Saugeen First Nation and Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, (Saugeen Ojibway Nation/SON), held a combined information meeting on Saturday, January 11th and Sunday, January 12th at the Royal Canadian Legion in Hepworth.
The meeting was held to provide information to the SON membership about the deep geologic repository (DGR) for low-and-intermediate waste. being proposed by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) at the Bruce Nuclear Power site in Tiverton.
OPG agreed at the outset that it would not proceed with the DGR if it does not have the support of SON and, therefore, each member over the age of 16 has the opportunity to vote for or against the DGR. The vote continues until January 31st and includes the on-line voting that began January 11th.
Approximately 100 attended the meeting in Hepworth and Nawash Chief Greg Nadjiwon acknowledged that it was the largest attendance by the membership at a meeting concerning the DGR and said that the issue is complicated. “This is the start of a much bigger discussion. Our vote decides whether this project goes ahead or not. We haven’t even gotten into a discussion about the high level waste of spent nuclear fuel. It has been very difficult to reach all our members as many are transient and live throughout the Province, throughout Canada and in the United States.”
He added that all the members should make their decisions based on sharing and knowledge. “We have to ask ourselves, do we leave this decision for the next generation? The best result will be to find an answer that will be the best solution to this issue.”
Conrad Ritchie, Band Councilor at Saugeen First Nation, said that as far he was concerned there was a missing piece. “We have to remember who we are as a people, remember our language, our ceremonies and our culture and how everything is rooted in the land and the water. Part of that process is to know that we are losing a distinct part of our culture. We are all related and connected.”
He went on to stress the importance of indigenous language. “Maintaining our language impacts everything. Our elders and leaders are important and it’s important to listen to them. We have to go back and remember all those things that made us who we are as a people. We have a responsibility to each other and our young children to put all these things in front of them in combination with a Western education in order to find a balance.”
Ritchie said that when it comes to making a decision, “We need to make it without selfishness so that the young ones will not pay the price. We are trying to adapt and we have to think not only about our value system but also how to combine the two.”
An unidentified speaker asked that the membership consider what voting ‘No” to the DGR would mean. “If we vote no, will that end our funding from Bruce Power. If we vote yes, will people consider it the destruction of our lands. It’s an uncertain thing and it’s a dilemma. If we vote no though, Bruce Power continues and we should have part of that revenue. We have to really ask our creator to guide us.”
At the meeting, Stewart Bland and John T. Greeves of the Chesapeake Nuclear Services from Maryland, U.S. were also available to answer questions. According to Greeves, the U.S. based company has been working with SON for approximately 10 years on the issue of ” … nuclear power on SON traditional lands”.