Ontario First Nations chiefs are joining their more southern neighbors in the U.S. in adding their voices of opposition to a plan to ship radioactive waste through the Great Lakes and up the St. Lawrence.
Representatives of numerous First Nations and attendant organizations attended an emergency meeting called by Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee of the Asishinabek Nation during the Chiefs of Ontario annual health forum on February 22 to discuss the matter, the council said in a statement.
“First Nations have expressed their adamant opposition to this shipment” said Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse in the chiefs’ press release. “The Union of Ontario Indians and the Mohawk communities of Kahnawa:ke, Akwesasne and Tyendinaga are at the forefront of opposing the shipment, and the Chiefs of Ontario will support them in this struggle.”
The plan, approved by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) on February 4, allows Bruce Power Co. to ship 16 steam generators full of used nuclear fuel during this year’s shipping season. The school-bus-sized loads are scheduled to leave from Owen Sound, passing through Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the along the St. Lawrence River, across the Atlantic Ocean and into the Baltic Sea to Sweden, where they will be recycled.
The St. Regis Mohawks have already vowed to fight the measure, which would take the material through Akwesasne and other Native territory.
In their release the Anishinaabek, Mushkegowuk, and Onkwehonwe Chiefs in Assembly reaffirmed their commitment to caring for the land as promised in their We Are The Land Declaration: “What we do to the land—we do to ourselves, and to our future generations…. We draw from sacred law, traditional law, customary laws—we need to protect the lands, the waters and all living things for future generations.”
Toulouse pointed out that the plan directly conflicts with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada endorsed on November 12. He also noted that the reason the plan needed CNSC approval at all was that the items’ size and radioactivity levels exceed allowable transportation limits for a single shipment.
“The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says that states must take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior, and informed consent,” Toulouse said in the chiefs’ statement. “It is appalling that the government of Canada hasn’t even consulted with the affected First Nations on this shipment.”