MISTISSINI, EEYOU ISTCHEE--(Marketwire - June 5, 2012) - The Chief of Cree Nation of Mistissini, Richard Shecapio, made it clear at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's (CNSC) public hearing, held today (June 5) in Mistissini, that his community is firmly against uranium development in Eeyou Istchee. « We want to put an end to the question of uranium development once and for all, right now. We know where this is going and we don't want any uranium mining at all », said Chief Shecapio.
This hearing concerns Strateco Resources Inc.'s (Strateco) application for a licence to develop an underground exploration program at the Matoush Project, located approximately 260 kilometres north of Chibougamau, Québec. In November 2010, the Cree Nation of Mistissini expressed that this project did not have the support of the community. This position was reasserted again in 2011. Today, the Chief confirmed that nothing has changed and that the Cree Nation of Mistissini's position on uranium remains unchanged.
Chief Shecapio explained that his Council intends to do « whatever it takes » to implement a moratorium on uranium development. «In light of the lack of social acceptability, cultural incompatibility and the lack of a clear understanding of the health and environmental impacts of uranium mining, it would be reckless for us as a people to move forward and allow the licensing of Strateco's advanced exploration project. We are seeking a moratorium on uranium mining and exploration on our traditional lands as well as in the province of Quebec », said Chief Shecapio.
In his oral presentation at the hearings, Chief Shecapio explained that the Crees «have always been the guardians and protectors of the land and will continue to be. For the Crees of Mistissini, the land is a school of its own and the resources of the land are the material and supplies they need. Cree traplines are the classrooms. What is taught on these traplines to the youth is the Cree way of life, which means living in harmony with nature. This form of education ensures ou survival as a people. Any form of education that leads to survival is a high standard of education. Cree form of education teaches us to be humble, respectful, responsible, disciplined, independent, sharing and compassionate ».
« Because our people are still active on the land, hunting, trapping and consuming the animals, we are concerned that traditional foods may become contaminated with radionuclides, posing a threat to those who eat them. High levels of radionuclides in moose and caribou tissues have been reported in animals near uranium mines. This indirect exposure can lead to serious health issues for the people who eat contaminated animals>>, expressed Chief Shecapio.
The CNSC, along with Canadian environmental agencies have concluded that this project presents low risk to the environmental and human health. This, however, has not been effectively demonstrated to the people of the Cree nation of Mistissini. If this project goes ahead, the perception of the contamination it will cause will permanently impact the relationship that the Cree of Mistissini have with their land with long term impacts on hunting, fishing and trapping.
No nuclear development
Another point Mistissini opposes is Quebec's investment in the future of nuclear energy. « We do not believe that nuclear energy, which is the primary use for uranium in Canada, is a sustainable form of energy. We do not want to see a resource extracted from our land be responsible for causing pollution and waste. We do not want this to be our impact on the world. The Crees have already sacrificed a great deal, including their rights and their land, for one source of clean and abundant renewable energy: hydroelectricity », added Richard Shecapio.
Lack of communication
Although still in the early phases of its implementation, Strateco's efforts to engage the community since the signing of the CIA have not been, and remain out of synch with the community's expectations. « We signed a Communication and Information Agreement with Strateco in December in good faith, in order to give them the opportunity to do what they should have been doing since 2006 : to address my people's concerns with this project. Nothing, however has changed since the signing of the agreement. Strateco does not have and has never had our support for the Matoush project despite what they may have announced to their investors », said Chief Shecapio.
Uranium mining is not locally accepted in Eeyou Istchee. It was standing room only in the arena where the June 5th hearing was held with community members unable to attend tuning in from home and work to listen to the proceedings on the local FM radio.
« Strateco Resources is far from having the Cree Nation of Mistissini's consent to proceed with this project. We hope for the recognition and respect of our community's concerns and position by the Commission Tribunal in taking its final decision on the issuance of a license to Strateco Resources », concluded Richard Shecapio.
About the Cree Nation of Mistissini
The Cree Nation of Mistissini is one of the largest Cree communities of the James Bay Crees of Quebec, Canada, and is situated at the southeast end of Mistassini Lake. The Council of Mistissini consists of a Chief, a Deputy Chief and seven elected Councillors.