The residents, joined by other nuclear waste and uranium mining opponents, attended an info session as part of the two-day Idle No More workshop being held over Friday and Saturday at St. Alban’s Cathedral.
Max Morin, president of the Committee for Future Generations and resident of Beauval, voiced his concern about the effects on the world’s water supply if an accident were to happen at the storage facility.
“We have to protect the water,” he said in an interview. “We are at a crucial point in history. If we don’t protect our water, all of the water will be destroyed ... The scientists who have been helping us and working with us have said you cannot boil the radiation out of water.”
Out of the 21 communities that are currently being considered by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) for the site, three are in Saskatchewan, including English River First Nation, Creighton and Pinehouse.
Pinehouse resident John Smerek reflected on the steps that led up to the community becoming a potential host, noting that the NWMO failed to educate and consult with residents.
“The community leaders at the time, which are still there, (bought into it),” he said, noting that the organization would offer a “learn-more” project. “You’d think that ‘learn more’ means somebody is going to come along and teach you more -- it doesn’t happen that way.”
The Saskatchewan communities being considered are currently in the first phase of step three, with the prospect of going into phase two by the end of this year.
“They (the NWMO) come in, they keep moving to the next step, they have not educated our community and will not educate our community,” Smerek continued. “They’re going to give us their decision, and a deep geological repository has never been proven anywhere in the world, so we are a testing ground.”
Like Smerek, Dale Smith, also a resident of Pinehouse, said the community had not been consulted with regard to the collaboration agreement that local leaders considered a step forward in economic growth.
“I think the grassroots are speaking, but the leaderships ain’t listening,” he said.
During his speech, which was met with with a standing ovation at its end, Smith held up a copy of a magazine that documented the Pinehouse leadership’s collaboration agreement with Areva Resources Canada Inc. and Cameco Corp., made in December.
“It says, ‘Pinehouse signs historic, ground-breaking deal.’ The reason that it’s really historic is, when a community leadership -- the ones we voted for -- gets sold out, that’s a story,” he said.
Smith then held up the physical document of the agreement, stating that while being developed over three years and being sent back and forth between lawyers 12 times, residents had not seen it.
He read a passage from the document that alludes the rights of Pinehouse residents.
“Pinehouse promises to make reasonable efforts to ensure Pinehouse members do not say or do anything that interferes with or delays Cameco or Areva’s mining, or do or say anything that is not consistent with Pinehouse’s promises under this collaboration agreement,” Smith read.
According to Smith’s understanding, the document is not only meant to be used by the Pinehouse leadership, but by Pinehouse residents as well, to silence anyone who opposes the agreement.
“If my dad didn’t like what I was saying against Cameco or Areva, he has to make ‘reasonable efforts’ to shut me up,” Smith said as an example.
Smith implored those in attendance to take notice of the agreement, as one of the “same spirit” might get done in their towns.
“This fight is for the souls of all people,” he said.
As well as emphasize the importance of water, Pinehouse resident Fred Pederson made clear that it isn’t the community that has expressed interest in being a host to store nuclear waste underground.
After making their position clear by putting up signs, Pederson said Pinehouse residents started signing petitions.
“We got over 60 per cent in petitions,” he said.
Prior to Saturday’s session, Dale Dewar, executive director of Physicians for Global Survival, told the Daily Herald that while in opposition, she doesn’t believe a long-term nuclear waste repository is feasible due to logistical issues.
“I doubt that a long-term repository is going to be making very many jobs, even if they ever carry it out. And personally, I don’t think they will, because the logistics don’t work,” she said.
“They have to have two trucks an hour coming from Ontario carrying radioactive waste, and that’s a lot of jurisdictions that a lot of trucks are going to have to be going through 24/7 in order to get what is currently in storage,” she continued.
“Then we have to add the amount that is going to be made at the time they get this going in 2030, so personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
As well, Dewar said the decision does not rest solely on Pinehouse or any of the 21 communities that have expressed interest in the repository, because there are also too many legal issues.
“Manitoba has said it would not have a waste dump. It’s on the fence as whether it would allow this stuff to be transported,” she said.
However, Committee of Future Generations member Debbie Mihalicz said on Sunday that regardless of whether a repository is feasible, the opposition won’t be taking any chances.
She said the info session was a great opportunity to strengthen the opposition’s voice.
“We are forming solidarity with grassroots people ... and that’s where our strength is going to be,” she said, noting that the session was also good to create awareness about human rights, as well as nuclear waste.
“The Pinehouse contingent mentioned time and time again that ‘we are not being listened to,’” she said. “Our leaders are not listening.”