The Clearwater River Dene Nation (CRDN) in northern Saskatchewan has erected a security checkpoint on a highway that runs through its land in response to uranium mining exploration in the area and worries about the spread of COVID-19.
In a news release issued Monday, Clearwater Chief Teddy Clarke said the Saskatchewan government has repeatedly approved mining exploration without any meaningful consultation with local trappers, elders or community leaders.
"The Government of Saskatchewan ran roughshod over the rights of the Dene People in this region for decades. The issuance of uranium mineral rights and granting of exploration permits and approvals of damaging uranium mines by the GOS (Government of Saskatchewan) all occurred without our People's meaningful involvement, participation or consent," Clarke stated in the release.
The First Nation, located about 615 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, has erected the security checkpoint on Highway 955 and hired Vancouver-based JFK Law to represent its interests, according to the release.
"This pattern of unacceptable behaviour must come to an end, now."
The release also stated that uranium exploration in the area can contribute to the spread of COVID-19, with uranium company workers arriving from other communities and potentially spreading the virus.
Community members are also worried about the impact of uranium mining on moose, caribou and migratory bird nesting, the release stated.
"The CRDN feels that the security checkpoint is needed given the amount of uranium exploration activity now underway and that the community has little to no knowledge of the third parties entering its lands and conducting activities harmful to land, water, animals and the CRDN People."
Representatives from the province were not immediately available for comment.