By: Alexandra Paul – Winnipeg Free Press (Photo Credit Alex Wilson)
There will be no nuclear waste buried in Creighton, Sask., if a pair of First Nations get their way.
Both Opaskwayak Cree Nation, which is near The Pas, and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, near Creighton, have passed bans on nuclear waste from Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick passing through their traditional territory and being stored there.
OCN passed its ban in a bylaw, known as a band council resolution, July 14.
Creighton, which sits next to Flin Flon, agreed to stand as one of four sites in Canada that could eventually store radioactive nuclear waste.
OCN and Peter Ballantyne are ready to stand against a deep-rock repository dug in the granite bedrock of this remote town.
“It’s dangerous. What happened in Chornobyl, eh? In Japan? They always say it’s safe, but accidents do happen,” Opaskwayak Cree Coun. Edwin Jebb said Monday.
“If they do go through with it, it would come through our community or our traditional territories, if they go by rail or by truck. That’s Highway 10. They’d come right smack through our community,” Jebb said. “What this does is tells the public and it tells our community members what the official position of council is, that we’re against the transportation of dangerous goods and nuclear waste through our community.”
Creighton, with a population of 1,500, is 145 kilometres north of OCN and 770 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
Nuclear reactors in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have been looking for years for a permanent place to bury their spent fuel rods.
The regulatory process is both complex and lengthy; it will take years of town halls and studies before the final site is settled.
This spring, Creighton’s city council authorized a series of public information meetings through its nuclear waste community liaison committee, a local agency that works with the industry regulator, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization.
Creighton Mayor Bruce Fidler said his town isn’t ready to make a commitment yet.
He’s aware of local opposition and First Nations’ objections. “We don’t have a real position whether we’re for it or against it. Being such a delicate issue, I, myself and the council want to be able to have as much information as we can to bring to the people so if it comes to that, we can make an informed decision,” Fidler said.
Jebb and other critics can’t fathom how any decision supporting the project makes environmental sense.
“… If it’s that safe, why don’t they just keep it over there? Why do they have to bring it all the way over here? Well, Toronto doesn’t want it!” Jebb said.
Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a pair of aboriginal rights judgments bolstering First Nations’ rights to have a say on development in their territories.
Last week, critics, including environmentalists, local residents and band members from OCN and Peter Ballantyne turned up the heat.
A group of over 20 put their positions before Creighton’s nuclear-waste community-liaison committee.
Aboriginal activist and OCN member Alex Wilson delivered the official opposition in a presentation Friday in Creighton, which was later posted to YouTube.
“It is our responsibility, all of us in this room, to care about the land, the water, the animals and the plant life and most important, the future generations,” Wilson said.
“The Town of Creighton is within the traditional lands of OCN, Mathias Colomb and Peter Ballantyne. I’m here because I oppose the transportation of nuclear waste through our territories and I oppose the storage of nuclear waste in our traditional territory.”
Wilson said the meeting room was packed: “They had to bring in extra chairs. There were people there from Peter Ballantyne, OCN, Creighton and Flin Flon.”
Wilson said despite those numbers, she had the sense the community committee wants the nuclear-waste burial site for its economic value.
“One of them said they’d been meeting about this for three years but most of the people in the north didn’t know about it,” Wilson said.
Meanwhile, there is a low-profile campaign against nuclear waste gaining ground in Saskatchewan.
Candyce Paul, a member of the English River Cree Nation, one of the four communities that dropped out of the nuclear-waste selection process late last year, said the campaign has attracted natives and non-natives among local residents and environmentalists.