First Nations Land Defence Alliance opposes proposed nuclear waste dump, Ring of Fire mining in Ontario

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Photo: Land Defence Alliance march, September 27, 2023.

The CBC reports: “By the end of this year, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is expected to decide on its preferred site for the country’s first deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel.”

It adds: “The potential locations are: The Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation-Ignace area, about 250 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay; The Saugeen Ojibway Nation-South Bruce area in southern Ontario, about 130 kilometres northwest of London.”

The article then notes:

We the Nuclear Free North and the First Nations Land Defence Alliance … remain concerned about what’s known as the Revell site in northwestern Ontario. The alliance issued a letter to NWMO president and CEO Laurie Swami on March 5, saying: ‘Our Nations have not been consulted, we have not given our consent, and we stand together in saying ‘no’ to the proposed nuclear waste storage site near Ignace. We call on you to respect our decision.’

Chief Rudy Turtle of Grassy Narrows First Nation, 250 kilometres northwest of Ignace, said no one from the NWMO has met with him in person to discuss the proposed nuclear waste site. Grassy Narrows has a particular interest in which Ontario site is chose, given the First Nation’s experiences dealing with contaminated fish in the 1960s and ’70s. Mercury from a Dryden pulp and paper mill was dumped into the English Wabigoon River, upstream from the First Nation. Research indicates past mercury exposure continues to impact the health of people in the community.

In the case of a nuclear waste repository, Turtle said, ‘Should there be any leak or if the containment fails, there is the possibility that [toxic chemicals] can leak downriver again.’ Turtle would like to see a series of in-person meetings so people can better understand the safety measures being proposed and the potential risks.

[And] Chief Michele Solomon of Fort William First Nation said it is unlikely her community’s position against the site will change. Band council passed a resolution last September calling for the Ontario government to adopt the proximity principle, which means nuclear waste would be stored at the point of generation and not transported elsewhere. ‘Anything that has the potential to get into our waterway that would cause harm to the fish or to the animals or to our people … we take that very seriously,’ Solomon said.

Another proposed site on Indigenous land

In mid-February, the CBC also reported:

Algonquin leaders are finding the Canadian government largely unmoved, but they continue to fight construction of a radioactive waste dump on unceded territory near Deep River, Ont., roughly one kilometre from the Ottawa River.

Ten out of 11 federally recognized Algonquin First Nations oppose the project, while the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn, roughly 150 kilometres northwest of Ottawa, is the lone community to consent.

‘The time to act is now, for the sake of our environment, our communities and the principles enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,’ said Lance Haymond, chief of Kebaowek First Nation, at a news conference outside the House of Commons.

Alliance also opposes Ring of Fire mining

In November 2021, CBC reported: “Premier Doug Ford’s government [wants] to lure the big automakers to produce electric vehicles in southern Ontario. A key part of that strategy involves opening up the so-called Ring of Fire mineral deposit, located more than 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay in an area home to Indigenous people.” The area is rich in the minerals used in electric vehicle batteries and energy storage systems, including cobalt, lithium, manganese, nickel, graphite and copper.

Late last year, The Varsity reported: “Over 6,000 people protested against the Ontario government’s policies allowing companies to mine on some First Nations’ traditional lands as part of the March for the Land, which took place in Toronto on September 27.”

It highlights: “The First Nations Land Defence Alliance, created to fight against government intrusion on their land, organized the protest.”

The Ojibwe nation of Neskantaga, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI-Big Trout Lake), Ojibways of Onigaming, Muskrat Dam, Asubpeeschoseewagong-Grassy Narrows and Wapekeka First Nations, are part of First Nations Land Defence Alliance.

The Alliance was formed in January 2023.


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