Algonquin First Nations are calling on the federal government to abandon a proposed radioactive waste dump site on their unceded territories.
On Tuesday, the Chiefs of Kebaowek First Nation, Kitigan Zibi First Nation, the Algonquin Secretariat and the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council which represents seven Algonquin Nations, voiced their opposition to the proposed site’s location.
The proposed near-surface disposal facility would be one kilometre from the Ottawa River, Kichi Sibi in Algonquin, and have an expected operating life of 50 years.
It will hold up to a million cubic metres of low-level radioactive waste in a massive mound, with 90 per cent of the waste coming from the Crown-owned Chalk River Laboratory.
“They’re going to build a water treatment plant to try to eradicate radium out of the radioactive water and then they’re going to put it into the Ottawa River where all the folks here in Ottawa are going to be drinking it,” says Chief Lance Haymond of Kebaowek First Nation
“We need to wake up, take our heads out of the sand and recognize what a danger Chalk River poses. Not only to the Algonquin and Anishinaabe people but to all Canadians.”
The chiefs unveiled their Indigenous-led assessment of the proposed radioactive waste dump and the site’s impacts on culture, land, water, and wildlife.
“At no time in our consultations has anyone provided any justification for putting it so close to the Kichi Sibi,” says Chief Dylan Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi.
The Algonquin chiefs say the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has failed to fulfill its duty to consult and greenlighting the project would violate Article 29(2) of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
“The Chalk River nuclear site was created without free, prior and informed consent. We have never agreed to this, and it continues to be operated on our unceded territory,” says Whiteduck. “We have consistently expressed our opposition to further nuclear development in our Algonquin territory.”
In the 1950s, the Chalk River Laboratories had two of the world’s first nuclear accidents on site. The chiefs say the proposed facility’s close proximity to the Ottawa River, which provides drinking water to millions, is a cause for concern.
The Algonquin Nations will present their conclusions about the waste facility at a hearing of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on August 10.