L’Isle-aux-Allumettes is the western port of entry to Québec, and when crossing the Ottawa River from Ontario one can only be astonished by the “fantastically natural scenery”. Algonquin people were originally established on the Island with an aim of maintaining control of the Ottawa River. The indigenous population of the Island was quasi-exterminated by Iroquois in 1650 and Europeans were not established there before 1818. The main economic activity was logging or employment with The Hudson Bay Company. Today still, the Métis community is present and active and on the territory. The current municipality of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes is the result of the amalgamation of the villages of Chapeau, Desjardinsville, Demers-Centre and St. Joseph. Forestry is no longer the main source of employment on the Island, and now the main source is agriculture, and the business of tourism is on the rise.
The community of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes boasts a beautiful landscape surrounded by the waters of the Ottawa River. We are located on the border of Quebec and Ontario adjacent to a major centre for business and shopping: Pembroke Ontario. Residents and tourists enjoy the natural splendour of the area in all four seasons, including agriculture, boating, fishing, ice fishing, hiking and cycling. Allumette Island is a safe place to live, raise a family and age. The crime rate is low and it is quiet and peaceful. The people are friendly, respectful, family oriented, proud of our heritage, and willing to volunteer to help the community. Living here is affordable, as the price of housing, heating and taxes are low.
In this small community, the infrastructure lends itself to being an active community. This includes service clubs, two halls, a bilingual daycare, a French elementary school, an English elementary and secondary school, a public library, a Service Canada outlet, CLSC, Canada Post outlet, high speed internet, two churches, an indoor arena, bowling alley, parks, cycling and snowmobile trails, a waste transfer site, a bank, a bakery, stores, gas station and restaurants located in various locations on the Island. There are activities year-round for youth and retirees alike, facilitated by volunteer associations throughout the Island.
A senior’s residence has been built on L’Isle-aux-Allumettes to offer permanent residency to our elderly population.
L’Isle-aux-Allumettes is the most populated of the four Western municipalities that include Sheenboro, Chichester and Waltham. Cooperation among the municipalities is good in areas where it makes sense to share services, pool resources and unite for larger causes.
One of the main challenges for L’Isle-aux-Allumettes is economic. 345 out of 605 the total employed labour force 15 years and over (2006 Census) travel outside the province to work, and only 80 people report working in this municipality. It is a challenge to retain and train employable citizens because their job prospects are bleak. Attracting business and new residents is a challenge because much of the Island is designated agricultural green zone, with some of this land not sufficiently rich enough for agricultural development.
Infrastructure has its challenges too. Some areas are not well served by high-speed internet and cell phone service. There are frequent hydro outages and interruptions. The town of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes (Chapeau) lacks sidewalks, cross walks and updated park equipment. The hours of operation for services are limited, and there are not enough choices for restaurants and stores. The area has an abundance of natural resources to attract tourists, but no motel to accommodate them.
As it sits on the Western edge of Québec, L’Isle-aux-Allumettes is a long distance from the centre of Pontiac County, Campbell’s Bay where many services are located. Similarly, many residents access health care at the Pembroke Regional Hospital in Pembroke, Ontario, as the distance to the Pontiac Hospital Centre in Shawville is much greater. Some medical services, as well as driving licence schools and SAAQ are only available in Gatineau or Montréal, which are farther still. Transportation is a challenge for licensed drivers, but an even larger obstacle for non-licensed individuals for whom many important services are inaccessible.
Distance to Major Centres
- Campbell’s Bay : 50 km
- Shawville : 72 km
- Gatineau : 155 km
- Aéroport international d’Ottawa : 167 km
- Montréal : 355 km
Language is a challenge as the majority residents majority speak or know only English in a province where the official language is French. Some services have a bilingual component, although there are many, including government services that are available in French only. This is a barrier for some residents to access services. There are a number of either ‘English speaking only’ or ‘French speaking only’ residents, so activities, services and communication must be bilingual if we are going to accommodate all of our community members. Developing literacy in both languages is important for overall community harmony.
There are a number of service clubs and associations. However, there are still gaps in activities for young and old alike. The challenge is to coordinate activities within the municipality and among its neighbours to ensure all citizens lead active lives. Youth and seniors need and want a gathering place with more things for them to do in all four seasons, indoors and outdoors.
Anonymous quote from Doctor Wilbert Keon Secondary Student Survey, December 16, 2011