M999.81.131 | Hydro-Québec's Calvary

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Drawing, cartoon
Hydro-Québec's Calvary
Serge Chapleau
1998, 20th century
Graphite on paper
43.1 x 35.6 cm
Gift of M. Serge Chapleau
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cartoon (19139) , Drawing (18637) , drawing (18379) , various themes (1105)
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Keys to History

"A visual "flash" that came to me during the big blackout..."

Serge Chapleau

  • What

    The storm that dumped 20 to 30 millimetres of freezing rain on southern Quebec in January 1998 wreaked havoc with Hydro-Quebec's transmission system and resulted in blackouts over a wide area served by the public utility. Pylons buckled under the weight of the ice and several major transmission lines went down, leaving people without light or heat. The event, which hit right in the coldest days of winter, recalled for many Quebec's religious tradition, represented here as the most difficult section of the stations of the cross.

  • Where

    Several parts of Montreal as well as a large swath of the area south of the St. Lawrence River, particularly the Eastern Townships, were hit hard by the blackout, the most serious in Quebec's history.

  • When

    January 5, 1998, will long be remembered as the day Quebec was hit by an ice storm that plunged a large part of it into darkness. It was not until February 8, or 35 days after the start of the crisis, quickly dubbed "the Ice Storm," that Hydro-Quebec finally restored power to the rest of its customers.

  • Who

    During the height of the event, more than 900,000 households - that is, one-third of hydro customers in Quebec - were deprived of electricity. To prevent the event from turning into a full-scale social crisis, Quebec's premier, Lucien Bouchard, called upon the solidarity of Quebeckers and threw his full support to André Caillé, the CEO of Hydro-Quebec, who appeared on TV regularly.