Around a hundred citizens demonstrated near the future site of the Northvolt battery factory, in McMasterville, on the South Shore of Montreal, to demand that the government submit the project to an examination by the Bureau of public environmental hearings (BAPE).
The event took the form of a “funeral march” in memory of “all civic notions” threatened by the Northvolt project, according to the speaker: tax justice, the Richelieu River, wetlands and the BAPE.
Concepts written on cardboard then theatrically placed in a black painted wooden coffin which led the way from the McMasterville train station parking lot to the residential streets on the other side of Route 116.
For several demonstrators, the Swedish company’s project is not necessarily to be condemned, but too many questions remain unanswered, summarizes the co-spokesperson of the Citizen Action Committee – Northvolt Project, Jacinthe Villeneuve.
“Is this really a good choice economically? (…) Are we really going to be a battery sector? Are we going to have SMEs who will take part in this? And on an ecological level, are we really making the right decision to raze wetlands to build a battery factory,” she asks.
“The government says that there is social acceptability to the Northvolt project, but for us, more and more, the answer is no,” she adds, pointing to Sunday’s mobilization as proof that the project creates discontent among the population.
A “paradoxical” speech
Yes, the ultimate decision whether or not to authorize the Northvolt project rests with the government, but holding a BAPE would at the very least “improve” it, underlines Greenpeace Canada spokesperson Patrick Bonin.
“It is only a consultative power, but oh so important in a democracy and in a reality where we must turn over all the stones and know what the environmental and social impacts are,” he explained just before the start of the walk.
To the CEO of Northvolt North America, who indicated, in an interview with The Press, having been “taken by surprise” by the reaction of “certain environmentalists”, Patrick Bonin responds that “if they are not used to having that in Sweden, well I think they must arrive in Quebec because we have always did that.”
“There is still time for the government to make amends, to listen to the population and the groups (…) who are asking for a BAPE and to put it in place quickly,” he says.
Words which echo those of Francis Lussier-Charron, a citizen who came from Montreal to demonstrate on Sunday. The latter deplores that the speech “in the name of the environment” surrounding the Northvolt project is “paradoxical” with the company’s desire to cut down 14,000 living or dead trees on its land as part of the preparatory work.
The company was able to resume this work on January 26 after the Superior Court rejected the request for a provisional injunction from the Quebec Environmental Law Center (CQDE) aimed at forcing the company to suspend it.
- 2.75 billion
- Amounts offered by Quebec and Ottawa to finance the construction of the Northvolt Quebec factory
- 4.6 billion
- Maximum amount of production subsidies offered to the company by the two levels of government