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THE ALGONQUIN
ANISHINABEG
7 TEACHINGS

7 Teachings and the NSDF Project

For some time, a group called Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area has been releasing information about the dangers of the NSDF project. Their blog is available at the following link. https://concernedcitizens.net/2021/03/21/six-reasons-to-stop-the-ottawa-river-radioactive-waste-dump/

 

We remind everyone that when the nuclear industry established itself in unceded Algonquin territory, Algonquin people were severely oppressed by restrictions of the Indian act and the pass system. Indigenous people couldn't leave their homes on the reserve without express written permission of Indian agents. Others were terrorized on their trap lines and, today, many continue to be harassed on the land. As the settler state and provincial populations continued to grow, governments and industries built structures without consulting the Algonquin First Nations who have been here for centuries. 

 

In many ways the behaviour of the nuclear industry suggests a dependence on the elimination of indigenous jurisdiction. The effort of developing plans for the NSDF only included Algonquin people as an afterthought.  We have never surrendered our title to this land. Hand picking and collaborating with cooperative indigenous individuals does not equate to consultation or consent of the entire population.

 

Industry makes claims that the waste they generate must go somewhere.  It is not the responsibility of the Algonquin people to shoulder the disproportionate impacts of nuclear waste, including transport, handling, and storage. It is an unfair burden to all people, to the water, to the animals, the flora and fauna, and to future generations to create a near surface disposal facility. Its creation would also require removal of sacred sites that Algonquin people are denied access to.  Indigenous people continue to be disproportionately impacted in health outcomes from toxic exposure, land loss, and other effects of colonial occupation. 

 

Many people do not know that there were already two major accidents at the chalk river facility and there are residual radionuclide contaminants left in situ in the Ottawa River

 

While the industry is often presented as working for the altruistic aims of medical innovation, power generation,and other efforts, the Chalk River Nuclear Facility holds other connections to the nuclear industry.  Its operations are  related to experimentation with and creation of nuclear weapons and highly dangerous substances. 

 

Our Anishnabe culture provides us strength, pride, and continuity. Cultural teachings remind us to make wise, compassionate decisions and to share with one another, to help one another. Culture is a word that often refers to elemental customs such as traditional foods, language, the development of tools, transportation, clothing, and other practices. Our opposition to this project includes our cultural perspective and is about a way of life that defines who we are as Algonquin Anishnabeg. 

 

Our culture is tied to our laws as a people. Our “aboriginal” rights are enshrined in Canadian law (sec. 35) and some of our rights as Indigenous peoples are articulated in the United Nations declaration. But we do not need Canadian or international law in order to live our laws; our laws and way of life  precede the creation of Canada as a state. It is Canada's responsibility to address its colonial history and stop preventing us from exercising our laws and responsibilities .

 

We were given sacred stories and laws to understand how to work with the environment, how to sustain ourselves and thrive in a place. These laws are the foundation of our identity, our traditional ecological knowledge, and our ongoing assertion of territorial jurisdiction despite efforts to erase us. Our culture and laws are the foundations that make us inclusive, diverse, forward thinking, and adaptable.

 

Many of our laws are not given for public consumption; our sacred knowledge can be vulnerable to abuse by groups who would seek to usurp our identity, dilute our rights, and distort our perspectives. However, several of our legal principles and inherent values can become translatable and appeal to common sense that benefits all of life. 

 

Below is a list of seven ways the NSDF project violates Algonquin values and legal principles . This list is complementary to the Concerned Citizens list “six reasons to STOP the Ottawa River radioactive waste dump.” 

 

1. Wisdom 

“The proposed site is unsuitable for a dump of any kind.”

We know our history with our landscape and we also derive ancestral memory through traditional ecological knowledge which tells us that this area is prone to earthquakes, tornadoes, and other potentially destabilizing events. It is our responsibility to apply this knowledge in our planning and development of structures on the land. 

 

2. Respect

“The mound would contain hundreds of radioactive materials, dozens of hazardous chemicals and tonnes of heavy metals.”

It is disrespectful to force these materials into land and water nonconsensually without considering the impact on all the life forms that depend on the health of the water and aquatic species.  Our responsibility is to conduct ourselves respectfully and to behave with respect toward one another in recognition of our dependence on water and healthy living environments with respect  for all species.  

 

3. Love

“The mound would leak radioactive and hazardous contaminants into the Ottawa River during operation and after closure.”

It is a human responsibility to recognize the interconnectedness of  all life forms and the ways that love exists on the land. We understand water as a living entity who generates and shares life force and love with all living things. We must act accordingly to treat water with love. 

 

4. Bravery

“International safety standards do not allow landfills to be used for disposal of ‘low level’ radioactive waste.” 

History and science have made it clear that Indigenous frontline communities are the best stewards of the world’s ecosystems. It’s also, by NSDF design, that local land and water ecosystems are directly imperiled by CNL’s environmentally devastating plan to blast away a mountain and deforest wildlife habitat on Algonquin sacred lands. 

 

Let’s be clear. The NSDF is not just a waste dump. It’s 70 years of racial inequity, economic inequity, cultural genocide and now ecocide.  It is a collective responsibility to bravely confront this legacy and change the course of poor decision making.  

 

5. Honesty 

“There is no safe level of exposure to the radiation that would leak into the Ottawa River from the Chalk River mound”

 

While the proponent claims that safety measures they have taken our sufficient, our review of the plans demonstrates that there have been omissions and shortcuts taken throughout their process. We have consistently demonstrated our honesty through our Environmental Assessment Process and by speaking out about what we have experienced and witnessed coming from the Chalk River Facility. Our assessment documents reflect an overview of our knowledge of the land, which runs much deeper.  

 

6. Truth

“ The giant Chalk River mound would not reduce Canada’s $8 billion federal radioactive waste liabilities and could in fact increase them.”

 

Our work is centered in ground truthing research.  We conducted diligent research with limited time and found that there was significant oversight in the NSDF proposal process.  Appropriate land-based research was never conducted on the proposed NSDF site.  Opportunity was not given to let animals and plants tell their story. Nuclear waste and nuclear energy is touted by Canada as a way forward, but the risks and effects are not clearly communicated and are not grounded in the realities we demonstrated in our research.  Animals are already experiencing illness and disruption due to the nuclear facility. 

 

7. Humility

 

“Indigenous Peoples around the world are quickly becoming the generation that can no longer swim in their waters. No longer fish in their rivers. No longer hunt their traditional foods. No longer pick their traditional medicines”.

 

The NSDF will further change the landscape. Nuclear waste continues to damage Algonquin culture, inherent rights, sovereignty, health, economies, and lifeways on the Kichi-Sibi. Yet, despite the immense impacts of government and industry combined, Algonquin Peoples are tremendously resilient. We recognize that as human beings we are dependent on the land for our sustenance, well being, and all of our necessities.  Humility and  remaining close to the Earth have given us strength to persist, despite the many historic and ongoing efforts to remove and silence us.

 

 

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