Canadian veteran opposes stone quarry development after blasts aggravate PTSD symptoms

Émile Deschamps (left) and wife Diane Rioux (right) built a home in Kirkland Lake in 2012 in order to find some peace and tranquility after Deschamps was honourably discharged from the Canadian military. Diane Rioux / Provided

When Diane Rioux and her husband Émile Deschamps purchased a plot of land in Kirkland Lake in 2012, they were seeking some peace and tranquillity.

Deschamps, a Canadian veteran, served 22 years with the military, infantry, with the Royal 22 Regiment, the Airborne Regiment and the Paratrooper Company. Throughout his career, Deschamps was deployed to Somalia, Haiti, East Timor, Bosnia and Afghanistan before he was honourably discharged in 2011.

After building their home in Kirkland Lake, Rioux, Deschamps and their three children began their lives in the quiet town.

In 2014, Deschamps was diagnosed with moderate to severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of his time serving in the military.

According to a letter from Deschamp’s psychiatrist, Dr. Hugues Richard, provided to Global News, Deschamps’ PTSD causes hypervigilance, flashbacks, insomnia, anger and causes him to dissociate, making it difficult for family and friends to reach him to offer help.

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Rioux says her husband’s symptoms were exacerbated when blasting at two separate stone quarries less than two kilometres from their home began in 2014.

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According to Richard, after the blasts, Deschamps reacted with severe dissociation.

“It had brought him back to his military life as a soldier in theatres in Afghanistan. The noise and the vibrations from these explosions have since been the immediate triggers for his symptoms of dissociation: hypervigilance, flashbacks, and reoccurring symptoms of PTSD. With this, Émile becomes very emotional, angry and tense, and it is always very difficult for anyone to reach out to him when he is in that state,” the letter reads.

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Now, the family is facing another hurdle, as the town is currently in negotiations with Caldwell Construction Ltd., to begin developing a third stone quarry less than a kilometre from their home.

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The town planner of Kirkland Lake, Ashley Bilodeau, declined a request for an interview.

“As I understand it, the issue you reference may be or may become the focus of a legal dispute between contending parties. As such, it is inappropriate for the Corporation to comment on the issue at this time,” Bilodeau said in an email response.

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However, according to a local planning appeal tribunal (LPAT) decision on the matter issued on June 21, the tribunal found the stone quarry development proposed would be compatible with Deschamps’ and Rioux’s residential land use.

Rioux and Deschamps vehemently reject the LPAT decision and have voiced their concerns, saying blasts from a third stone quarry would have extreme adverse effects on Deschamps’ PTSD symptoms.

“It’s a second for a blast, but it’s a month in therapy for him. And it’s not just the blast, it’s the crushing and the use of machinery afterwards. It’s the whole ordeal,” Rioux said, speaking on her husband’s behalf to avoid aggravating his symptoms.

Rioux provided the LPAT with a copy of the letter from Deschamps’ psychiatrist, outlining the negative effect a third stone quarry would have on Deschamps’ mental state.

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“Having quarries that give off explosions on and off, close to his property, is really to be detrimental to his physical and mental health, and will have a profound negative impact on his family as he can get so emotional, angry, hypervigilant, and out-of-control when he dissociates. Therefore, it is imperative that Émile does not experience these explosions,” the letter reads.


However, the LPAT decision found that when determining if a development will have adverse effects, they have to consider the effects to people generally, and not each person with “his or her own specific conditions and vulnerabilities.”

“Land use planning differentiates and separates incompatible uses to prevent or minimize adverse effects on the persons occupying those land uses. The individual characteristics of the current occupants of a land use do not set the standard for establishing an adverse effect. The standard is more general and relates to an assessment of compatibility between two land uses such that persons generally may occupy those uses without adverse effects,” the LPAT decision reads.

Further, the tribunal says the proposed quarry will be oriented away from the dwelling, the blasts will last less than one second, the noise vibrations are well within the permitted limits and the blasting is expected to be as infrequent as once per year.

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Additionally, the tribunal says they will implement provisions to give Rioux and Deschamps notice before the blasts.

However, Rioux says even these additional measures are not helpful.

“Leaving the house makes him anxious, because he is wondering about what is going on at home, and staying, well, that aggravates his symptoms and it’s a month in therapy,” she said.

And, according to Rioux, it is not just Deschamps who is negatively affected. She says she and her three children have “no quality of life.”

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Rioux says their eldest son, now 20, has even decided to put going away to school on hold to help out.

“He put his life on hold just to give us a hand, he just finished high school and he said, ‘Mom I’m going to stay with you and put my studies on hold to help with Dad,’” she said through tears.

Rioux says their other children, aged 11 and 9, are also impacted.

“They see their father aggravating, and it takes him back to war countries like Afghanistan for example, and when they see their father like that, you have no idea how hard it is on the family when he is like that,” she said.

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Rioux says she would like to give her children a summer vacation, however, someone needs to be at home with her husband all the time, making it difficult to plan day trips or any fun activities for her children.

“They do suffer, it is a family matter,” she said.

Diane Rioux (left), and husband Émile Deschamps (right). Diane Rioux / Provided

When asked if they would consider moving away from the quarries, Rioux told Global News that the house she built with Deschamps is their home.

“We didn’t build this house from scratch just to sell it a few years down the line. It’s my husband’s retirement house. We are going to die in this house. I don’t feel like selling it because a town and a construction company don’t care about us,” she said.

Additionally, Rioux is worried if they tried to sell their home, they would ultimately lose money.

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“Who is going to buy a house near three quarries? We’re losing from beginning to end,” she said.

READ MORE: Former Mountie with PTSD sues Ottawa after multiple northern postings

A representative from the development company, Caldwell Construction Ltd., did not reply to a request for comment.

Rioux says the situation is urgent. With the stress of a possible third quarry being built near their home, Deschamps’ health has deteriorated.

Now, Rioux has taken matters into her own hands, advocating on his behalf to prevent the quarry from being built.

“Kirkland Lake is a huge township,” she said. “There are plenty of other places they could have sold property to Mr. Caldwell.”

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