Feds reject Quebec stone in favour of American to restore landmark Quebec City Citadelle

The Canadian Department of National Defence will use stones coming from the United States to restore Quebec City’s historic Citadelle fortress, despite the heritage site’s original stone being available across the river in Lévis.

Engineer and geologist Martin Anctil excavates the stone in his Lévis quarry. Anctil says he was contacted by two contractors who applied to the call for tender, launched at the beginning of 2018. The contract has been estimated at $16.5 million. 

But the lowest bidder won the contract with its proposal to use an American bluestone from Pennsylvania. 

“It’s shameful, there’s no other way to say it,” Anctil told Radio-Canada. “The spirit of that type of restoration has always been very clear: it is to use the construction’s original stone when it is available.”

Martin Anctil owns a quarry which excavates Sillery sandstone in Lévis, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

The section of the Citadelle, built between 1820 and 1850, being restored is one of its four bastions, called the Bastion du roi, or King’s Bastion.

Canadian standards call for use of original material

The Canadian standards for restoring national heritage sites, published on the government’s website, call for the use of original materials wherever possible. 

It says to “replace in kind any extensively deteriorated or missing parts of character-defining elements, where there are surviving prototypes.”

The guide defines “in kind” as “with the same form, material and detailing as seen in the existing elements.” 

Pennsylvania Bluestone, left, is being used to restore a section of the historic Citadelle fortress in Quebec City, but the original material, Sillery sandstone, is readily available nearby. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

National defence said in a statement that the choice of American stone “meets all the requirements of the contract.”

The three other masonry companies that proposed to use the original stone told Radio-Canada they would never have suggested using another material than the Sillery sandstone.

Their price submissions were higher than the winning contract, but lower than DND’s budget estimate.

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