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The tiny Québec village of Ristigouche-Sud-Est, population 168, is crowdfunding to pay for the defence of its anti-fracking by-law, intended to protect municipal drinking water.

Ristigouche is reportedly one of more than 70 Québec municipalities that have adopted anti-fracking bylaws to protect local drinking water from pollution. The bylaw prevents fracking within 2 km of municipal wells.

In July, the Québec Environment Ministry brought in a new regulation on oil and gas drilling near waterways, establishing a 500-metre protected perimeter around potable water sources. (Règlement sur le prélèvement des eaux et leur protection). This will prevent the province from issuing future fracking permits within 500 metres of such drinking water sources.

However, the province had already granted fracking permits to Gastem, a Quebec-based oil and gas exploration and development company, near the Ristigouche drinking water wells. Gastem launched a $1.5 million lawsuit against the tiny village because of the bylaw.

Ristigouche turned to the Internet for help. So far, its crowdfunding campaign, Solidarite Ristigouche has raised more than $85,000 to fund its defence of the lawsuit. A benefit concert is planned; two young women swam 20 km to raise funds for the defence, and groups such as unions and the Council of Canadians have chipped in. Other Québec municipalities are also offering their support, while criticizing the provincial government, which created the problem by authorizing the fracking, close to the municipal wells, in the first place. The province is doing nothing to help Restigouche defend the lawsuit.

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