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Port Radium assessments not "frivolous"

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Section: Letters Topics: Mining, uranium

April 20, 2005

Port Radium assessments not "frivolous"

Canada, Racism, Genocide and the Bomb" by Kim Petersen, published in your online journal, and we are very unhappy with some aspects of the article. Our staff, which represents the Déline arm of the Canada-Déline Uranium Table, has been working very hard for the past four years to conduct research on the environmental and human health impacts of Port Radium on behalf of the Déline community. This work has included a comprehensive assessment of environmental conditions at the site, a historical reconstruction of radiation doses to former Dene workers and residents, a present day human health risk assessment, an epidemiology project and an ongoing program of community healing activities aimed at mitigating the social impacts of Port Radium on the people of Déline. Assessments of high risk patients were actually done, whereas your article states that they were only "developed".

Furthermore, the visit to the Port Radium site by 15 community members (which included numerous Déline First Nation leaders), which your article describes as "frivolous", was a very valuable experience. Scientists gave people a tour of the site to explain the results of the site assessment activities that have been conducted. This has assisted key decision makers in the community to participate in the development of a clean up plan for the site.

We would like to speak with you as soon as possible to discuss revisions to the article, as we feel that it does not give a full and accurate picture of our organization or the work we have been doing.

Jennifer Blomqvist
Final Report Coordinator
Deline Uranium Project Team

Kim Petersen responds:

Dear Jennifer Blomqvist,

The article is not about the work of the CDUT. Readers of the article should realize that it is primarily about the tragedy that has befallen the Sahtugot'ine, who started suffering (presumably from exposure to radiation) in the early 1960s and dying. On 22 March 1998 -- over 30 years later! -- Chief Raymond Tutcho alleged "prior knowledge and ongoing complicity in the environmental crime" inflicted on the Dene First Nation of Déline. Tutcho's six-point plan called for immediate crisis assistance, a comprehensive environmental and social assessment, full public disclosure, clean-ups and monitoring, acknowledgment of government responsibility, and community healing and cultural regeneration. Well, seven years later there has been no immediacy to the crisis assistance, and people are dying. Yes, as noted in the article, an assessment has been carried out -- though not yet released to the public.

Ms. Blomqvist inaccurately quotes the article and asserts an error: "Assessments of high risk patients were actually done, whereas your article states that they were only 'developed.'" The quotation came from an email exchange with Mr. Danny Gaudet of the CDUT. I asked, "Since the CDUT has been formed, has any special treatment of radiation-afflicted people been undertaken?" Mr. Gaudet responded, "No. Other than developing assessments of high risk patients." This was quoted in the article.

Ms. Blomqvist again inaccurately quotes the use of the word "frivolous" in the article. I cited the source of my contention in the article as the November 2004 Newsletter of CDUT, which readers can find online.

In summary, 15 community members and 4 CDUT staff variously head to the Port Radium site, avoid walking, start a fire, prepare lunch, go up a hill and then to Murphy Bay "where an old tennis court is." Questions are asked all the time but not one is divulged. Rock samples are collected, a "cup of tea" is "enjoyed," an aerial view is beheld, and after they arrive back in Déline "a tired but very satisfied group." The trip's achievement: giving the group a "much better idea of what the site looks like and what the issues and concerns at the site are."

Whether this is "frivolity," readers can assess themselves. This writer couldn't help but wonder about an aerial survey, ground tour, and tea in September 2004 when lethal cancer cases arose in the early 1960s.

Kind regards,

Kim Petersen

...and Blomqvist again:

Mr. Petersen's indignant response to my critique of his article, though
obviously heartfelt, is again inaccurate.
I don't have the time to engage in this back and forth bickering over
disputed facts and terminology (e.g. "frivolity" vs. "frivolous"), as we
are in a critical phase of our project at the moment. I would like to
end this matter by saying that he should have allowed our staff to
review his article before posting it, as he has misinterpreted and
misrepresented this very important story.

Jennifer Blomqvist
Final Report Coordinator
Deline Uranium Project Team

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