Harris visited and profiled several local businesses for the show, including Willow Lane Alpacas and Gord Black of Logs End – not to mention some screen time for several other locals.

Municipality of Pontiac businesses face 63 per cent increase
Several Municipality of Pontiac business owners were shocked to realize their businesses will face a tax hike in excess of 60 per cent in 2019.
In 2018, each business in the municipality paid 68 cents for every $100 of valuation on their business property. In 2019, that number jumped to $1.10.
One business owner, Siri Ingibrigtsen, saw her bill jump from $3,000 in 2018 to $4,500 in 2019.
Mayor Joanne Labadie blamed the reason for the tax hike on the floods and tornado that hit the municipality.

MRC recinds $100k grant offer
A $100,000 grant for LiveWell Foods from the MRC Pontiac was rescinded on Feb. 6 after the company failed to meet a deadline.
At the time, MRC Pontiac Warden Jane Toller admitted she had limited contact with brass at LiveWell Foods Inc. – the company responsible for the proposed cannabis growing facility in Litchfield.
The news of the rescinded grant came on the heels of a legal claim being filed against LiveWell by Deslan A.I.M. Environmental for unpaid wages and fees associated with environmental cleanup of the site.

Woman injured in sled crash
A Gatineau woman was taken to hospital on Feb. 10 after she struck a tree while snowmobiling in Thorne.
The 50-year-old woman was riding with a group of other snowmobilers when she lost control. Authorities responded to chemin Schock around 2 p.m.
The woman was transported to the Pontiac Community Hospital with several fractures but her condition was not life-threatening.

Roof of Bryson diner collapses
Under the weight of an immense snowfall, the roof of Suzie’s Diner in Bryson caved in on Feb. 18.
Owner Suzie Romain-Pullen purchased the building, formerly the old Bryson movie theatre, in 2013 with the intention of hosting cabaret shows to go along with dinner for her guests.
In January of 2014, the building was gutted by a fire, so the owner knows too well the pain associated with so much damage.
“It’s hard,” Romain-Pullen said.

CISSSO CEO Hébert fired
The CEO of Centre intégré de Santé et Services Sociaux (CISSSO), Jean Hébert, was fired on Feb. 20 by Quebec’s Health Minister, Danielle McCann.
Hébert served in his position since the inception of CISSSO in June of 2015.
He had come under fire in previous months for what critics say was the prioritization of urban areas at the expense of rural ones.
Josée Fillion, CISSSO’s Assistant CEO, took over Hébert’s position.
150 on the 148
MRC des Collines Police clocked a young Dale Earnhardt speeding eastbound down Hwy. 148 at a whopping speed of 150 km/h on Feb. 18 in Luskville.
The 18-year-old driver from Campbell’s Bay had his license suspended for seven days and his vehicle towed from the scene. He also received a $1,078 and 10 demerit points.
The arrest was part of a concerted effort by police to cut down on speedsters in the region.

The Equity gets a new reporter
THE EQUITY got a new face in the newsroom as J.D. Potié joined the team.
Potié, a former Algonquin College Journalism graduate, brings his writing styles and bilingual skills to the Voice of the Pontiac.
“Before I came here, I used to think of the Pontiac as just Shawville,” Potié said in his introduction to readers. “What I didn’t know about was everything else that surrounded the area.”

March
Seventh annual Fish Findlay tourney a hit
The seventh annual Fish Findlay 3 on 3 hockey tournament was the biggest ever, with 20 teams competing across five divisions. Taking place from Feb. 28 to March 3 at the Shawville Arena, the tournament brought in players from as far as southern Ontario to compete. The funds raised through entry fees, bar and food sales all went towards the local minor hockey program.

Inuit children go dog sledding in Bristol
Around 60 children and their adults from the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre visited Timberland Tours in Bristol on March 9 for a day of dog sledding, traditional games and food. The purpose of the excursion, according to organizer Heather Murray, was to build kinship among fostered and adopted Inuit children and their guardians. In addition to taking out the sleds for a rip, the group lunched on caribou stew and learned about using Inuit snow goggles.

McDowell gets Pre-K class
The Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) announced on March 12 that they would be adding a full-time pre-kindergarten class at Dr. S.E. McDowell for the 2019/20 school year.
According to WQSB Assistant Director General Ruth Ahern, the decision to bring the program to McDowell was made possible because of a shift in the area’s socioeconomic rankings. The class has a minimum size of six and a max of 17.

Anglophones consulted on language issues
On March 14, about a dozen people met at St. John’s Elementary School in Campbell’s Bay for a consultation on issues affecting the English-speaking community in the region. Hosted by non-profit advocacy group, the Regional Association of West Quebecers (RAWQ), the discussion was led by Executive Director Linton Garner.
A variety of challenges facing Anglophones were discussed, including schooling, language training and businesses communicating with the provincial authorities.

Snowmobile races in Coulonge
Downtown Fort Coulonge was filled with the sounds of skidoos on March 23, as around 500 people turned out for the annual Snowmobile Drag Races. Now in its 23rd year of operation, the races bring competitors from as far as the United States for a chance to win big money on the track.In the adult divisions, winners and runners up divide the registration fees 80/20.

Students produce bus safety video
Student s from Pontiac High School’s media class took part in a collaborative effort with the Western Quebec School Board and Autobus Lasalle by helping produce a video about school bus safety on March 29. With teacher Jordan Kent behind the camera, the group showed the proper response to several scenarios, such as a traffic accident where the bus was flipped on its side. The video will be shown as a tutorial to students throughout the school board.

School Board, Fortin, denounce Bill 21
Pontiac’s provincial representative as well as the local English school board spoke out against the CAQ government’s “secularism” legislation, which was tabled in the National Assembly on March 28. Bill 21 as it is known, would bar public servants in “positions of authority”, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols. Pontiac MNA André Fortin said the bill “goes against our values as a political party and really it goes against the charter of rights and freedoms.”

Former hockey pros play in Pontiac
Two different groups of NHL alumni played in Pontiac on March 30, in what could be called the first Hockey Day in Pontiac. A handful of former Montreal Canadiens, led by Guy Carbonneau took on a selection of over-35 players from the area in an event put on by Fort Coulonge Carnival committee. Down in Shawville that same day, a group of Ottawa Senators alums faced off against the Shawville Flying Elbows to mark the 20th anniversary of the annual tournament of the same name.

April
Local gal on Top Chef Canada
Shawville-born chef Renée Lavallée was one of 11 culinary experts to be selected for the latest season of Top Chef Canada, which premiered on The Food Network on April 1. Lavallée has worked in a variety of locations throughout her career, and currently resides in Dartmouth N.S. where she owns and operates two restaurants with her husband. She made a name for herself in the culinary scene back in 2014 by winning the Gold Medal Plates Competition.

SCFD celebrates 40th
The Shawville-Clarendon Fire Department celebrated 40 years of cooperation between the two municipalities during their annual fireman’s ball at the Lions Hall on April 6. The two former departments signed an agreement to amalgamate in 1979. The evening featured speeches from current Chief Lee Laframboise, a video presentation of the department’s history and several awards for years of service.

Dr. Wilbert Keon passes away
Pontiac county lost an icon in Dr. Wilbert Keon, renowned cardiac surgeon and Sheenboro native who passed away on April 7 at the age of 83. Keon founded the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in 1976, and remained there as CEO until retiring in 2004. He performed the institute’s first heart transplant in 1984 and served in the Senate for 20 years.

Pontiac Cup holds ninth annual tourney
The barn in Fort Coulonge was packed between April 11 and 14 for the ninth annual Pontiac Cup 3v3 hockey tournament. The competition brought out 30 teams to vie for top placement across four divisions: Open, A, B and Women’s. The tournament was started by cousins Joel and Danick Boisvert as a school project and over the last decade has raised thousands of dollars for upgrades to the Fort Coulonge Arena.

Local volunteer gets Governor General’s award
Vera Rutledge Mayor, a long-time community-minded volunteer was honoured at the Junction Restaurant in Campbell’s Bay on April 9. Her daughter, Sandy Leger, organized the event to laud her as a recipient of the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers by the Office of the Governor General of Canada. Friends, family and representatives from the local MP and MNA were on hand to celebrate her hard work, for organizations like the Thorne Community Recreation Association and Bouffe Pontiac.

Woman killed after culvert washes out
In the early hours of April 20, a 72-year old Municipality of Pontiac woman was killed after her car fell into a crevasse caused by a washed out culvert on chemin Bronson-Bryant outside Quyon. Friends and family left flowers and notes in memory of Louise Séguin Lortie, who was a volunteer well-known for her work with vulnerable people in the region. Torrential rain led to several roads being washed out throughout the region.

Flood waters rise
As April came to a close, municipalities across Pontiac hunkered down to combat the rapidly rising Ottawa River and its tributaries, with tens of thousands of sand bags filled and distributed to protect homes and infrastructure. Troops from the Royal 22nd Regiment (“the Vandoos”) were deployed to the municipalities most affected by the water, like the Municipality of Pontiac, Mansfield et Pontefract, Fort Coulonge and Waltham.
Many other communities along the river mobilized volunteers and municipal equipment to defend their low-lying neighbourhoods. Several municipalities declared a state of emergency and schools were closed temporarily for students to turn out in droves to help with the sandbagging effort.

Pontiac faced the worst flooding in recent memory at the end of April, causing hundreds of evacuations and several municipalities to declare states of emergency. Pictured above, the Coulonge River nearly reached the deck of the Pont Blanc in Mansfield on April 27, prompting increased monitoring from the Ministry of Transport.

May
Flood forces residents from their homes
Several locations across the Pontiac were set up to receive people that were forced to evacuate by the surging river water. École sécondaire Sieur de Coulonge was set up to receive people from the area, while the Tim Horton’s Camp near Quyon took in evacuees from the village. Nearly 900 people from the area were forced from their homes in the wake of the floodwaters, totalling nearly half the evacuees for the Outaouais region as a whole.

Man misled investigation
An Otter Lake man was charged with public mischief on May 8, after misleading a police investigation into a fatal car crash that occurred outside Quyon on April 10, 2018. Christopher Bérubé, 29, was charged after officers determined that he had been the driving the vehicle during the crash that killed a 26-year-old Gatineau woman. Bérubé was known to police and refused to cooperate with the investigation. At the time of the crash, he had a suspended license and was driving a vehicle without valid plates.

Quyon Flyers play U23s
For the second year in a row, Quebec’s Under 23 baseball team came to Shawville to face off against some local teams in a bit of friendly competition. The one day event took place at Elwood Dale Park in Shawville on May 11 and featured the provincial team as well as the Quyon Flyers and the Micksburg Twins. While both the Twins and the U23s managed to trounce the local boys, the Twins came out hard against the provincial team for a 4-0 win.

Sorting Centre battles with Ministry of Environment
The Pontiac Sorting Centre was forced to scale back its workforce in May due to their ongoing dispute with the Ministry of Environment. The Sorting Centre requested a delay in the deadlines laid out by Environment Minister Benoit Charette at the beginning of the month, asking for an additional 15 days to prepare. The centre was hit with more than $40,000 in fines at the beginning of the year for various non-compliance issues.

Citizens oppose motorized vehicles on trail
A group of concerned citizens voiced their opposition to motorized vehicles on the PPJ trail at several meetings of elected officials, in response to the formation of an MRC committee to study the issue. The group, led by members of the Green PPJ Verte committee, questioned the safety of ATVs and dirt bikes mingling with pedestrians and small children. Representative Lynne Lavery questioned how the trail would be funded, since a grant from the provincial government makes up half the annual maintenance budget.

Musical Ride comes to Shawville
Despite the soggy weather, the RCMP Musical Ride put on a stunning performance at the Shawville Fairgrounds on May 25. More than 250 people gathered in the rain and mud to take in the performance, which featured 32 Mounties on horseback, bobbing and weaving around each other in tight formation. The Musical Ride gave their salute to former Pontiac Agricultural Society President George Coles.

Members of the RCMP Musical Ride line up during their performance at the Shawville Fairgrounds on May 25, impressing the audience that braved the soggy weather to take in the show.

First ever Pontiac Kidney Walk
On May 26, several hundred people gathered at the Shawville Fairgrounds for the first ever Pontiac Kidney Walk. The event was organized by Sand Bay resident Randy Russell and his wife Francine Lyrette, with the support of the Shawville Rotary Club. As the recent recipient of an kidney transplant, Russell’s aim for the walk was to raise awareness about renal diseases and raise money for the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

June
Big party at Coulonge Country fest
The Centre de Loisirs des Draveurs in Fort Coulonge was a zoo between May 30 and June 2 for the fourth annual Country Festival. Hundreds of RVs and campers were parked in the field adjacent the arena, and people in Wranglers and cowboy hats mingled throughout the arena and among the vendors set up outside. The event brought in professional acts from across Quebec and the event has grown significantly since its inception, according to organizer Phil Denault.

DIFD Tournament
The ninth iteration of the Do It For Daron (DIFD) 3-pitch tournament took place at Elwood Dale Park in Shawville between May 31 and June 2. With 17 teams competing across two divisions, the stands were filled throughout the weekend for the charity event. In addition to the DIFD foundation, a portion of the proceeds were also donated to the Jardin Educatif du Pontiac.

Flood compensation frustration
More than 100 people gathered at the Luskville Community Centre on the evening of June 10 to seek answers about filing compensation claims for homes that were damaged in the spring floods. The bilingual session was put on by the Ministry of Public Security and was attended by MNA André Fortin and Municipality of Pontiac Mayor Joanne Labadie. Many attendees complained of having their files shuffled between multiple analysts, as well as the difficulty finding contractors to get quotes.

Equity Staff win photography awards
The newsroom at The Equity had a successful evening at the Quebec Community Newspaper Association’s 39th annual Better Newspapers Awards Gala on June 8 in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge Qc., taking home several awards for photography, among others. Former Equity reporter Donald Teuma-Castelletti took first place for the Best Feature Photo and also nabbed the Outstanding Photojournalism award. Assistant Editor Chris Lowrey placed first for Best News Photo and also for Best Sports Story.

Gym renamed to honour Murray
Several hundred people turned out the gymnasium at Dr. S.E. McDowell Elementary School for its official renaming in honour of the late Bryan Murray. His wife Geri was on hand to cut the ribbon for the facility. Prior to his lengthy career in the NHL as both a head coach and a general manager, Murray worked at the school as a physical education teacher.

Calumet celebrates St. Jean Baptiste
The RA grounds on Calumet Island were packed on June 23 and 24 as hundreds gathered to celebrate St. Jean Baptiste. Organized by a crew from the recreation association, the event served as both a fundraiser and a celebration of provincial pride. The gathering featured music by local acts and a group of Burundian drummers, as well as a car show and a host of children’s activities.

Palliative volunteers recognized
On June 27, friends and staff at the local palliative care unit gathered at the Centre D’Accueil Pontiac’s Dale Thompson room for a celebration of volunteers. Founder of the unit and long-time volunteer, Shirley Green, was given the Eugène Pigeon Award for all her work to provide dignified and personal care to patients over the years. The group also celebrated four new volunteers who would be joining the ranks.

Musicfest scrapped over ties to extremist groups
A charity music festival planned for late July had the majority of their acts pull out of the event just prior to the Canada Day weekend, over concerns about one of the promoter’s ties to extremist ultra-nationalist groups. The festival was set to take place in Bristol with Bif Naked as the headliner, in conjunction with mud races. After an anonymous Twitter account raised concerns about promoter Eric Brazeau, who was formerly involved with the Soldiers of Odin and Northern Guard, the majority of the bands scheduled to play pulled out.

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