TEESWATER – April Root-Thompson from the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) Environment Office provided an update to the South Bruce Community Liaison Committee (CLC) and interested community members on Aug. 5.
The CLC issued a press release saying Root-Thompson’s presentation, “provided insight into the process taking place at SON regarding their community decision on the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) project to store Canada’s used nuclear fuel in a deep geological repository (DGR).”
The Municipality of South Bruce is situated within SON’s traditional territory. It is one of two locations that the NWMO is considering for the project.
“The South Bruce community, which is currently being consulted on how they would like to measure their willingness to host the project, expressed interest in better understanding the role that SON plays in the decision-making process and finding out more about the engagement taking place between the NWMO and SON,” stated the press release.
While a decision on the host location of the project is not expected until 2023, the NWMO has made a commitment that the project will only move forward in South Bruce if there is consent from SON, and the municipality is an informed and willing host.
Root-Thompson educated members of the committee and the public of the facts, specifically the historical lack of consultation with SON and the historical exclusion of SON and other First Nations from decisions in the nuclear industry.
However, she did acknowledge that things are getting better in the consultation process after receiving a clear commitment from the NWMO to not move forward with the project without SON approval.
“We (SON) completed a small ceremony in the Fall of 2020,” Root-Thompson said, “as well as an archaeological assessment and verification of the borehole sites.”
Members of SON also participated in a Water Walk, held in April, which ended by passing by the potentially permanent home to Canada’s most radioactive nuclear waste near Teeswater.
Root-Thompson recommended that the CLC members learn more about Water Walks to broaden their understanding of the ceremony and its purpose.
Two SON representatives are monitoring the borehole drilling work daily and provide updates to the community frequently, she told the CLC.
The NWMO and SON also have a Protocol Agreement, which Root-Thompson explained is common for developments taking place in their territory.
The press release further stated that the SON continues to host virtual webinars with other First Nations, NWMO staff, independent scientists and others while looking forward to opportunities for in-person activities, and interactions with the land and water on the proposed site because the area historically was, and continues to be, an important area for SON members.
In a May 2019 report titled ‘The Land Access Process: Next steps in Huron-Kinloss and South Bruce,’ the NWMO states, “while the NWMO continues to work with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, other Indigenous communities and local municipalities, the rollout of land access does not suggest they have provided their support for the Land Access Process or the siting of the repository in this area.
“Canada’s plan will only be implemented with the involvement of municipalities, First Nation and Métis communities, and others in the area.
“For example, the NWMO has committed to the SON that we will not select a site for the deep geological repository in the SON’s traditional territory without the consent of the SON communities.”
Root-Thompson noted that the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) made the same promise and so far, they have kept it.
SON voted down the proposed low- to intermediate-level waste DGR in January 2020 with an overwhelming no. The results were 1,058 ‘no’ votes, 170 ‘yes’ votes and four spoiled ballots.
Vice-Chair of the CLC, Doug Culbert, said, “presentations from significant decisionmakers such as SON are an important part of the committee’s mandate,”
“This evening’s presentation from April Root-Thompson improves our community’s awareness and understanding of the process taking place with the Indigenous community.”
The media release added, “the presentation was a step towards addressing one of the municipality’s 36 Guiding Principles, which states:
“The municipality recognizes the important historic and contemporary roles Indigenous peoples have and continue to play in the stewardship of the lands we all call home and will, in the spirit of Reconciliation, work with the NWMO and local Indigenous peoples to build mutually respectful relationships regarding the project.” (Guiding Principle #17)
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times