Recently, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) celebrated Earth Day by announcing that 1450 square kilometres of Boreal forest in Northern Ontario, near Hearst, is to be protected. Certainly, it’s a step in the right direction. The cost of purchasing this land from Domtar is 46 million dollars.
Comparatively, 3182 square kilometres were withdrawn from the Crown Land in Northern Ontario for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) an industry organization, between 2013 and 2015. It is over twice the area of the NCC purchase. Concernedly, this was at no cost to the NWMO and without prior public or indigenous consultation by the province. In size, these 18 withdrawals are three fifths the size of Prince Edward Island or the surface area of Lake Nipigon. The reason for the withdrawals; however, was not to preserve nature – but a purpose much different.
They were for the studies of potential host sites by the NWMO for 5.5 million bundles of radioactive fuel rods to be stored in deep nuclear geological repository (DGR) for eternity. The withdrawal requests were granted under the former Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle. Included were locations in the vicinity of Ignace, Schreiber, Hornepayne, White River, Manitouwadge, Blind River and Elliot Lake (a map drawn of the withdrawals shown in colour is from the NDM Mining Lands Administration System (MLAS) and is attached).
Worriedly, Canada has no law against the importation of radioactive waste and, indeed, this is now occurring to a storage “mound” at Chalk River where a proposal for near-surface disposal facility is meeting considerable opposition. In April 2021, the Radio Canada program “Enquete” uncovered that former prime minister Jean Chrétien was part of a secretive project to store nuclear waste in Labrador. Questionably, were the provincial Liberals under Kathleen Wynne in cahoots with Jean Chretien on the importation of international nuclear waste to Northern Ontario? The Liberals in Newfoundland – Labrador quickly denied being part of that scheme, and residents of Labrador were horrified. Here in Northern Ontario, the story is different.
The withdrawals near Revell Lake, 42 kilometres west of Ignace and the downstream Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation has been identified by the NWMO as one of two preferred locations for the DGR. This site is at the headwaters of not only one but two major river expanses: the Turtle River and English-Wabigoon river systems. Both the headwater Revell and Raleigh as well as nearby cool trout lakes are all spring fed. This vast and magnificent landscape covered by water eventually reaches Lake Winnipeg and continues on to Hudson’s Bay via the Nelson River. It lies in the heart of Treaty 3 which itself has more surface water than Lake Ontario (map of the watershed flows courtesy of Charles Faust).
The question is: at a time when we are desperately trying to protect land, especially the headwaters areas of Northern Ontario, why are we threatening it with underground nuclear dumps? Since it is election time, demand that our politicians return land withdrawn for the nuclear industry to the Crown and protect the public interest.
Greg Rickford, Ontario minister of northern development, mines, natural resources and forestry and minister of indigenous affairs – I hope you are listening!
Thunder Bay, On
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