Friday, July 12, 2024
NewsTop Story

No consent to nuclear dump, say First Nations chiefs

Charles Dickson
Ottawa August 10, 2023
The chiefs of two Algonquin First Nation communities made it clear on Thursday that they do not consent to the proposed siting of a nuclear waste dump on their unceded territory close to the Ottawa River.
Chief Lance Haymond of the Keboawek First Nation and Chief Dylan Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation made their statements to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) via zoom from a location on Sussex Drive in Ottawa on Thursday morning, the final day of public consultations on the matter.
The question before the CNSC is whether to grant a licence to Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) to build a waste disposal facility for radioactive wastes on its Chalk River site.
“We are gathered here today in strong opposition to any decision by the Canadian government to select or consider a permanent near-surface disposal facility for nuclear waste storage anywhere near the Kichi Zibi,” said Chief Haymond. He said the duty to consult has still not been fulfilled and therefore no consent for this project will be given by the Algonquin Nation.
“We, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, do not give consent for this project to be established on our territories,” said Chief Whiteduck. “Many of the Chiefs in the Algonquin Nation do not agree with this. You’re doing this without free, prior and informed consent and with inadequate consultation,” he said.
Whiteduck informed the Commission that at the recent Assembly of First Nations held in Halifax, a resolution opposing the proposed nuclear waste facility was unanimously approved by the Chiefs.
As referenced in an article by Lynn Jones published in THE EQUITY last week, granting a license for the construction of the proposed nuclear waste facility at Chalk River without the consent of First Nations would run afoul of Canada’s obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), an international agreement to which Canada is a Party.
Dr. Gordon Edwards, President at Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, describes the proposed dump as essentially a landfill operation that would rise from five to seven stories above ground for the purpose of holding about one million cubic metres of radioactive and nonradioactive toxic materials on a site that drains into Perch Lake and then into the Ottawa River. According to Edwards, the majority of the radionuclides in the proposed inventory have half-lives of more than 1,000 years, and about a third of them have half-lives of more than 5,000 years.
The proposed dump would be located across the Ottawa River from Oiseau Rock in Pontiac County, a few kilometres upstream from the communities of Sheenboro and Fort William.
The project has been strenuously opposed by communities and citizen groups all the way down the Ottawa River, including MRC Pontiac on behalf of its 18 member municipalities, as well as by municipalities further downstream including Ottawa and Montreal.
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is a consortium of multinational companies hired by the federal governments of both Steven Harper and Justin Trudeau to maintain and operate Canada’s nuclear facilities including the one at Chalk River. It is led by SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec-based engineering firm well-known for a litany of corrupt practices both within Canada and abroad resulting in the fining and/or incarceration of various of its executives, its consequent disqualification from World Bank contracts for a decade, and the firing of a Canadian justice minister over her refusal to allow the company to evade full prosecution under the law.
In his remarks to the Commission, CNL president and CEO Joe McBrearty said that the project to develop the NSDF at the Chalk River site has met all the regulatory requirements and that consultation with Indigenous groups has been “robust and meaningful.”
The commission said it may be several months before it reaches a decision on CNL’s licensing application.