July 14, 2020

A resonating no was the Saugeen Ojibway Nation’s (SON) response in a vote on Jan. 31, 2020 on whether they would allow a nuclear waste dump site to be constructed on their territory.

Chippewas of Saugeen Nation and Chippewas of Nawash Nation are the bands of SON. Both are located on the shores of Lake Huron, in Southwestern Ontario, about 160 km from London.

They spent 15 years researching and negotiating with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) about the benefits and the risks of building a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) at the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant in Kincardine, Ont., which is on their unceded territory. 

“It was a long 15 years but we have been heard with a loud NO!” Saugeen resident Kim George said in a statement to Spoke Online.

The historic vote was a landslide with 1,058 saying no and 170 yes ballots.

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Official count declaration at Saugeen Ojibway Nation on Jan. 31. (Photo courtesy of Kim George)

Elders, youth and concerned band members held a rally on their territory Jan. 29, to raise awareness about the vote and their concerns about the proposed dumpsite.

 “I am very concerned for my grandchildren, everybody’s grandchildren could be at risk if this goes through,” Elder Sam Jones told Spoke News.

“The Saugeen Nation has voted in unity with a resoundingly clear No to the building of the experimental DGR, an underground nuclear dump, for our Great Mother and her life-giving waters, all living beings and for our future generations,” Kim George said.

In a press release, OPG CEO Ken Hartwick said the company respects the community’s decision. “We will now move forward to develop an alternate solution.”

“Over the years, OPG and SON have been building a relationship based on mutual respect, collaboration and trust. We look forward to continuing this relationship.”

This particular facility was being proposed to permanently house low and intermediate nuclear waste. 

The items, like contaminated worker clothing and tools, could be radio-active for 100 years. Resins, filters, and used reactor components could be toxic for 100,000 years, according to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, (NWMO) a non-profit overseen by the government.

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Model template for the proposed nuclear dump site that was voted down on Jan. 31. (Diagrams courtesy of OPG)

Moving forward, OPG and SON said they are are searching for a “forever solution” for nuclear waste.

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