Algonquin First Nations oppose nuclear waste site on their unceded territory

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories plans Near Surface Disposal Facility for radioactive waste beside the Ottawa River

On June 20 2023 Chiefs of two Algonquin First Nations and the Grand Chiefs of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council (AANTC) and the Algonquin Nation Secretariat (ANS) – representing 10 of the 11 Algonquin First Nations – called on the federal government to abandon the current plan for a massive, aboveground radioactive waste dump on unceded Algonquin territory near the Ottawa River or Kichi Sibi. The chiefs were joined by Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, who strongly urged the government to respect Indigenous Rights in its dealings with Algonquin First Nations. Above from left: Chief Lance Haymond (Kebaowek First Nation), Chief Dylan Whiteduck (Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation), Grand Chief Savanna McGregor (Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council). Photo YouTube/CPAC

The Chiefs of Kebaowek and Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nations made public their Indigenous-led assessment of the radioactive waste proposal and the project’s impact on their culture, land, water and wildlife. 

“The Kichi Sibi is sacred to our peoples and at the heart of our unceded homeland,” said Chief Lance Haymond, of Kebaowek First Nation. “The Algonquin peoples never consented to the Chalk River site being used for over 75 years for nuclear reactors and research, and now being the site for a permanent radioactive waste dump. Consultation was far too late and inadequate, and we reject the plan.” 

Algonquin Nations will present their conclusions about the Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) to a hearing of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) on August 10. Chief Haymond and Chief Dylan Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation say the CNSC has failed to fulfill the duty to consult. Consultation occurred too late in the process, and CNSC’s staff treated the NSDF as a foregone conclusion.  

Both Chiefs point to Article 29(2) of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Canada is a signatory, and which says there must be free, prior and informed consent by First Nations to storage or disposal of radioactive waste on their lands or territories.

“We have found very severe potential impacts to our Indigenous rights and interests from the radioactive waste mound,” said Chief Whiteduck. “To have any meaning, the consultation has to start back from the very beginning of project planning. Meaningful consultation will have to allow Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg free, prior, and informed consent.” 

He added that the First Nations are very concerned about the location of the proposed facility, and no justification was offered for putting a radioactive waste facility so close to the Kichi Sibi. “We have received no satisfactory explanation for why other sites well away from the river were not considered.” 

According to Grand Chief Savanna McGregor of the AANTC, representing seven Algonquin First Nations, “The radioactive waste dump plan follows a long history of assimilation and oppression since European arrival.  We have faced intergenerational trauma, displacement from our unceded territory, and historical exclusion from decision-making at the Chalk River Laboratories site.” 

“As leaders and as people here today, it is our responsibility to preserve and protect Mother Earth for future generations. We cannot risk the destruction of land and water, which sustains life for all beings,” said Grand Chief Lisa Robinson of the ANS, who is also Chief of Wolf Lake First Nation.  

Jones,L.(2023,June20) Algonquin First Nations oppose giant radioactive waste mound beside the Ottawa River on their unceded territory [media release]

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