Magdalen Islanders take in scope of coastal erosion after massive storm

As Quebecers marched through the streets of nearly a dozen cities to call attention to climate change, citizens on the Magdalen Islands rolled up their sleeves to clean up the debris left by last week's storm.

Citizens on the archipelago called to action to clean up debris and reflect on impact of climate change

High waves during a massive storm in November ate away at the large sections of the coastline on the Magdalen Islands. (Luc Paradis/Radio-Canada)

As thousands of Quebecers marched through city streets on Saturday to mark the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland, citizens on the Magdalen Islands spent the day cleaning up debris on the archipelago's many beaches.

The call to action was organized by the citizens' group Un coup de main pour la nature, in an effort to call attention to the coastal erosion that is affecting the Magdalen Islands.

Co-organizer Bruno Savary said the massive storm that paralyzed the region last month left behind a ton of debris. High waves also ate away at much of the coastline.

"Certain beaches were completely wiped clean. The sand dunes are almost completely gone," said Savary.

Ironically, the storm happened just days after a meeting with different stakeholders on the Islands, where discussions turned to the future of its ecosystem.

'Catastrophic scenario' comes true

Savary said participants looked at the different scenarios the community should prepare for over the next decade, including the worst case scenario.

"Two days later, the catastrophic scenario came true with the storm," he said.

Telecommunications lines were ruptured, telephone poles were broken and a power outage affected Hydro-Quebec customers for more than 48 hours, in some cases.

The erosion caused by the storm was "almost record-breaking," Savary said.

"I think it's clear that residents were affected by the sight."

With washed up logs, garbage and plastics of all kinds, the organization decided to turn to residents to clean up the mess.

Around 300 people braved the cold in Quebec City on Saturday to demand government action to fight climate change. (Fanny Samson/Radio-Canada)

Savary said it was also a good opportunity for parents to speak to their children about coastal erosion and the impact of climate change on their environment.

"To get together, it gives you that extra energy and motivation to get moving."

Thousands march for climate

Meanwhile thousands of people gathered on the streets of Montreal, Quebec City, and Alma, among others, to mark the COP-24 UN meeting, which runs from Dec. 2 to Dec. 14.

"The fight against climate change has become a very important citizens' movement," said Karel Mayrand, from the David Suzuki Foundation. 

An estimated 4,000 people gathered at Montreal's Place des Festivals, demanding that climate policies respect the targets set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a 45 per cent drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 2010 levels.

With files from Radio-Canada