45-year-old scars in Meech Creek Valley
Updated: Oct 30, 2020
It’s been 45 years since the Quebec government expropriated the Miquets’ Pine Road home in the Meech Creek Valley, and today the only signs of life are weeds growing from the gutters, moss growing on the shingles, a chipmunk skittering across the porch and a bird nest atop an open window.
Between 1966, when the Miquet family moved in, and 1981, when they moved out after renting the home following the expropriation, the family of five filled that red brick, five bedroom farmhouse with life.
Gatineau Hills resident Claire Miquet, who was 13 years old during the expropriation, remembers the vibrant community in the valley, playing with siblings and friends in the home and fixing up old farm structures on the two-acre property for use as playhouses.
“It was a dream home,” she said. “It’s our childhood heaven. It’s our bucolic valley.”
The Miquets were one out of 42 families – including five farms – to be served notices
from the Société d’aménagement de l’Outaouais that their property would be expropriated for the creation of a zoo that never came to be.
“Obviously it was a heartbreak for the whole family,” Jean Miquet, Claire’s father
said, who was 47 at the time of expropriation.
According to The Low Down’s archive, the Gatineau Zoological Garden was a $54,000,000 joint undertaking of the SAO – a provincial economic development body active until 1993 – and the National Capital Commission. In April 1975, 47 expropriation notices were filed to obtain 1,461 acres of land for the zoo, which would feature both Canadian and exotic animals, with 50 employees and an additional 150 part-time workers during the summer.
“It was a whole community that was destroyed. So it was a gross injustice. It destroyed a community and there are deep wounds for everybody. You talk to any of the previous owners here, there are very deep wounds. So it was a trauma and life-uprooting event that no one got over,” Claire said.
Following the expropriation, her parents divorced. Her mother moved into a home
across Pine Road and her father moved closer to where he worked as a teacher at Carleton University.
When the SAO dissolved in 1993, the land was transferred to the Communauté Urbaine de l’Outaouais, which sold it in 1993 to the NCC. It, in turn, added the
land to Gatineau Park.
Jean said he offered to buy the home back in the late-’80s, but was told he wouldn’t be given priority if the SAO decided to sell the land to private buyers.
In a recent response to questions about the expropriation and the Miquet home, NCC strategic communications advisor Cédric Pelletier emailed The Low Down that the Miquets’ home would need work to bring it in compliance with building codes.
“The plans for that property are not decided,” he added.
All doors and first floor windows are boarded up. The roof over the front porch and the porch itself are collapsing. An orange plastic fence encircling the home and no trespassing signs lay on the ground where graffiti taggers have stepped onto the porch to spray paint the brick.
The NCC’s draft Gatineau Park Master Plan, which is up for approval in January 2021,
includes plans for the Meech Creek Valley. These include: maintaining a cultural experience based on the agricultural and rural landscape, interpretive signage and information, “protect the rural landscape,” authorized hay cutting and using a section of Chemin Cross Loop for skiing, biking and walking.
“For many years, the NCC has been clear about its objective to restore the lands to their natural state in Gatineau Park, when residential buildings have reached the end of their lifecycle or when their maintenance is no longer economically viable,”
“[The NCC] approached me [earlier this year],” Claire said. “They were wondering what to do with this house.”
When asked what she wants to see happen to her childhood home, Claire said: “Let it go back to nature. Take it all down. They didn’t respect it for 30 years, don’t start now. It’s a tear-down. Don’t bring the private sector here just to make the whole valley a mess, let it go back to nature.”
Drive along Chemin Cross Loop and look beyond the beautiful landscape, rolling hay
fields, and picturesque, red-covered bridge. Drivers will see remnants of the community that was: old driveways that used to lead to family homes, an old silo and concrete building foundations. To those that know the local history, these serve as stark and sometimes painful reminders of a once-vibrant rural community that was expropriated for nothing.