(Kitcisakik, Abitibi-Témiscamingue) Within three years, the inhabitants of the Aboriginal community of Kitcisakik, about 100 kilometers south of Val-d’Or, would no longer need to burn thousands of dollars a year in their generators: they would finally be connected to Hydro-Quebec’s electrical network, the state-owned company promised Monday.
Updated at 0:12
“It’s not an electricity project, it’s a humanities project,” Hydro-Québec CEO Sophie Brochu said in an interview with The press on the sidelines of his visit to Kitcisakik on Monday.
This is the first time she has been to this Anishnabeg village established in the La Vérendrye Game Reserve in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
“Society is rich in its children, and it makes even more sense for electrification because they begin in their lives,” Ms. argued.me Brochu, visibly delighted by the presence of the laughing children playing around her.
Hydro-Québec is committed to connecting the village with its network by 2025.
A long-awaited announcement that “will mark the history of the Kitcisakik community for generations,” the head of the Anicinapek Council, Régis Penosway, told a news conference earlier in Val-d’Or.
Over $ 20 million
“It’s going to change our way of life,” Jimmy Papatie explained to us the day before, showing the heavy cans of gasoline he had to pour into his two generators. These provide enough power for lights, refrigerator, internet connection and TV, but not for heating. For that, he has to split the firewood that feeds his slowly burning stove.
“I’m 58 years old, I’m diabetic, I no longer have the strength I had,” Mr Papatie summed up. Electric heating, he says, will also be “a plus for single moms and seniors.” Especially since the generators are noisy, nauseating and greedy.
“It still costs me $ 400 to $ 500 a month,” Augustin Penosway told us as he passed the steering wheel of his van as he arrived at the village on the road overlooking the Dozois Reservoir.
The proximity of this reservoir and its retention dam, two Hydro-Québec facilities, is a daily reminder of the presence of the state company and its lack of service in the territory of the community.
“It’s time we got electricity here!” “, Launched Marie-Hélène Papatie, met in the center of the village. “It would be good, especially in the winter. In my big house it’s very cold!”
Hydro-Québec will bear all costs of connecting the community to its network using a transmission line of approximately 70 kilometers. “It’s a project that will cost money, [moins] 20 million ”, estimated Mme Folder.
The Indigenous Secretariat, for its part, will finance the work needed to adapt the village’s one hundred homes to the public network. The cost, which will depend on the needs, has not yet been determined, says one in Quebec.
Ottawa, for its part, will pay the bill to connect the community buildings, which are currently powered by diesel generators.
Lack of roofs and water
“It’s fine to bring Hydro-Québec in, but what do we do so that the young people each have their own house? “, Pointed out Adrienne Anichinapéo, met during her visit to Val-d’Or on Sunday.
Since Kitcisakik is not a reserve, the houses belong to the families and many are in a sad state. The two adult sons of Mme Anichinapéo is often under his roof, more comfortable than theirs. “With what the materials cost today, they can not afford [de se construire] “, she says.
They are not the only ones. The median income for adults in Kitcisakik was $ 20,000 in 2018, according to the latest index of economic vitality from the Institut de la statistique du Québec.
“Every time housing issues came to the surface in our priorities, Kitcisakik had become an essential reference,” the head of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, Ghislain Picard, testified at the news conference on Monday. .
While Chiefs Picard and Penosway warmly welcomed the efforts of Hydro-Québec, its CEO and Quebec City, no one has forgotten that another equally important service, running water, has still not been delivered to Kitcisakik.
“What we are told, along with our federal partners, is that the site of this community does not allow excavation and embedding of the infrastructure,” recalled the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Ian Lafrenière.
A sanitary block in the heart of the village offers toilets, showers and laundry rooms as well as drinking water taps, where residents fill the brought kettles.
“They always have a smile, but it’s not an easy life,” notes Martine Carrier, the nurse in charge of Kitcisakik Health Center, who has worked in the community for 18 years.
Houses without electricity and often without refrigerators deprive their occupants of certain antibiotics that need to be kept cold. Even she almost lost a stockpile of vaccines when the generators supplying the center broke down for several hours. Heating only with firewood is also “very problematic” for the many children who suffer from asthma.
If the problem of electricity is solved soon, the problem of running water will remain intact.
“If the child has gastro and you have to go out and wash it, if it is -40, you will stay at home. Single parents who have just given birth, they must organize to get water “, illustrates Mme Transporter.
Quebec says it is awaiting to see what will happen with the relocation of the village, long discussed but still undecided.
“The case is ongoing,” Chief Penosway assured,
Uncertainty about the village’s final location has long been cited as a reason to delay the electrification of Kitcisakik. Quebec and its Crown company have finally decided to move on without further delay. If people in society “decide to go somewhere else, they will at least think with light, heat and electricity”, slipped Mme Brochu during his visit.