Court File Number: T-452-06
IN THE FEDERAL COURT OF CANADA
LES AMIS DE LA RIVIÈRE KIPAWA incorporated as
1162209036 QUEBEC INC.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF CANADA and
THE MINSTER OF PUBLIC WORKS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES CANADA,
THE MINISTER OF FISHERIES AND OCEANS, THE MINISTER OF TRANSPORT,
and DAVID S. LAFLAMME CONSTRUCTION INC.
AFFIDAVIT OF JAMES F. COFFEY
I, James Frederick Coffey of Davidson, Pontiac County, Province of Quebec, MAKE
OATH AND SAY, as follows:
1. I live at # 3 Ch. Esprit in Davidson, in the Province of Quebec and have lived at
this address for at 14 years.
2. I am an internationally known adventure tourism operator. I specialize in
whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, river rescue, wilderness first aid and water
safety. Attached hereto as Exhibit “A” is a true copy of my resume.
3. I have been professionally involved in the whitewater recreation and adventure
tourism industry since 1984, working as a safety kayaker, kayak instructor, canoe
guide, canoe instructor, rafting guide, swiftwater rescue instructor, company
manager and company director/owner. Since 1985 The“whitewater based”
adventure travel industry has provided me with full time world wide employment
until the present.
4. I first gained familiarity with the Kipawa River seventeen years ago and its tourism
potential, recreational value and environmental significance in 1987. My first
experience was on a private trip. I was managing a rafting company and was
approached to organize a raft to run the river with the idea of assessing its
commercial potential. It was one of the first times a raft had run the river, and
certainly the first time a commercial outfitter had scoped it out for its commercial
viability. Back then, the river was more commonly known to kayakers as a Portage
at Le Grande Chutes was formidable/impassible with a raft at that time. Although
I did not return to the Kipawa River for many years my most significant lasting
memory of that first journey was running the river at Laniel. That rapid stood out
in particular contributing to the river’s “commercial” value.
5. I currently own and operate Esprit Rafting Adventures Inc. (“Esprit”), incorporated
under the laws of Canada since October 2 1996 (#330168-9). Esprit operates
whitewater based adventure tours on a variety of rivers in Eastern Canada.
6. I am the Director and owner of Esprit Whitewater Worldwide. Currently Esprit
Whitewater Worldwide is under the same incorporation which sells and operates
whitewater based adventure tours in Canada, the USA, Mexico, Costa Rica,
Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and India.
7. I am the Director of the Whitewater Intensive Leadership Development School.
(“W.I.L.D.”) which is a world renowned school for whitewater guide training
which provides elite level training in 6 disciplines in Canada, the USA and
Mexico. The disciplines of instruction include whitewater rafting, canoeing,
kayaking, riverboarding, swiftwater rescue and wilderness first aid. Graduates
receive internationally recognized certification in each discipline. More
importantly they receive experience and decision making skills to assess and
manage risk. The goal is to for them to develop into professional guides who take
on the responsibility of safeguarding the lives and property of their guests. These
skills are essential to their career as guides, managers and company owners if they
are so inclined to continue in the industry.
8. I am the Director of Rescue 3 Northeast, and an Instructor Trainer with Rescue 3
International. Rescue 3 International (based in Elk Grove California) has been the
world’s leading provider of Swiftwater Rescue Training since its inception in
1979. Rescue 3 International conducts courses in over 26 countries world wide.
Swiftwater rescue training was born from the shocking number of professional
rescue personnel suffering injuries/fatalities in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. Rescue
in this medium was not very sophisticated back then. Since that time Rescue 3 and
its cadre of instructors worldwide have dedicated years of training and instruction
to emphasis the need for “successful” rescue, where at least the rescue team returns
intact. To reach the goal of successful rescue, Rescue 3, and its instructors, place
emphasis on risk analysis and scene safety. Once this analysis is complete then
and only then is the scene declared a viable rescue site. Previously trouble
occurred when rescue personnel would arrive on scene and “react” without a
proper risk assessment of the accident site. I spend a considerable amount of my
time and effort teaching user groups (my clients) how to make site assessments and
then use specialized techniques to execute the rescue. Courses such as the
Swiftwater First Responder, Swiftwater Rescue Technician, and Advanced
Swiftwater Rescue Technician are recognized by the National Fire Protection
Association (NFPA). These courses are considered the minimum standard for
professional whitewater guides and are very popular with private/recreational river
users. My expertise in whitewater navigation safety and training is sought out by
various private and government organizations and agencies. I provide rescue
training specifically related to whitewater safety for a wide base of clients
including the following: The Ottawa Fire Service, Madawaska Kanu Centre,
Outward Bound Schools, National Outdoor Leadership Schools (NOLS),
Dartmouth University, Mc Master University, Canadian Forces Base Petawawa.,
Water Survey Canada, Environment Canada, as well as public enrollment and
contract courses for EMS, Fire, Search and Rescue, as well as the commercial and
private whitewater recreation sector.
9. I work as a consultant for some of the world’s most well-known international
whitewater adventure travel companies including Expediciones Chile and Earth
River Expeditions. My involvement with them encompasses product development,
risk management and guide training.
10. Gougeon Insurance (“Gougeon”) is one of the few insurance providers in Canada
that provides liability insurance coverage to the majority of commercial river
outfitters nationwide. I have been recognized by Gougeon as "a leader in the
whitewater industry, an expert in whitewater safety, swiftwater rescue and
adventure tour risk management."
11. I am registered as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMTB # B1467037) with
the NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians) The National
Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians is an American Organization that
provides testing and accredation for Emergency Medical Personnel in
approximately 40 of the 50 states. The National Registry of Emergency Medical
Technicians (NREMT) was first established in 1970. The NREMT mission is to
provide a valid, uniform process to assess the knowledge and skills required for
competent practice required by emergency medical professionals throughout their
careers and by maintaining a registry of those with valid certification status. The
organization has established, implemented and maintained uniform requirements
for the certification and recertification of emergency medical technicians. The
NREMT has also been involved in numerous national projects (USA) and its staff
participates on major national (USA) committees, playing an active part in the
ever-continuing process of improving standards of emergency medical services
12. My experience with whitewater navigation includes being the captain of 4
Canadian Rafting Championship teams and I have represented Canada with 4 top
10 finishes at the World Rafting Championships in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998.
13. My company, Esprit, has been operating whitewater rafting tours on the Kipawa
River since 1995. In 2005 my operation took over 200 people down the Kipawa
River at Laniel. This operation includes 12 river staff plus 3 support staff for a
team of 15 employees. On that particular weekend we managed only 56 people
over the same time period on the Ottawa River. In total Esprit has taken
approximately 500 people down the Kipawa River, 40% of which were in 2005.
14. I am intimately familiar with safety considerations, risk management, logistic
issues, economic loss and potential impact that the proposed modifications to the
water control structure at Laniel will likely impose on the adventure tourism
industry and will address each of these factors below.
15. The International Scale of River Difficulty is a common and internationally used
system to rate the level of risk and difficulty of moving water on a sliding scale
from least difficult to most difficult. Class I is the least difficult and characterized
by gentle moving water, moving sequentially up to Class VI which is the most
difficult, hazardous and extreme. Attached hereto as Exhibit “B” to my Affidavit
are descriptions of the International Scale of Difficulty for Running Rapids from
various sources such as the American Canoe Association, Outward Bound and
American Whitewater. The Kipawa River at Laniel and through the spillway can
be considered a Class III rapid on the scale between I and VI. Class III, such as
the section of whitewater in question would be best defined as “challenging.” This
means a moderate amount of skill and familiarity would be necessary to navigate
the spillway successfully. With proper equipment, some skill, knowledge and or
guidance Class III is considered to be reasonable to navigate with little chance of
major upset or loss. Class III is considered ideal for recreational and commercial
activities as it presents challenge, excitement and rewards to participants with a
minimal likelihood of upset. In the event of upset the likelihood of injury or
serious loss is minimal. To the untrained eye, Class III presents a high perception
of risk where in fact a low level of actual risk exists.
16. As water moves down a grade it’s movement is defined by the laws of physics.
There is no question that moving water is powerful, persistent, and predictable.
The predictability allows users to choose a route to navigate free of hazards and
dangers (called scouting) and upon descending the chosen route remain free of
hazards and dangers. Some of the more common hazards and dangers include;
strainers (trees or other obstacles that let water pass through them but entrap water
craft and or their personnel), undercut rocks and or sieves, retentive
holes/hydraulics. None of these common river hazards exist at Laniel. On the
contrary, the rapid has a flatwater approach (allowing the paddler ample time to
position themselves above the rapid), a high ceiling (so there is no height
restriction) a sufficient flow rate (so as not to be too vertical to make contact with
the bottom of the control structure) large, deep standing waves with no rocks or
obstructions to hit in the event of capsize or passenger overboard) and a calm pool
for the collection of swimmers and lost equipment in the unusual event of upset.
I can see no greater hazard to participants while passing through the water control
structure at Laniel than passing under any bridge or over crossing on any
17. From a commercial outfitters perspective the passage of the Kipawa River at
Laniel poses very little risk to those descending provided they have a minimal
amount of skill/guidance and are using basic safety equipment. As outlined above
there are no common river hazards. The section is considered even more secure
from a commercial stand point as river navigators have a clear view of the rapid
from above the control structure to signal that the passage is clear and available for
the next craft to descend. I believe the record speaks for itself. Literally 1000’s of
canoeists, kayakers and rafters have passed successfully through this rapid and to
the best of my recollection and that of others I have spoken with there is no
memory of injury or loss suffered at this location.
18. Currently the practice of commercial whitewater operators, including Esprit, is to
base themselves at the public launching point on Lake Kipawa which includes
ample secure parking. From here they meet their guests upon their arrival at
Laniel, provide a safety orientation briefing, sign participation agreement forms,
provide and don safety equipment, provide on water practice and training, descend
the rapid at Laniel and then continue downstream.
19. In the event the rapid at Laniel is no longer viable or becomes unsafe to run the
logistics would be complicated as follows. Guests upon their arrival would receive
a safety orientation briefing, sign participation agreement forms, be provided and
don safety equipment, be provided on water practice and training, then returned to
shore. They would then pick up and carry rafts 500m across a major highway,
down a steep trail that currently does not exist then continue downstream below
the Laniel Dam. Having large groups of rafters cross a public highway then make
a steep descent to the river where no trail currently exists presents a higher
probability of injury from either vehicle traffic, pedestrian collision or slips and
falls on the banks of the river than from the descent of the rapid.
20. In 2005 Esprit operated two 5 hour trips per day on both Saturday and Sunday of
the Kipawa River Rally. Rendering the Laniel waterway unnavigable would
complicate the logistics, delay the operation and diminish the trip quality. This
would not support or contribute to the success of commercial operators promoting
rafting on the Kipawa River. In the event that running the river at Laniel was
made impassable or unsafe commercial outfitters would have to reconsider the
viability of the excursion starting from Laniel. Eliminating this rapid would
require outfitters to reassess the complicated logistics and perhaps seek an
alternative launch point downstream after a flatwater section above Buttonhook
rapid. The logistical changes, highway hazard and other access to the river may
require a re-evaluation of the value of running the upper section and potentially
eliminating the running of two other significant rapids, that being the rapid called
Rock n’Roll, followed by Tumbling Dice. At present, the easy access permits two
full runs of the river on one day right now with the easy and quick start of running
the dam. Preventing river navigation at the dam may mean starting river trips at the
end of the flatwater above the Buttonhook Rapid. This scenario might be the next
best commercial solution but there is no public launch point at the end of the
flatwater and, in my opinion, would drastically curtail the duration and diminish
the quality of the trip. In the face of a deteriorated whitewater experience
operators would have to reconsider their pricing and marketing of the river trip as
an altered program and whether running rafting trips on the Kipawa would
continue to be economically feasible at all.
21. In 1997 Esprit took a handful of commercial rafters down the Kipawa River. At the
time, the company’s gross revenue was less than $1000. In 2005 more than 200
rafters participated with Esprit during the Kipawa River Rally and the resulting in
gross revenue was in excess of $20 000. To further exemplify the business
potential of adventure tourism Esprit’s revenues from the time it began running to
the present, are telling. Founded in 1992 Esprit grossed $50 000 in its fledgling
year. In 2005 Esprit grossed more than $1,000,000.00 in revenues from its overall
operations. Esprit employs more than 35 people, including guides, safety
kayakers, kitchen staff, office workers and other personnel required to run a
whitewater adventure business.
22. The Kipawa River is currently one of the premier whitewater rafting rivers in
Canada. It holds as yet untapped financial potential for current operators as well as
future operators in sustainable eco-tourism for the area. Diminishing navigation on
the Kipawa will diminish the whitewater experience and will not attract tourism to
the area but hamper it. A safe runnable channel at Laniel, as currently exists, will
support the growth of whitewater adventure tourism on the Kipawa and at Laniel.
Rafting clientele, from my experience includes both local participants as well as
travelers who come due to the river’s favourable reputation. For the local clientele
there is no other form of commercial whitewater recreation within a 350km radius
of Laniel. For those traveling distances to the Kipawa the loss of the rapid at
Laniel would be devastating. More than 50% of Esprit’s bookings are repeat
group organizers. In my opinion, they will likely not return for a reduced and
inferior product if the run of the spillway is eliminated.
23. The experience currently offered to navigators of the Kipawa River can be
described as follows. Although currently not as popular as the Ottawa River or
Riviere Rouge, the Kipawa has currently surpassed in both user days and revenues
Esprit’s operations on the Petawawa, Gatineau and Magnetawan Rivers. There are
many aspects that render the Kipawa what can be considered a “World Class”
whitewater destination. This includes the quality of its rapids (class 2 to 4+), its
spectacular “Canadiana” scenery, the majesty of the Grande Chute waterfall and
the relatively pristine nature of its shoreline. Part of what renders this whitewater
navigation experience so spectacular is that the river trip starts and finishes with
dramatic and different rapids. In other words, it is “book ended” by a spectacular
start and a dramatic finish. The running of the river at Laniel, as previously
mentioned, is not technically challenging, overtly hazardous or dangerous but it is
incredibly fun and exciting for everyone who has experienced it. Many clients of
Esprit described it as the highlight of their trip. As the first rapid it gives them
some enthusiasm and adrenaline for what lies ahead.
24. The rest of the river trip occupies approximately 4 hours. During the next 4 hours
navigators run a series of other rapids, all of which are more physically hazardous
and dangerous than but, for most, not as memorable as the first, gradient drop at
Laniel. The trip then features a long and continuous rapid and spectacular finish at
a rapid called Hollywood. This is a challenging and potentially dangerous rapid as
it features exposed rocks and hydraulic “holes” that makes an equally fun, exciting
and rewarding finish. The excursion abruptly ends after “Hollywood Rapid”
where the Kipawa River joins into lake Temiskamingue. With a spectacular start
and spectacular finish, what lies in between complements the entire river
experience. Eliminating one “book-end” necessarily impacts negatively on the
entire experience. Knowledgeable rafting customers search for whitewater
experiences having a spectacular start and finish. A “book ended” river is ideal,
rare, memorable to customers and its value is beyond measure. One of the lasting
results I see among return clients of whitewater rafting, is a renewed or newly
acquired appreciation of our lakes, rivers, heritage, culture and the environment.
These excursions are as much about stewardship for our natural, wild and scenic
areas and their importance as they are about splashing and crashing. Inhibiting this
stewardship, devaluing the product, diminishing business, and complicating the
logistics under the false pretenses of “hazards and dangers” (that in my opinion are
miniscule or non existent) is simply an uneducated assumption about the risks
attendant to running a Class III rapid, and is detrimental and wrong. Refurbishing
the dam structure at Laniel in a manner that supports the historical navigation of
the Kipawa River at Laniel will support ongoing recreational whitewater eco-
tourism to this area.
25. I have reviewed the letter dated June 15, 2005 from consultant firm Tecsult Inc.
(“Tecsult”), signed by Pierre Tremblay, addressed to Robert Laporte of Public
Works and Government Services Canada (“Public Works”). This letter contains, in
my opinion, an unsupported assumption that whitewater river running is
“extreme.” Certainly running rapids at the Class V level of difficulty can be
considered an “extreme” sport, however as can be seen from my explanation
above, the level of difficult of the spillway of the Laniel Dam presents only a Class
III level rapid. It is not “extreme.” Other rapids along the river are more
challenging and dangerous, such as Rock n’ Roll, Buttonhook, Zipper and
Hollywood. They are all Class IV rapids. The spillway at Laniel provides
challenging but not extreme or dangerous conditions. The Tecsult letter contains
no analysis or comprehension of relative difficulty of whitewater navigation,
current river navigation in whitewater and the relatively safe practice of running
whitewater practices by open canoeists, kayakers and rafters in whitewater rivers.
This Tecsult letter, inexplicably, ignores decades of safe navigation at Laniel and
contains no valid, properly researched or any logical reason why the decades old
safe practice of navigation of the Kipawa River should be eliminated. It
apparently wrongly assumes that the practice never existed. Further I am advised
by Doug Skeggs and do verily believe that the author of the Tecsult letter when
offered video and other evidence to establish the history of safe navigation at this
site, the author specifically refused to accept any such evidence or consider it in
expressing an opinion to Public Works that navigation at this location is not
possible. Attached hereto as Exhibit “C” is a true copy of the letter dated June 15,
2005 that I have reviewed.
26. I swear this Affidavit for purposes of the Application for Judicial Review brought
by the Applicant’s herein and for no other or improper purpose.
SWORN before me in the City of Ottawa in
the Province of Ontario on this ___ day of )
Commissioner for Taking Affidavits James Frederick Coffey