to facilitate the building of a giant development in parc national MontOrford. In June of 2005 BAPE made public its report: The proposed exchange and construction of 1400 housing units would harm the ecological integrity of the park.
2006 gave birth to Coalition SOS Parc-Orford, made up by MCI plus other like-minded organizations. Gisèle became a moving force in the coalition. It all paid off. After a 4-year battle the coalition was successful in reintegrating 459 hectares of park, which earlier, had been confiscated from the limits of Mont-Orford by the government of Québec. Some of this success can be attributed to Coalition SOS Parc-Orford depositing at the Assemblée nationale in Québec a petition signed by 86,000 names and a turnout march of 12,000 people in the streets of Montréal, which was one of the largest environmental demonstrations ever held in Québec.
Also in 2006, Gisèle prepared and delivered a brief to: “The Commission of Transport and the Environment of the National Assembly of Québec”
From 2006 to 2010 Gisèle never left the bedside of the Parc-Orford patient. Although her attention to this Orford file could have been described as a full time job, she took it on like a bump in the road.
There is no rest for the wicked. In 2006 a number of municipalities warned their residents to not use water from Lake Memphrémagog owing to the presence of cyanobacteria (or blue-green algae). There are more than 170,000 people who use this water source.
Gisèle immediately set up a basic surveillance network for cyanobacteria and forwarded the results to the Ministry of the Environment (Officially known as MDDEP). By 2007 a new surveillance team had been created and now had about 25 volunteer residents from different sections around the lake collecting information for the Ministry. Gisèle organized information meetings for citizens, the distribution of a brochure for residents in the drainage basin, offered courses on replanting trees, published information about soil erosion and reducing sources of phosphorus.
By 2008, phosphorus had become the bête noire for creating cyanobacteria. It is the presence of phosphorus that is the biggest culprit in this situation. It is encouraging that phosphorous readings between 1996 and 2011 have dropped, reflecting Gisèle’s efforts but she claims we still need significant improvements. Three Canadian sectors of the lake are still above MCI’s target threshold.
The cyanobacteria crisis threw light on Gisèle’s leadership when it came to dealing with this scourge. In 2010, the Ministry of the Environment asked MCI to submit a brief on the health of Québec lakes to the Parliamentary Commission of the Québec National Assembly as it pertains to cyanobacteria. Several recommendations put forth by Gisèle were retained by the government.
It was around about this time that Gisèle had a vision whereby MCI should and could offer a programme that would protect the natural environment across the Lake Memphremagog watershed. In the process she took the approach of voluntary conservation and selected help from conservation experts to present the programme. It was featured on our MCI site and reproduced in a brochure.
In just a couple of years the programme has borne fruit. One landowner has offered approximately 60 hectares of his property plus two other landowners have committed to a piece of their land on a total surface of approximately 120 hectares.
MCI also had success meeting with Memphrémagog MRC and 4 municipalities: Austin, Potton, Magog and Stanstead. So far, MCI and Austin have agreed to share a conservation project to produce an ecological profile of the natural areas in the municipality as well as the delimitation of the Millington wetland.
Additionally, MCI has worked with Magog in establishing an ecological link for wildlife between Mount Orford and Lake Memphremagog. On top of that, MCI has worked hand in hand with Magog to identify and value its natural areas.
Owing to Gisèle it appears that MCI is well on its way to establishing a healthy Lake Memphremagog watershed in Québec.
At the start I read a wonderful short paragraph written by Gordon Kohl. Now I would like to read a wonderful short paragraph written by our Directrice générale, Johanne Lavoie. It appears in the latest MCI bulletin and is the final paragraph of her excellent tribute to Gisèle. She wrote:
“Tenacity and environmental passion have marked her tenure. Thanks to her, MCI is now an indisputable environmental leader in Québec. Much to our delight, she is still on MCI’s Board of Directors. Thank you Gisèle!”
Gisèle - for myself, I would like to thank you for cheering me up when I’m driving on the highway. As an example, I could be on the way to the dentist and feeling grumpy. A car passing me displays on its back window the MCI sticker. All of a sudden I cheer up when I see that autocollant, it’s not faded, it’s not torn, it’s not a relic, it’s not just a memory - it’s very much alive and healthy. I cheer up and mutter to myself: “Thank you, Gisèle”.
Merci Gisèle !