Madam Speaker, on February 26 of this year, I asked the Minister of National Defence a question in the House about Lake Saint-Pierre. The answer did not satisfy me, nor did it satisfy those who live on the shores of this body of water and even use it to earn their living.
Lake Saint-Pierre is one of the lakes which purify the St. Lawrence River. It purifies the water from the Great Lakes, from cities such as Montreal, and from tributaries and various rivers. UNESCO has recognized Lake Saint-Pierre as a world reserve.
The lake is extremely rich in flora and fauna. There are professional fishers and hunters. For fifty years now, the Canadian army has been firing shells into Lake Saint-Pierre, for training purposes I believe.
More than 40% of the southern section of Lac Saint-Pierre, some 22 kilometres starting with the channel, belongs to the Canadian Forces. The lake has been polluted by some 300,000 shells, 8,000 to 10,000 of which are potentially dangerous. They are moved around by the ice in the lake.
They travel so far that every year helicopters scan both shores of the St. Lawrence right up to Île d'Orléans to try to recover shells that had been carried away by the ice. Even last year, a little girl found one, which most fortunately was disarmed.
What I am asking of the minister, on behalf of the users of Lac Saint-Pierre, is that it be restored to a safe condition, so that it can again be used as it ought to be. It is nonsensical to say that it cannot be cleared because there are no known techniques for doing so. This is not true. There are techniques known at this time for clearing the lake, and even people prepared to bid on cleaning up the lake and removing the potentially dangerous shells in and around it.
I am therefore calling upon the minister to promptly review the Lac Saint-Pierre situation. It is extremely important for the flora, the fauna and the users of the lake, both those who make a living from it and the tourists. It is a huge tourist attraction, because it is a large lake, some fifty kilometres in length and some twenty wide, stretching from Trois-Rivières to the islands at Sorel.
We are told it would be too costly. However, if the Canadian forces spend some $200 million on shells they say are no longer used, I think we could perhaps cut part of this money and take some $40 million a year to clean up this body of water. This is what I am asking the minister.
The minister said “Yes, eventually. We are studying and perhaps”. I say to the minister that this needs to be done urgently. Every year the ice carries shells, and they are found along the shore of the St. Lawrence. Action must be taken before something dramatic happens. There has already been loss of life. It could be even more serious, because some of these shells could be armed just by fishing gear.
I do not want to cause anyone to panic, but Lac Saint-Pierre has to be cleaned up. The Canadian forces, responsible for its pollution, have to do their job as user-payer. Companies are asked to clean up the sites they have polluted, but the Canadian forces have been polluting this lake for 50 years.
I think urgent that the Minister of National Defence ask the Canadian forces to return the body of water to the state the users want it in.