Members of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation are set to decide whether or not to allow a burial site for nuclear waste to be constructed on their southern Ontario territory.
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) wants to bury nuclear waste in what’s known as a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) 1.2KM inland from the shores of Lake Huron.
In 2013, OPG said the waste burial site wouldn’t proceed without consent from the First Nation.
The community of approximately 5,000 will cast a binding vote on the project on Friday.
There’s no telling how it will go.
“Some people will consider voting yes because of economic development,” said Vernon Roote, former chief of Saugeen First Nation.
“Well, economic development doesn’t save the land.”
Community members gathered in hopes that people will consider the voice of a being that doesn’t get a ballot: the water.
Community member Shirley John asked for a prayer.
“Pray, pray hard for that water. Teach the young boys, your children, you, your grandchildren, and those ones yet to come how to pray for that water each and every day.”
Last year, OPG hosted 22 information sessions in their communities. The company issued the following statement in response to concerns about the project’s potential impact on the water.
“The DGR would isolate the waste 680-metres underground in impermeable rock that has been isolated from any lake or groundwater for millions of years,” the statement said,
“The DGR would be three times deeper than the lake, but would not be under the lake –it would have no connection with the lake.”
“Right now, nuclear waste is safely stored at the surface, on an interim basis, in buildings about 1.2 kilometres from Lake Huron,” the company goes on to say.
“Putting the waste in a deep repository is a lasting solution, one that protects people, the lake and the environment – it is the right thing to do for future generations.”
Jessica Keeshig-Martin has studied the information. She said Indigenous knowledge and ceremony should have the final say.
“We have a proposed project before us that we need to make a decision on, but we need to be provided the opportunity to look at all of the options. Part of this work today is about listening to the water, to hear what nibi manidoo is telling us to do.”