Fed-up Chelsea, Quebec citizens take protest to the streets

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by Lucy Scholey on March 24, 2011

They have unleashed their frustration at recent public meetings, but now Chelsea, Quebec residents are taking to the streets in what might be first public march through the village centre.

Businesses, local groups and residents are protesting what they say is a lack of transparency in their municipal government.

“People are being consistently shut out by the municipality,” says Mill Road resident Aden Seaton, who is helping organize the charge. “They have to let us in. They have to be transparent.”

Seaton organized the Mill Road “Poo Party” on March 12 to gather support against a planned sewage treatment plant in basically the residents’  front yard.

Now the Mill Road residents are joining with environmental group Action Chelsea for the Respect of the Environment (ACRE), plus other businesses and residents who want a greater voice in municipal issues.

Andrew Henry, president of ACRE, is also organizing the themed “Smart Water, Smart Waste” and “Work with Us” protest.

He says council needs to work with residents when it comes to making decisions on the controversial $14.4-million water and sewer system.

“Everything is being done in secret,” he says, purposely disregarding the Dec. 14 public meeting on water and sewer infrastructure. “To most people, it wasn’t a public consultation, it was a public unveiling of their plan.”

The protest comes after a rash of decisions at the March 14 meeting, before which council voted unanimously to uphold Robert Chaffers’s expulsion from a municipal committee and during which Mill Road residents learned a sewage treatment plant would be dumped in their neighbourhood.

Now decisions about water and sewage are looming, with a resolution on professional fees planned for April.

Henry cannot gauge how many people will attend the protest, but says numbers may include more than just Chelsea residents. People from the greater MRC des Collines region have been inquiring about the municipality’s issues.

Mayor Caryl Green says the decision-making process falls in line with provincial law.

“I don’t think there’s any difference to our approach than elsewhere in Quebec,” she says.

But she says council is considering other means of engaging the public in municipal decision-making. Green says she does not ever recall a public march against Chelsea council.

The protest group will meet in the parking lot of the Chelsea municipal building (100 Old Chelsea Road) at 9:30 a.m. March 26 and will march down Old Chelsea Road at 10 a.m. Henry encourages people to break out instruments, noisemakers and signs.