On a regular basis I read horror stories about the poor quality of the waters in the St. Lawrence River, stories that should raise the ire of the population but that seem to fail to attract attention. The St. Lawrence is a beautiful river but only on its surface. Its waters are polluted to a point where the damage might be irreversible.
The St. Lawrence was part of my childhood; I fondly remember the Sunday morning walks, just after the church service, with my father and brothers, along its tree-lined shores. It was possible to get to the water’s edge by going down a short path just in front of the cemetery. Once there, we would throw rocks in the water a favourite past time of children, much to the annoyance of the fishermen who were always there. They would forgive us when we supplied them with crayfish, a favourite bait, that we would find hiding under the rocks.
A few hundred feet from shore, we could see l’Île Verte, a small island covered with green shrubbery; my father liked to tell us that one day we would enjoy, like he did, our visits there with friends. It was only later that we understood that he meant girlfriends. To the teenagers at the time, the island was better known by the self-explanatory nickname “l’île aux Fesses”.
I was born in St. Lambert, a short distance, from the shores of the St. Lawrence. The river was accessible and was part of my life. Never did we think that this country setting could be taken away but that’s what happened in 1956 with the construction of the Seaway and the 132. Our Sunday walks on its shores were replaced by walks along a construction site. I must admit that for a ten year old, such a construction site was impressive. At that age, I did not realize what was happening in front of my eyes; I was losing my access to the river and, as a consolation prize, we were given a swimming pool and a large parkland along a major highway. This disaster was referred to as progress.
My children were also born close to the river, but they did not enjoy it like I did. For them the St. Lawrence was nothing more than an obstacle to cross when travelling to Montreal. The River is always there but we don’t see it. The St. Lawrence is absent from the lives of my children and grandchildren. I would like the river to be part of the lives of my great-grand-children, not as an asset to be exploited, not as an obstacle to be crossed but as an asset to be enjoyed.
I have decided to make the St. Lawrence River the subject of a series of blogs that I intend to publish over the next weeks. It will be my contribution in an attempt to make you aware of the pollution that lies, unseen, below its surface and to raise public awareness of this tragedy.
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