Published on March 16, 2013
Committee for Future Generations chairperson Max Morin (left) and Fish Lake Métis Nation Local 108 president Bryan Lee hold the two resolutions on, respectively, nuclear waste storage and logging that were passed unanimously on Friday at the 2013 Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Association convention.
Herald photo by Matt Gardner
Published on March 16, 2013
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission project officer Sarah Eaton gives a presentation on regulating uranium mines and mills in Canada on Friday at the 2013 Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Association Convention.
Herald photo by Matt Gardner
Local activists were elated on Friday as members of the Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Association (NSTA) unanimously passed resolutions opposing nuclear waste storage and logging without the permission of local trappers.
The resolutions were among several that were debated and discussed at the 2013 NSTA convention, which was held at the Senator Allan Bird Memorial Centre and attracted hundreds of trappers.
However, the environmental ramifications of clearcutting and the proposed nuclear waste storage had made the two resolutions a priority for trappers and activists concerned about the environment.
“We’re very, very pleased, because these (trappers) are the people who are out on the land.” Fish Lake Métis Local 108 president Bryan Lee said.
“Their whole livelihood depends on the land. With this resolution passed here at this assembly of the Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Association, what that does (is) it reinforces other resolutions that have been passed similarly by the Métis Nation (of) Saskatchewan, by the Council of Canadians, by the United Church of Canada.”
NSTA member and Committee for Future Generations chairperson Max Morin put forward the resolutions, which were also supported at the convention by Idle No More representative Ashley Wilson.
“The president of our local trappers association N12 … was looking for someone to help him with a few issues, and one of them was in regards to logging,” Morin said.
“Right now … the logging companies are consulting with the municipal councils in regards to … where they can log, and the municipal governments are signing off on these.
“What it is is the trappers are the closest to the land, and they should be given the final say.”
The logging resolution argues that logging companies are clearcutting and encroaching on trap lines, damaging and destroying animal habitats which in turn destroys the rights and livelihoods of the trappers.
The resolution opposes the current process and states that trappers should have the final say in deciding if clear-cutting is permitted on their lands.
For Morin, the other resolution was even more pressing.
“My biggest concern was the nuclear waste storage issue,” he said prior to the vote.
“(The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) is here with a display table, so we put one up today also, and we’re getting a lot of response on that.”
The primary target of the nuclear waste resolution was the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO).
Established by nuclear power companies Ontario Power Generation, Hydro Quebec and New Brunswick Corporation, the NWMO is currently searching for a location in northern Saskatchewan to store high-level nuclear waste.
The NSTA nuclear waste resolution was part of a broader strategy by local activists to put pressure on NWMO, which also includes a petition that has garnered thousands of signatures from Saskatchewan residents.
The trappers are the closest to the land, and they should be given the final say. Max Morin
“I think the more resolutions we get, it’ll grow into NWMO’s brain that they’re not wanted, because they don’t understand and this is one way, with resolutions and with petition signatures,” Morin said.
“We’re trying to be loud. We’re trying to let them know that no means no.”
Listing the environmental concerns raised by the possibility of storing high-level nuclear waste in northern Saskatchewan, Morin -- who comes from Beauval -- cited contamination of local water supplies as his main worry.
He also pointed to a multitude of health risks that extend far down the food chain.
“What the 300 million tons of nuclear tailings from the mining aspect has done is … the toxins have been blown in the wind as radons, and it’s landed on our plants,” Morin said.
“The animals eat the plants and they’re getting sick. As a new study revealed from the University of Saskatchewan, people eat moose and people eat most of the animals -- deer, they eat beavers, the muskrats -- and the further down the food chain the toxins from nuclear (go), they get stronger.”
Offering a different perspective, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) project officer Sarah Eaton gave a presentation at the convention in which she stated that the uranium mining industry places a high premium on protecting workers and the environment.
Eaton said that modern facilities take care to carefully control the amount of radiation released into the air, surface water and ground water.
Mine and mill operators measure any release -- particularly when the public might be exposed -- monitoring the effects and taking action if required.
“The health risks to … miners who have been exposed to radiation is low, and this is because over the last 60 years, mine operators have learned to reduce worker radiation doses to very low levels,” Eaton said.
“Studies have shown that workers and the public living near uranium mines are as healthy as the general Canadian population.”
In her presentation, Eaton argued that human exposure to radon and radiation from modern uranium mining is low and does not increase the risk of cancer. But Lee strongly disputed her arguments.
He cited a 2010 paper from the University of Basel in Switzerland linking exposure to radon and uranium with bronchial and lung cancer, leukemia and other blood diseases, cancer of the bone marrow, stomach, liver, intestine, gall bladder, kidney, skin, psychological disorders and birth defects.
“That’s science,” Lee said. “Theirs is just propaganda -- the CNSC’s propaganda.”