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Lies, Omissions and Nuclear Waste

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Issue: 50 Section: Opinion Geography: Ontario ottawa, Kichesipirini, chalk river Topics: nuclear, Algonquin

March 5, 2008

Lies, Omissions and Nuclear Waste

The Chalk River Reactor and the Kichesipirini Algonquin (part one of three)

by Paula Lapierre

A satellite view of Chalk River Laboratories. The nuclear reactor was built secretly, as part of the Manhattan project, the first successful attempt to create a nuclear bomb.

On January 16, the Harper government made headlines when it fired Linda Keen from her post as president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Under Keen's leadership, the CNSC had shut down the aging Chalk River nuclear reactor in November, and had been at odds with the Harper government ever since. Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn ostensibly fired Keen because of a "worldwide shortage" of medical isotopes supplied by the reactor allegedly caused by its closure. In Canada's media, the debate has been about whether Keen's firing violated the arm's-length nature of the CNSC, depriving it of the ability to make independent decisions.

What reports largely miss is the long history of lies, theft and radioactive contamination surrounding Chalk River Laboratories (CRL). If the reactor continues to operate, this history will find its way to the fore. The one-sided battle between Canadian government and corporations and the area's original inhabitants will continue until accountability, public health and the rule of law--the supposed mandate of organizations like the CNSC--are achieved.

Chalk River Origins

The mining project that became the infamous Port Radium began in 1890, when a prospector laid claim to a vein of silver and pitchblende on the shore of Sahtu, or Great Bear Lake. In the early 1940s, uranium from that site was needed for the Manhattan Project, the US-UK-Canadian intiative that built the first atomic bomb, and the mine was expropriated. Sahtugot'ine workers who were exposed to radioactive materials but who were not warned of the danger began to die of exotic cancers years later; their land and water was contaminated with radioactive materials.

From there, the uranium headed south.

The Combined Policy Committee, the three-country committee charged with collaboration in the creation of an atomic bomb, mandated the construction of the world's first large-scale heavy water reactor in Canada. The ultra-secret project required immediate access to very deep water for generation and cooling purposes.

On August 21, 1944 it was decided to locate the heavy water project at Chalk River, Ontario, situated along the shores of the Ottawa River. Here begins the relationship between the nuclear industry, the historic "Kichesippi River" and the Algonquin people.

In an article written in 2000, professor of psychology and historian Evan Pritchard has written that "One band of 'Anishinabe-Algonkians,' the 'Kiche-sipi-rini' or 'People of the Great River,' were possibly the first of this ancient culture to settle down in one place, Allumette Island.

"Allumette is the largest island in the Ottawa River, the river which forms the boundary between Ontario and Quebec, and there is evidence of sedentary Anishinabe-Algonkian settlements there going back at least 6,280 years, and occupation in the area dating back 7,000 years as it became inhabitable after the Ice Age. From this power base in the center of the trade route, their influence and language spread throughout North America. Hence they have been called 'The First People.'

"Allumette Island," Pritchard continues, "was a turning point in the civilization. There is little doubt that the Anishinabe-Algonkians of Allumette are the direct descendants of the so-called "Clovis" people, long considered the oldest group of Native Americans."

The Kichesipirini, in accordance with the Aboriginal legal system -- in place prior to any sovereignty assertions by any imperial Crown, controlled economic activity and political diplomacy of the Ottawa River and surrounding region. Initially, that jurisdiction was to have been protected but the government suddenly changed its mind in 1837, cancelling the promises of a reserve, preferring to move people from their traditional land to areas away from the river. The move opened the door for exploitation of Kichesipirini territory by the lumber trade, and destroyed the Algonquin traditional governance system.

While those who agreed to move to the established reserves or who joined other satellite historic bands were then federally "recognized," many others from the Ottawa, Renfrew and Pontiac Counties did not re-locate and were later referred to as "stragglers." The governments of Canada, Ontario and Quebec, like the colonial imperial governments that preceded them, consistently treated the traditional Algonquin people as squatters on their own land. The Kichesipirini, despite continuing to exist within their territory, were administratively erased from the public record through Canadian domestic Aboriginal policy.

More than 3,000 hectares along the Ottawa River were expropriated, including farm land from several Kichesipirini families, 30 km northwest of Pembroke, Ontario. Thus, Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) had its beginnings. The area is a place of spiritual significance to the Algonquin people because of the depth of the water and its proximity to other sacred sites, including ancestral gravesites.

The local people, predominately Kichesipirini Algonquin, were told that what was being built was a plastic processing plant.

During the first several decades of operation at Chalk River, no safety standards or protocols were in place. Nuclear wastes were handled carelessly, causing widespread radioactive contamination of the site far beyond what would be considered acceptable standards today.

Local residents were never properly informed. Civilians, especially the persons of Aboriginal descent more dependent on local natural resources for food, have still never been identified or monitored. According to expert sources, radioactive wastes are still leaking into the Ottawa River, which is an important source of food, recreation and drinking water used by numerous communities downriver in Ontario and Quebec, including the city of Ottawa.

This site, with its legacy of secrecy, expediency, and experimentation is now owned and operated by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), the federal crown corporation that designs and markets CANDU reactors.

The reactor built at Chalk River began operation in 1957, and has been slated for retirement for years. In 2006, AECL assured the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) that safety upgrades would be made to the reactor, including emergency power supply to two heavy-water pumps. AECL then lied when they submitted a Safety Analysis for NRU relicensing, claiming that the required safety modifications were completed. During a routine meeting in November of 2007, CNSC learned that the pumps were in fact not connected.

AECL loses revenue to a private company. Under the Conservative Mulroney government, one of AECL's hopes of financial sustainability, the lucrative revenue from medical isotope productions, was sold from the Crown corporation to the private firm MDS Nordion. Most of the revenue from isotope productions would always go to MDS Nordion as per their 40 year supply agreement. As a result, taxpayers carried the expenses of reactor and isotopes production, liabilities, decommissioning, and maintenance but MDS Nordion recieved most of the profits that accrued.

The local population, not having recovered from declines in the forest industry, is now becoming dependent on the subsidized nuclear industry as their major employer and economic contributor. Lacking economic diversity, fearful of job loss and community revenue losses, few local people or community leaders will now oppose this leeching giant, this Windego, on their shorelines.

[Read part II: Manufactured Crises on Stolen Land]

Paula Lapierre is the Principal Sachem of the Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation

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Lies, Omissions and Nuclear Waste

An excellent salvo !!

This will be the begining of the rescue of the Kichisippi River and the return of her rightful guardians, the Kichisippirini.

Chi Miigwetch ,

It would be interesting to

It would be interesting to compare the overall increase in quality of life generated by the operation of Chalk River Laboratories (in its production of medical isotopes) to the overall decrease in quality of life generated by its operation (in exotic cancers, radioactive contamination and displacement of people from their homes). A numbers crunch: how many people have been saved how much pain versus how many people have been committed to how much pain as a result of Chalk River? I doubt sick folks would support the demand for its medical isotopes, knowing they would be effectively passing their pain onto others. Too bad an ounce of prevention is no longer worth a pound of cure.

Whatever happened to Pimadiziwin?

I can attest that there is a population of people in this area who have struggled with terrible loss and premature suffering. I am stopped regularly now on the street by friends of my daughters that were at my home growing up, young women in their early twenties now telling me that they have had a hysterectomy because of cancer. One girl has told me that 12 of her 15 high school friends and herself, none of them thirty yet, are already battling with cancer.

It has not been unusual in my family for individuals to have to deal with cancer three times in their lifetime, different cancers.

I have gotten calls late at night from people concerned about rare forms of brain cancer occuring in individuals working at certain areas of AECL.

It isn't just cancer. It is unusual auto-immune problems. It is premature births and miscarriages. I myself lost five pregnancies. It is unexplained neurological disorders. It is higher than average occurances of MS. It is chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. It is allergic reactions.

We were once a hardy, strong people, and we took great pride in our physical strength and athletic abilities. My father's generation regularly swam across the Ottawa River. My grandparent's generation had large families and very little material wealth but lived well into their 80s and 90s. That is what makes it so obvious to us because we know who we were and our great vitality.

People previously died in their 30s and 40s of freakish accidents lumbering or farming. Large numbers of your family didn't die young of cancer.

Something is affecting us, even as our quality of life is supposedly improving. You need to be alive to enjoy that don't you?

My brother-in-law whose mother's family was relocated from their home at the site when AECL was being built has been recently in the hospital and he commented that going to the hospital was like a family reunion he had so many relatives there.

We endure, but it seems that with every generation it gets worse. What didn't happen until the thirties is now happening to our children in their twenties. That is a concern you carry everyday about your children and those that come after you. It is a blessing to think that your children and grandchildren will have a better life than you but it is a very heavy weight when you wonder if something is accumalative. People talk about the high, high numbers of people dieing of cancer in their prime, and it is mostly from the geographical areas that I know to be clusters of unregistered Algonquins, people who have always been here, and are usually living along certain areas of the river.

The people see the pattern, but they are so afraid of their family members losing that job that everyone just mumbles over coffee. We are caught between terrible poverty or having a government job that might be putting your health at risk. It is when the possibility of the risks becoming hereditary that there is some emotional conflict for most people here. The guilt is terrible.

Much of the population here is very transient because of the military base at Petawawa so sometimes demographics can be deceiving. But we are a people that have always been here. It is who we are. And now we are told that we should not even eat more than three fish a year taken out of the Ottawa River.

Where is the logic in that? Pimadiziwin is Algonquin for the "Good Life" and means health and balance. When you can't eat the natural foods in your own environment because they can cause cancer because you're maintaining a machine that after it produced its cancerous emissions generates a by-product that helps detect and treat cancer...and we are all paying a fortune to keep it going....while a certain company makes a profit from the illness...politics aside, seems like faulty logic to me.

But who are we? Do we matter? We were erased from the public record to allow untethered exploitation of the local forests. Who are we? Here in Canada, as natives, we are expendable.

There has to be a better way.

Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation and UN Relations


After months of communications with different United Nations bodies and just recently filing a request for International Criminal Court investigation into the ongoing genocide of the Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation through the application of Canadian domestic policy the Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation, as a still sovereign indigenous nation in Canada, after refusing to leave their territory or acquiesce any rights by coming under domestic policy, has been invited to attend, the Seventh Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.‏

We go, as is our traditional role, to represent the best interests of all our relatives, all Indigenous Peoples of Canada, honouring the spirits of our ancestors, ensuring that the Indigenous Peoples of Canada will be recognized and respected as a founding Peoples of Canada.

O Canada, oma endjibayang

Paula LaPierre
Principal Sachem
Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation

By Honouring Our Past We Determine Our Future
Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation

Visit our community information website at http://www.esnips.com/web/kichesipirini

Kichesipirini Documents Contaminant Exposures

The Dialogue Denied Us

The leadership of the Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation continue final edits on document that raises serious questions concerning chronic public exposures to dangerous environmental contaminants and that such ongoing deliberate exposure is directly associated with ongoing government and industry refusal to recognize Kichesipirini as a verifiable historical Algonquin nation, and our continued assertions of the legal and moral right to exercise our inherent and inalienable traditional governance role.

The Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation became very concerned about possible hidden agendas associated with the blatant refusal to address Kichesipirini assertions in connection with land claim negotiations. Of particular concern is the reliance on flawed "negotiations" as a means to circumvent the law to resolve Aboriginal claims consistent with the legal requirements of purposeful fact-finding processes and adherence to historical truth as is required with litigated land claims.

Such circumventions of the legal process denied Kichesipirini their rightful role as protectors and responsible government.

Kichesipirini community members suspected that the many irregularities, especially the allocating of public monies and certain inflated responsibilities and jurisdictions regarding the Algonquin Nations particular relationship with the Manhattan Project and nuclear industry to Aboriginal communities that did not possess such authority, to be indicative of a systemic refusal to genuinely inform the public about the issues, thereby blocking all chances to actual accountability and examination of the facts, and that such demographic manipulations were probably indicative of some larger issues.

The Kichesipirini leadership was then mandated by the community to conduct its own fact-finding process and ensure that the historical truths were documented and examined appropriately. With absolutely no resources to work with the Kichesipirini community through the dedication and voluntary efforts of its members continued its work, committed to act, as is our inherent governance role, in the best interests of all the people of the Ottawa Valley.

Responding to regional grassroots concerns regarding seemingly high and unusual health problems and the ongoing lack of consultation or inclusion of the Kichesipirini in ongoing land claim negotiations and our exclusion from all implementation of Aboriginal service provision and policies the Kichesipirini community was essentially blocked and failed to give a voice to those people most directly affected. As a result of such state sponsored sabotage we determined that it was important to ensure the international arena be accessed as the most appropriate intervention and established communications and participation at the international level.

The document entitled "The Dialogue Denied Us" exposes the many inherent flaws associated with Canada's existing Aboriginal domestic policy, land claims negotiations, and ongoing failures in dealing with the numerous concerns associated with Canada's involvement in the Manhattan Project and broader nuclear industry.

The document demonstrates how failure to legally determine the actual identities and original jurisdictions of Aboriginal societies specifically affected with developments, and the misuse of public monies to generate alternative and compliant Aboriginal communities removed from a process of factual examination and historical truth, makes all people residing in such affected territories vulnerable to exploitation and the inability to exercise the principles of free, prior and informed consent consistent with democratic process.

The Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation harbours anxieties that part of the reasoning for the promotion of the corrupt system is to push through a complex system of social and economic manipulations as part of a pre-determined agenda in which certain Algonquin groups will be used to claim the Ottawa Valley as a site for long-term or permanent nuclear waste disposal without appropriate public information or consultation.

Our document provides assurance for the people of the Ottawa Valley that any such agenda, because of its failure to recognize Kichesipirini jurisdiction, will be considered of no effect and void.

The document should be completed for public distribution some time in the early new year.


Paula LaPierre
Principal Sachem
Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation

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