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Shale Gas Fracking on Île Anticosti, Quebec, Canada


The government of the province of Québec has approved the exploration of shale gas and oil exploration activities on the province’s largest island, l’île Anticosti. The island is a refuge for a diversity of offshore aquatic life as well endemic and endangered terrestrial flora and fauna (e.g. the Atlantic Salmon). Bison, caribou, Red Fox, River Otter, elk, mink, moose and other terrestrial mammals as well as grey seals and various species of whale live on or around Anticosti. The reefs off the island are among the most ecologically sensitive in the St. Lawrence seaway.

Currently, the project is in the exploratory phase. The government of Québec, the company Petrolia and their partners have together invested more than $115 million Canadian dollars in exploring the potential for petroleum extraction beneath the soils of the island. Meanwhile, the various political parties in the province have been engaging themselves to determine the total expected oil revenue and number of new jobs that exploration will add to the Québec economy. This speculation proceeds despite the fact that no exact study has indicated a precise location for the supposed oil reserves, with only preliminary studies indicating the presence of petrol on the island. Far less attention has been devoted to determining the consequences of hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination. Additionally, clear-cutting of 150km of open forest on the border of the Grand-Lac-Salé Ecological Reserve will be carried out in the exploring for petroleum reserves; The government will declare by Spring, 2015 whether they will fully authorise petroleum exploration on the island. The island is home to around 250 people, mostly concentrated in the coastal village of Port-Menier.

In 2007, the oil exploration enterprise Junex Inc. acquired exploration rights to approximately 100,000 ha on Anticosti, which itself is approximately 8,000km2. As much as 12,000 drilling shafts are needed on the island, as well as infrastructure for the removal of waste material, lorry transport, construction of pipelines, and a new port for exporting the resource.

The people of Québec have been calling the petroleum explorations on the island as the “le vol du siècle” or “the theft of the century”. Residents of the island are particularly concerned by the lack of any independent environmental assessment before petroleum exploration activities have commenced. In addition to affecting sensitive ecological systems, residents are concerned about the impacts of petroleum operations on groundwater contamination, how this may affect human health and way of life. There is also concern that oil spills around the island would be disastrous both for the Saint Lawrence ecosystem, but also for a large part of the Atlantic provinces. They feel their voices are not being heard and specifically that they feel they are not being consulted by government intentions regarding extractive activities.

As far as legal measures are concerned, Bill 37 was proposed in the Québec National Assembly on May 15th, 2013 to impose a 5 year moratorium on shale gas exploration and development projects throughout the territory of 52 municipalities in the St. Lawrence lowlands (including Anticosti) in order to protect the health and safety of all residents of the province and to preserve the quality of the environment. The bill followed a previous moratorium established by the Québec Liberal Party on the 16th of March, 2011 which prohibited hydraulic fracturing activities other than for scientific research purposes.

However, Bill 37 was tabled, and exploration activities were heralded by the PQ government in mid-February, 2014. The PQ pledged $115 million to finance drilling exploration in two separate joint ventures for rights to 50% of the licenses and 60% of commercial profit.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Shale Gas Fracking on Île Anticosti, Quebec, Canada
State or province:Québec
Location of conflict:Île Anticosti
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Shale gas fracking
Specific commodities:Natural Gas
Crude oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

According to reports (1), Petrolia plans to test a new fracking techology which entails injecting natural gas instead of water into the ground to push crude oil to the surface

Level of Investment for the conflictive project115,000,000 or more
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:250 (inhabitants of the island)
Start of the conflict:18/02/2014
Company names or state enterprises:Petrolia Incorporated from Canada
Corridor Resources from Canada
Maurel et Prom from France
Junex Incorporated from Canada
St-Aubin E&P from France
Relevant government actors:(Government related unions / parties) : Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux (CSN); Centrale des Syndicats du Québec (CSQ); Centrale des Syndicats Démocratiques (CSD); Québec Solidaire
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Non-governmental organisations : Équiterre; Greenpeace; l’Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique; David Suzuki Foundation; Nature Québec; AVAAZ
Other groups : Opponents of hydraulic fracking on the Gaspé peninsula and the Île-de-la-Madeleine, and members of First Nations groups; Idle-No-More movement

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Oil spills, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:An independent strategic environmental assessment is required. Ensuring the sustainable future of Anticosti Island, future generations of Québec and global welfare necessitates the provincial government declaring a moratorium of oil and gas exploration on Anticosti
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The provincial governement has yet to make a decision as to whether to authorise extraction activity; there was a changeover of government from the Parti Québecois (PQ) (who had supported exploration) to the Québec Liberal Party which has maintained the position to allow prospecting for oil and gas on the island.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Bill 37

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Council of Canadians - Fracking Across Canada

QC Shale Gas Debate

Une coalition veut un large debat public avant tout forage

Exploration petrolière au Québec

Shale Gas exploration-Anticosti


Main information source on the conflict

Anticosti Petroleum exploration (in French)

Le piège du pétrole québécois

Citizens consultation (in French)

Anticosti: un pari-risqué (en français)

At least 12,000 petroleum wells to be tapped on Anticosti (in French)

Energy dilemma encapsulated on tiny Quebec isle

Avaaz petition

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Vidéo: le film entier disponible sur Youtube / entire film on Youtube (in French)

Video documentary

Other documents

Area open for oil and gas exploration Source: Corridor Resources

Initial exploration on Anticosti Source: LeDevoir

Shipwreck on Anticosti Source:

Protest against shale gas exploration in Québec Source:

Meta information

Contributor:Vijay Kolinjivadi, McGill University, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1554



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