NIPIGON, Ont. – Despite the small Northwestern Ontario town closest to his community ruling out storing nuclear waste, Pierre Pelletier is still concerned.
The chief of the Red Rock Indian Band, who organized a protest on Friday at the junction of Highway 11 and 17 just east of Nipigon, said voices across the region are strong in their opposition to becoming a dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste.
“We are not in favour of a nuclear waste dumping site up here,” Pelletier said prior to the start of the demonstration.
“We will do whatever we can to try to hold it off. We don’t want it here. We’re getting a lot of people from all across Northwestern Ontario saying they feel the same way.”
A few hundred protesters marched across the span over the Nipigon River, with the OPP blocking Highway 17 traffic in both directions for more than 20 minutes.
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Earlier this week the town council of Nipigon voted to pull out of the exploratory process to become a nuclear waste storage site.
They were one of approximately 15 communities across Canada under consideration by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization to become storage sites.
Other regional communities still in the process include Schreiber, Ignace, Manitouwadge, White River and Hornepayne.
Aerial geographic surveys of Schreiber, Ignace and Hornepayne began in April.
Many of the communities are single industry towns looking for a lifeline to maintain financial stability. Even though Pelletier acknowledges the allure is a strong one, he urged they resist the temptation.
The risk of a potential incident and the calamity it could cost are not worth whatever financial benefit would be gained, he argued.
“We have people from Schreiber that are walking with us too. We know that a lot of communities are struggling for economic development and that this is a big carrot held out in front of them but we are just saying, for us as First Nations people, we don’t want it up in our area,” Pelletier said.
“They build the safest vehicle, the safest truck, the safest plane and there are still accidents. All it takes is one accident. We’re at the headwaters of all of Ontario. What affects us affects everybody.”
The protest was not the only public statement this week in opposition to the practice.
A group known as Citizens Concerned About Nuclear Waste in Schreiber provided a presentation as well as petition with more than 1,000 signatures to Terrace Bay council on Monday opposing storing nuclear in the region.
Nipigon is the first of the regional sites to remove itself from consideration. Previously Ear Falls, Wawa and Red Rock had been ruled out by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization during the Phase 1 assessment.