Aqua Hacking summit looks for new ideas in water preservation

One of Canada's oldest and richest families is hoping to give back to their country by protecting one its most vital resources: water.

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The de Gaspe Beaubien's lineage in Canada can be traced back to the early 1600s. They have been business leaders, media moguls and politicians, among other things.

And while the family, which was recently estimated to be worth $740 million, has been involved in philanthropy before –- Philippe II de Gaspe Beaubien was the founding president of the healthy living non-profit ParticipACTION -- the latest generation is also looking to get into the act.

That's why the family's fourth generation -- which includes Philippe IV de Gaspe Beaubien, his brother Louis-Alexandre, and their cousins Aidan and Tatianna Mattrick – came up with the idea for Aqua Hacking, a summit that is designed to spur new technology dedicated to water preservation.

The inaugural event took place last May in Gatineau, Que.

This year's summit, which is focused on the Saint Lawrence River, was announced on Tuesday.

"Canada's freshwater supply needs our care," said Louis-Alexandre de Gaspe Beaubien, 16, at the kick-off event.

The two-day conference is set take place on Oct. 6 and 7 in Montreal, and will use a hackathon to bring together digital designers, tech experts, engineers and water authorities in their quest to create better ways to safeguard the Saint Lawrence.

"My generation is one of technology … so we said: 'Why not take that and put that in something more constructive,'" Louis-Alexandre de Gaspe Beaubien, told CTV Montreal.

Quebec's Environment Minister, David Heurtel, was also in attendance, and saluted the effort.

"It goes from coastal erosions to situations like last fall with the (sewage) dumping," said Heurtel.

"How can we make sure that we avoid getting to a point where we have no choice, but to do something like that?"

The summit will cover a range of issues, such as climate change, water quality and declining ecosystems.

Aqua Hacking is also asking the public for submissions on issues relating to the protection of the Saint Lawrence River.

"In the least, we're still taking action," said Louis-Alexandre de Gaspe Beaubien.

"So even if the benefit isn't as immense as we hoped, at least something will be done."

The opportunity to give back is something Louis-Alexandre de Gaspe Beaubien is grateful for.

"If you've been given a lot, we've always been taught you have to give back," he said.

And that's all his father, Philippe III, can ask for.

"I'm so proud of him," said Philippe III de Gaspe Beaubien.

"It's always great for one generation to do better than the next."

With a report from CTV Montreal's Tarah Schwartz



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