Protecting the Magpie

The movement to protect the Magpie River

In September 2017, outside of Hydro-Quebec’s headquarters in Montreal, a flash mob appeared. They were protesting Hydro-Quebec’s “behind the scenes” blocking of any attempt to protect the Magpie River from damming.

The event was organized by Pier-Olivier Boudreault of the Societe Pour la Nature et les Parcs du Canada (SNAP). They are the Quebec branch of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), which is committed to protecting public land. Boreal River was there (with a raft) and so were some of our students and guests.

Mixed messages from Hydro Quebec

“We were protesting, which is something we rarely do, when something incredible happened,” Boudreault says. “We had an official from Hydro-Quebec come out and announce that they had no plans to dam the Magpie.”

Boudreault had been working on protecting the Magpie since 2008-2009. “Some local people wanted to protect the Magpie after they saw what happened when the Romaine River was dammed.” They started with a petition and then commissioned a study of the river to assess its potential.

“The researchers compared it to the other famous whitewater rivers in the Americas. It came out very good when compared with the Futaleufu in Patagonia, the Colorado River, the Nahanni…etc., so that helped guide our strategy.”

Social value of the Magpie

In most cases, Boudreault says, they focus on the ecosystems or endangered species. However, for the Magpie they realized that they could also focus on the social value of the river.

“For something like the Magpie the social angle as well as the environmental angle is very important,” Boudreault, who is also a biologist, says. “The Magpie is special because its watershed is 99.997% untouched. It’s truly a pristine landscape and truly wild camping experience. So that’s important to us, but the social angle is also very important.”

Boreal River has been active in helping SNAP with its mission. But throughout the past 10 years attempts to protect the Magpie River were met with what Boudreault called “behind the scenes” blocking by Hydro-Quebec. So at the flash mob in September, the news that Hydro-Quebec wasn’t going to dam the river was thrilling.

“It was great news,” Boudreault says. But since then, he’s learned that even though they said that, they still refuse to allow the river to be protected.

10,000 signatures by fall 2018

Boudreault says he hopes that this year they can protect the river.

“We’re at more than 8000 signatures and we want to get to 10,000 by fall of 2018. At that point we want to hand it to the Quebec Government and ask them to protect the river.”

And this is where you come in.

Boudreault says the people most easy to mobilize, for the flash mob for example, are the people who’ve rafted the Magpie with Boreal River. “I heard so many touching testimonials when I organized the flash mob, about how people couldn’t believe how amazing and beautiful the river is.”

So, if you want to help protect the Magpie, please sign the petition.

Other ways you can help

Share your stories

If you’ve been lucky enough to travel down the Magpie, get involved in the conversation: share your photos, videos and trip reports.

Let locals know

The people of the Côte-Nord will have a big say in whether or not to protect the Magpie. When you are travelling in the region before or after a Magpie trip, let the locals know what you have been up to and that you came to paddle the river. When you stop for gas, stay at a hotel, or are buying groceries, talk to the folks you come across about the Magpie.

Help at an upcoming SNAP event

SNAP is planning several events in 2018 to raise awareness and to keep the pressure on the government to protect Boreal Forest and the Magpie. Write SNAP Quebec and give them your name,  email, and number and they will contact you to help plan and participate in their next event.

Related stories:

Watch the video (French) of the September 2017 event in Montreal outside the Hydro Quebec head office: