From expropriation to resettlement

Climate change affects us more and more. More frequent and significant coastal erosions and floods threaten or have already destroyed many infrastructures, homes and living environments in Quebec and Canada. We have to adapt!

Among all the possible adaptation measures, the physical displacement of residential, industrial or other environments will become inevitable, and will sometimes even prove less costly than the other measures.

Due to climate change, measures to relocate inhabited areas are already being implemented in several places around the world. In Quebec, the municipality of Longue-Rive, in Haute-Côte-Nord, is planning the relocation of a dozen residences that are at risk of being threatened by coastal erosion over the next few years. This situation is one of the multiple impacts predicted by the Quebec government in its 2013-2020 government strategy for adaptation to climate change.

Despite the efforts of governments in identifying the impacts and in planning adaptation measures to climate change, the fact remains that we are not ready to adequately displace the populations and environments affected by climate change. .

In fact, in Quebec and in Canada, it is expropriation and not resettlement that is framed by law. These define the requirements and obligations of the expropriated party and the expropriator. This legal framework is essentially administrative and economic.

These laws therefore regulate only the economic portion of the expropriation, but leave all the other aspects: psychological, social, human. It is for this reason, in our opinion, that expropriation as practiced in Quebec and in Canada generates significant social, psychological and human consequences that could be avoided with a good resettlement plan.

Forillon Park, Mirabel airport, the Radio-Canada tower and, closer to us, the Turcot interchange, these Quebec experiences of community expropriation are not happy! The hidden costs of these expropriations are enormous. In fact, uprooting and difficulties in adapting to the new living environment can lead to a drop in living standards, stress and in some dramatic cases, depression and suicides. These repercussions have costs for the people involved and for society.

However, for almost 30 years, internationally recognized standards, detailed methods and tools, tested and refined by experience, have existed which frame the resettlement of individuals and communities. These means are applied in the
framework of infrastructure projects financed by multilateral agencies, banks, private investment funds, etc.

These rules and practices aim to restore, if not improve, the standard of living of displaced persons, the active and informed participation of the stakeholders affected by this resettlement, including, of course, primarily the affected families, as well as a better social acceptability of resettlement. When properly applied, these standards can eliminate or greatly reduce the negative consequences of relocation.

It is time for Quebec to look at these international standards and experiences to review the legislative and institutional framework for expropriation in order to properly use resettlement as an important measure of adaptation to climate change.

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