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One half at a time, Ottawa River gets heritage status

Ottawa Citizen
August 21, 2017

The Quebec side of the Ottawa River is finally just as historic as the Ontario side — but the new status doesn’t bring any new form of automatic protection.

The designation by Quebec Monday celebrates the river’s history as a superhighway and focus of human settlement in the thousands of years before roads.

It is one of North America’s most important flyways, providing habitat to more than 300 species of birds, and sustains more than 80 species at risk.

The Ontario side of the river became a Canadian Heritage River a year ago. Monday’s announcement makes the Quebec waters a provincial historic site — not just the north half of the waterway in the Ontario region, but 681 kilometres upstream from Lake Timiskaming and downstream from East Hawkesbury, sections entirely in Quebec.

The much smaller Rideau Waterway, a tributary of the Ottawa and not even a major one, became a Canadian Heritage River in 2000, despite being a river that can’t really run its full distance without engineering help. It was never an important transportation route like the Ottawa.

Ontario and the federal government gave heritage status to the Ontario part of the river last August. But Quebec didn’t join in immediately, suggesting that it preferred to use “Quebec tools” to celebrate heritage, not a federal system.

Here’s the official word from Quebec Culture and Communication Minister Luc Fortin: He said the river “occupies a decisive place in our history. It plays an important role in several spheres of activity, including transportation, tourism and the economy of the Outaouais region.”

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