A translation by Judith Turcotte
UNESCO has announced that Anticosti Island is now a World Heritage Site. Excellent news. As such, it joins the Miguasha site and the historic district of Old Québec.
I had not realized until today that Anticosti Island, with its 7715 square kilometres and its population of barely 200 people is larger than Prince Edward Island with its surface area of 5660 square kilometres and its population of 167,680 people. Anticosti is the 90th island in the world and the 20th in Canada, information that I had ignored. I must have missed that part of my geography course. There is no doubt that the Island is a treasure we must protect.
In preparation of the nomination, the Québec government had decided to protect a band of one kilometre all around the Island. It’s fine to protect the embankments but they must also be cleaned. On the Island’s shores, there exists a former landfill and erosion pours its garbage into the St. Lawrence River. The government, in preparation for the arrival of the members of UNESCO’s jury had some cleanup to do as we do when expecting visitors. According to an email received by Le Devoir: “The temporary cleanup was done in the month of August 2019. This cleanup allowed the collection of 1500 litres of broken glass, 500 litres of residual matter and 4 tons of metal.” The email clearly states that the cleanup is temporary; the landfill is still there and the erosion continues to do its work. It is essential that the politicians, the civil servants and the population realize that Anticosti Island represents much more than a large deeryard. Its sedimentary rocks provide a wealth of information for the researchers worldwide. The cleanup of the landfill must be completed.
In recent years, the oil and gas companies wanted to develop its hydrocarbon resources and exploit them. Couillard’s government imposed a moratorium and compensated the companies implicated for an amount of $62 million. The nomination of the site as part of World Heritage will make it more difficult to lift this moratorium.
Finally, the mayor of Anticosti Island, Hélène Boulanger, is happy as we are, to see her island part of this exclusive group; however, she made me nervous when I heard her during a televised interview, declare that hotels and infrastructure should be built to receive the many tourists who will now want to visit the Island. For the mayor and her citizens, caution is required. It is important to keep in mind that the nomination of the Island as a World Heritage site does not become an opportunity to ruin the Island’s natural and wild beauty.