Huge rally against cement plant project

Gregg Chamberlain
EAP
On a sultry summer evening Tuesday a large crowd of protesters gathered along County Road 17 outside of the Colacem Canada quarry site near L’Orignal.

Residents from the village and from other neighbouring communities in Champlain Township, Hawkesbury, Alfred-Plantagenet Township, and the City of Clarence-Rockland came to stand in solidarity against a proposed cement plant addition to the site.

“That’s a highly-polluting industry,” said Elaine Demers, who lives on Baie Road with her husband, Louis.

“Right behind here,” she said, pointing to the Colacem property. “We built our dream home on the waterfront 18 years ago. We would not have built it beside a cement plant. I already notice just the quarry lights at night.”

Demers was part of a crowd of between 100 and 150 people who responded to an announcement from Konstantine Malakos, federal NDP candidate for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, that he would host a rally against the cement plant project, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., August 17. Malakos has made stopping Colacem Canada’s plans for a cement plant part of his campaign platform in the September federal election.

“People are clear that they don’t want a cement plant, and neither do I,” said Malakos during an interview.

Should Malakos win the GPR seat, taking it away from Liberal incumbent Francis Drouin, he said that one of his first actions as a newly-elected MP would be to speak to whoever held the indigenous affairs minister’s post in the new government. Malakos would ask for federal intervention on the project under the mandate of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Prescott-Russell region is part of the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinabe. During last year’s Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) hearing on the proposed cement plant project, First Nations representatives expressed concern about the environmental impact of the project on the Ottawa River.

“As of this year we’ve finally got the Canadian government to sign on to the declaration,” said Malakos. “If they (Liberal government) signed it, they should be willing to work with indigenous communities and respect their autonomy. My hope is that the federal government is paying attention.”

The cement plant project has been the focus of controversy for several years. Both Colacem and Action Champlain, a community group opposed to the project, filed appeals to the LPAT concerning local and regional government decisions on the company’s requests for zoning and Official Plan amendments to allow the project to go ahead.

The LPAT tribunal ruled in favour of Colacem. Action Champlain tried and failed to get a divisional court review of the decision. Now Malakos has taken up the challenge by making the project an election issue between him and Drouin.

“And I will remain engaged in this issue,” said Malakos, “regardless what happens after the election.”