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Rimouski targets an arch site

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One ​​of these lots offers a breathtaking view of the city of Rimouski.

  • Michel-Félix Tremblay (View profile)Michel-Félix Tremblay

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The City of Rimouski is targeting one of the oldest sites attesting to the presence of First Nations in Quebec for residential development. This is what its five-year development and redevelopment plan proposes.

The plan, accessible online, identifies around thirty areas with potential to accommodate real estate projects. Rimouski is experiencing an unprecedented housing crisis.

These areas include the land where excavations in 1991 uncovered thousands of artifacts belonging to Plano cultural nomads. These ancestors of today's Aboriginal people lived in Rimouski, at least temporarily, more than 9,000 years ago, to hunt caribou and fish.

And there are still thousands and thousands of artifacts on site, confirms archaeologist Claude Chapdelaine, the same one who was in charge of the work 32 years ago.

It would be a monumental blunder to build here, adds the professor emeritus of the anthropology department at the University of Montreal.

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In yellow, the sector identified for development. Projected streets even appear on the map of the Surveyor General of Quebec. The City of Rimouski says it does not know why and has requested the removal of these streets.

It’s a downright lack of respect for the community, strongly retorts the chief of the Mi’gmaq of Gespeg, Terry Shaw. Their ancestral territory merges with that of the Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk in the Rimouski sector.

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It makes no sense to aim for development knowing that there is something underground. We may not have titles to this territory, but we have rights that are recognized and which give us certain powers.

A quote from Terry Shaw, Chief, Mi'gmaq of Gespeg

Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was ratified by Canada and which has had force of law since 2021, mentions that they have in particular the right to conserve, protect and to develop past, present and future manifestations of their culture, such as archaeological sites.

There is no concrete project for the moment in this location, but a Rimouski businessman purchased, a few months ago, two of the four plots of land that make up the forgotten archaeological site.

Marc Pigeon, owner of Technipro, a construction company, was unaware of the rich history of his new property before Radio-Canada's call. Nothing mentions it in the notarial deed of the transaction.

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Some artifacts found in Rimouski in 1991 which date back 9000 years. They have never been exhibited in the region since their discovery. They are still in the custody of the University of Montreal, but they will soon be transferred to the Quebec government reserve in Quebec.

Mr. Pigeon describes the project he anticipates for these lands as very embryonic, and says he wants to find out more.

For at least 30 years, developers have shown interest in carrying out real estate development on these lands, the City confirmed to us. Moreover, projected streets appear on the Arpenteur du Québec map.

If there is no pressure, they will do it (build), no one will know and when it happens, we will bawl and say “my God, how come that we didn't warn them"

A quote from Claude Chapdelaine, retired archaeologist and professor emeritus

Although in principle, anyone who finds archaeological artifacts must notify the ministry, for example when building a street, this does not constitute a guarantee of preservation of the site, he worries. ;archaeologist Claude Chapdelaine.

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There is no concrete project for the moment at this location, but a Rimouski businessman purchased, a few months ago, two of the four plots of land that make up the forgotten archaeological site.

At the City, we defend ourselves by saying that the area is not considered a priority. It demonstrates a will, yes, but not an automatic permission, nuances Mayor Guy Caron.

All decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, all constraints will be taken into consideration when the decision to develop is made.

A quote from Guy Caron, mayor of Rimouski

Surprisingly, the Development and Redevelopment Planmentions that the conservation potential of the place is non-existent. However, when it was discovered in 1991, it was the oldest archaeological site in Quebec.

No one in the City of Rimouski seemed to know the rich past of this land, before today. The City's urban plan, the last version of which dates back to 2014, is completely silent in this regard. didn't have the information, simply admits the director of the Urban Planning Department, Jean-Phillip Murray.

The 2014 urban plan also identified this area for future development. When city officials re-ran the analysis in 2022 and 2023, no one raised their hand and mentioned that it might be tricky to build houses on an indigenous archaeological site. .

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The 1991 excavations. The highway ramp would be in the background today.

Everyone sleeps soundly as long as the site is not in danger. There, the site is in danger, laments archaeologist Claude Chapdelaine. But, being the positive man that he is, he hopes that this time, the City will hear the message.

What often happens is that we place archeology faced with a fait accompli. There, currently, there is no accomplished fact yet.

A quote from Claude Chapdelaine, archaeologist and professor emeritus at the University of Montreal

It is not only the City that #x27;has not protected the archaeological site: neither has the Quebec government. The Ministry of Culture confirmed to us that it could not prevent a developer from building on this land.

The sites in question do not have status under the Cultural Heritage Act, which means that no authorization from the Minister is required for work to be carried out on these lands.

A situation that saddens chef Terry Shaw. I find that a bit unfortunate, especially when we are talking about reconciliation today. It's very important to bring out the story.

The ministry, which did not respond to our interview request, specified by email that it is supporting the City in the announced development plan so that all of the heritage components, in particular the archeology, are taken into account.

Curiously, the person who was responsible for this plan, the director of the Urban Planning Department, Jean-Phillip Murray, does not seem to have received any directives from the ministry regarding the archaeological site. If we have clear information from the ministry, that there is archaeological potential, it will certainly be an element to consider.

Nothing to clarify the situation, in another email, the ministry mentions that it has ensured that the municipality has included these sites in its urban planning tools and that they can be considered during development projects futures.

Who's telling the truth? One thing is certain, the site is not included in the City's urban planning tools, as the ministry claims. In a series of endless emails, Radio-Canada asked the ministry to clarify its assertions. At the time of publishing, we have not received a response.

The main reason why there has not yet been any construction on this land has nothing to do with its rich history, but rather with natural constraints. There are landslide areas, which therefore limits the development potential, specifies the director of the Urban Planning Department. A portion of the archaeological site is, however, not affected by this constraint.

The southeast section is also located in an agricultural area. On the other hand, during the renewal of the zoning plan planned within two to three years, the City does not exclude allowing residential use there, a question of consistency with its development plan and redevelopment presented in October.

Mayor Guy Caron did not want to get too far ahead of the decision that will be taken, but he agreed that the presence of an archaeological site is part of the data to be taken into consideration in the new urban plan.

For his part, Chief Terry Shaw hopes that this time, the City will consult the First Nations. History belongs to us, and it is not up to them (the City) to make certain choices, but it is their responsibility to consult and advise us.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Stored for a long time in a room at the University of Montreal and even, for some, in Claude Chapdelaine's basement in Carignan, in Montérégie, the approximately 25,000 objects found in Rimouski — remember that there are still some at least as much underground — are now sleeping in a Quebec government warehouse.

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Some artifacts found in Rimouski, dating back 9000 years.

No one in Rimouski, whether the City, the Regional Museum or UQAR, contacted him to repatriate, and possibly exhibit, the most precious objects from the collection.

In 2021, on the occasion of the 325th year of European settlement in Rimouski, the retired archaeologist launched an appeal to Rimouski residents to reclaim their history. p>

Two years later, nothing. He therefore resigned himself, on October 16, to handing over the oldest objects in Rimousk history to the government, which stored them with thousands, perhaps millions of others, in a warehouse in Quebec.

There is a lack of interest in culture linked to heritage, that is clear, deplores Claude Chapdelaine.

He A few years ago, the most beautiful objects from the collection were included in an exhibition entitled Clovis, Caribou Hunter. The expo traveled to Quebec and even Ontario, but never to Rimouski.

Claude Chapdelaine has retired for several years, but the passion has never left him. I still have energy, he likes to point out. So much so that he dreams of one day returning to excavate the Rimouski site.

One ​​of the only places I will come back to search tomorrow morning is Rimouski, because that site is a little treasure. He's small, but he's rich!

A quote from Claude Chapdelaine, archaeologist and professor emeritus at the University of Montreal

According to him, with a budget of $50,000 and even less , he could voluntarily lead new excavations for two months. The money would be used to pay students, accommodation and other expenses.

But I won't take any action, someone has to come and offer it to me.

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