Northwestern Ontario First Nations Chiefs Unite Against Nuclear Waste Proposal

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Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug – Environment – Leaders from five First Nations communities in Northwestern Ontario have voiced a resolute opposition to the prospect of nuclear waste storage within their territories.

In a concerted message to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), these chiefs have articulated a clear rejection of any plans to introduce nuclear waste facilities into the region.

A Firm Stand on Environmental Protection

The stance against nuclear waste storage is captured in a letter addressed to Laurie Swami, President and CEO of the NWMO, an industry-funded body tasked with managing Canada’s nuclear waste. The letter outlines grave concerns about the potential for spills or leaks that could irreversibly harm the environment, disrupt the natural way of life, and have lasting impacts on future generations.

Letter to Nuclear Waste Management Organization

Signed by chiefs from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows), Wapekeka, Neskantaga, and Onigaming, the letter embodies the collective apprehension of these communities.

These leaders, forming part of the First Nations Land Defence Alliance, are standing firm in their resolve to protect their lands and waters from the risks posed by nuclear waste.

Concerns Over Potential Environmental Impact Chief Donny Morris of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug highlighted the risks associated with disturbing the Canadian Shield rock to construct an underground storage facility.

Morris emphasized the importance of environmental preservation over financial compensation and stressed the right of all regional First Nations to be involved in the consultation process.

Calls for Consideration of Alternative Sites In a pointed critique of the proposed locations for the nuclear waste repository, Steven Chapman, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug’s lands and environment director, suggested that such facilities should first be considered in areas closer to Canada’s political centers, such as Toronto or Ottawa.

This suggestion underscores a broader call for equity and responsibility in the siting of facilities that pose environmental risks.

The NWMO has narrowed its search to two potential sites, one near Ignace and another in Southern Ontario, with a final decision expected later this year. The chiefs’ letter firmly states their lack of consultation and consent, urging the NWMO to respect their collective decision against the proposed site near Ignace.

Chiefs in the Ottawa region have also rejected the plans to store nuclear waste in their traditional territories.

As these communities stand united in their opposition, the debate over nuclear waste management in Canada continues to raise important questions about environmental stewardship, indigenous rights, and the principles of equitable decision-making in the context of national infrastructure projects.

Text of the Letter Written by Chiefs

February 26, 2024
Attention: Laurie Swami (President and CEO)
Nuclear Waste Management Organization
22 St. Clair Avenue East, Fourth Floor
Toronto, Ontario M4T 2S3
Dear President and CEO Laurie Swami,
RE: ANA says ‘no’ to Nuclear waste storage in our watershed
I am writing to inform you, again, that Grassy Narrows says ‘no’ to nuclear waste in our Territory, in our region, and anywhere upstream or upwind of our Territory. This is a final decision, and it will not change.
We have learned that you are thinking of setting up a nuclear waste storage site near Ignace, Ontario. This site is upstream of our Territory in the Wabigoon River watershed.
The water from that site flows past our reserve and into the waters where we fish, drink, and swim. The material that you want to store there will be dangerous for longer than Canada has existed, longer than Europeans have been on Turtle Island, and longer than anything that human beings have ever built has lasted. How can you reliably claim that this extremely dangerous waste will safely be contained for hundreds of thousands of years?
Our watershed and our people have already suffered too many impacts. We cannot accept this further risk to the health of our river and our people.
Although you have never contacted us, our First Nation learned of your plans and wrote to you on July 2, 2020, on February 7, 2022, and on October 7, 2022 to express our concerns. We have never received a response.
I am also informing you that Grassy Narrows is the collective rights holder on our Territory. The Grand Council of Treaty 3 has an important role, which we respect. However, only Grassy Narrows can speak for our people, our land, and our water. You cannot talk to and correspond with anyone else in place of Grassy Narrows. No one else can give consent in our place to activities, like nuclear waste storage, that risk grave harm to our people and our environment.
Grassy Narrows says ‘no’ to the proposed nuclear waste storage site near Ignace. I call on you to respect the decision of Grassy Narrows First Nation.
Please copy the Grassy Narrows Land Protection Team on all communications related to this matter.
Awsa,
__________________________
Chief Rudy Turtle
Enc.
cc:
Grassy Narrows Lands Protection Team
Joseph Fobister, Lead Negotiator (jbfobister@qmail.com)
Mike Fobister, Lands Team Coordinator (mike.fobister@googlemail.com)
David Sone, ANA Advisor (david.sone@qmail.com)
Jackie Esmonde, ANA Legal Advisor (jesmonde@cavalluzzo.com)
Dan Mossip-Balkwill, ANA Advisor (dan.mossip.balkwill@gmail.com)
Bob Watts (NWMO VP, Indigenous Relations and Strategic Programs bwatts@nwmo.ca)
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Gary Anandasangaree (gary.anandasangaree@rcaanc-
cirnac.gc.ca)
Minister of Environment Conservation and Parks Andrea Khanjin (minister.mecp@ontario.ca)
Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford (minister.indigenousaffairs@ontario.ca)
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault (steven.guilbeault@parl.gc.ca)
President of Impact Assessment Agency of Canada Terence Hubbard (terence.hubbard@iaac-
aeic.gc.ca)
Grand Council Treaty 3 Chief Francis Kavanaugh (by fax: 807-548-4776)
Grand Council Treaty 3 Environmental Manager Chris Herc (by fax: 807-548-4776)
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