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Year in Review – May

Public meeting on Chalk River:
Majority of speakers concerned about site
MRC Pontiac warden Jane Toller hosted a public forum in Fort Coulonge on April 26 for residents of the region to express their views on the proposal to build a low-level nuclear waste disposal facility in Chalk River.
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) plans to build what it calls a near surface disposal facility (NSDF), akin to an entombed vault dug into the side of a hill, which it says will safely hold radioactive waste for the next 550 years.
The majority of residents who spoke at the meeting expressed strong opposition to the current proposal by CNL. The main theme of the opposition was getting the site away from the river.
The forum was recorded and will be submitted to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) before the scheduled May 31 public hearings on the matter, according to Toller.
There were about 40 people in attendance at the in-person event, including the mayors of four municipalities within the MRC.

Language laws in Quebec hinder local veterinarian’s practice
Veterinarian Dr. Mel Jowett is unable to serve clients outside of the Chelsea clinic she works at because she was not given the licence to practice in Quebec as an anglophone. The Quebec office of the French language (OQLF) has strict guidelines on temporary licenses in Quebec. To obtain the licence, one must pass a French language test to be eligible. People are given four years in which to pass the language test.
Jowett is not the only one who has been restricted from working in Quebec because of this. “Unfortunately, languages are not my forte, and although I get by relatively well due to the anglophone/bilingual nature of the Pontiac and La Peche regions, this does not alter the rules of the OQLF,” Jowett said in a letter to THE EQUITY.

Varroa Destructor wreaks havoc on local bee populations
Beekeepers in the Pontiac have been facing large scale bee die-offs. The bee deaths are largely attributed to the Varroa Destructor, the Latin name for varroa mites, which have reportedly devastated bee populations across Canada.
“It’s probably normal to lose 20 percent of your hives in the winter,” said Martin Schultz, owner of Schultz Apiaries in Shawville. But, there’s been reports of people losing 70 per cent and even 100 per cent.”

Resignations in the MoP and MRC
The director general of the Municipality of Pontiac and the economic development director of the MRC Pontiac both announced they will be resigning from their positions.
The director general of the Municipality of Pontiac resigned, effective May 6. He was replaced by Mario Allen, acting director before his position was renewed on an interim basis for four months.
In the MRC Pontiac, director of economic development Cyndy Phillips stepped down from her position, effective May 27.
Her decision to resign was personal, according to a press release announcing her departure.
“I am forever grateful not only for the privilege of working for the MRC Pontiac, but for having had the opportunity to put in place programs and plans that will have enormous impacts on the territory and the lives of our residents,” Phillips said in the press release. “As a resident and parent of the next generation of Pontiacers, I take this opportunity to recognize the incredible talent and hard work of all our employees, not only in the economic development department but in all the departments that serve our territory with pride and professionalism. The future of the Pontiac is bright.”

Hot and Dry conditions caused roughly one fire a day in the Pontiac over the last three weeks.
The fire danger in southern Quebec was extremely high early in May, according to La Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU), a not-for-profit organization based in Quebec dedicated to preventing and minimizing damage from forest fires.

“I’ve been in a position here at the MRC for six years now and I don’t think I’ve seen it as bad as it was this year,” said Julien Gagnon, fire and public safety coordinator at the MRC Pontiac. “Statistically, roughly in the last three weeks in our MRC it has been as bad as it’s ever been for fires seeming to get away from people. There have been a lot of brush fires that eventually do turn into forest fires. There’s on average almost a fire a day across our MRC in the last couple of weeks.”

Ribbon cut for new Bristol rescue boat
The Bristol Fire Department officially inaugurated its new rescue boat on May 21.
The purchase of the boat was largely financed with donations from the community. In total, Bristol residents raised about $30,000 in 10 months.
“It feels great how you can raise so much money in such a short time. We had a lot of firemen work very hard at it,” said Bristol Fire Chief Kevin Kluke.

A charismatic leader with an unforgettable smile
Robert “Bob” Bertrand MP for the federal riding of Pontiac, passed away due to cancer on May 17 with his family by his side at the Pontiac Hospital. He was 69 years old.
He represented the riding, which was then known as Pontiac–Gatineau–Labelle, for the federal Liberals from 1993 to 2004.
He was described as a charismatic leader, a kind soul and a true gentleman. He was committed to everything he did and at the core of it all was helping people. He was committed to social justice causes and was a strong advocate for Indigenous rights.
Bertrand was a passionate, kind and honest man, said his friends and family. He was the husband of Sandra (née Leblanc) for 43 years, and father to Chad, Eric and Stephanie.
Born in 1953 in Fort-Coulonge, Bertrand was the son of the late Louis Bertrand and the late Estelle Lacroix. He was proud of his roots and no matter where his job took him he always came back home to serve his community.
Bertrand was described as a jack of all trades. He started his career being a forest firefighter, then worked in the insurance field. But his passion was politics.
Whatever field it was, he often did things with the intention of serving his community. “That’s what made him happy in life,” said his son Eric.


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