Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Citizens’ Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
Home Scope of the Inquiry Participants How to participate Counties & Municipalities
About CCAMU CCAMU Supporter Registration Location & Dates Supporting Organizations
   

Choosing a Healthy, Sustainable Path, Not Uranium Mining

Jan Slakov, Salt Spring Island, BC

Why would someone living in BC contribute to an inquiry on uranium mining in Ontario? Only a couple weeks ago, when I was working on the draft of this submission, uranium mining was a real threat here in BC. But a couple days ago the Campbell government announced it is confirming a moratorium that ran out in 1987. This is wonderful news! ... I wonder if the Campbell Liberals took a look at the furor that the McGuinty government has caused over its lack of action to protect Ontario from uranium mining, and decided it would quietly shut the door on that.

Fundamentally, my involvement is rooted in my love for all of Canada, as I have had the privilege of living on both the east and west coasts and of getting to know people and places all across this land. If we want to find alternative ways to live that will not destroy the earth, I know that people involved in the struggle to prevent uranium mining in eastern Ontario are among the ones most able to show us a way forward. Whether they be native people whose connection to living in harmony with nature is still very much alive, or non-natives who walk their talk, live simply and write books about how to turn our society around before it is too late, as Mike NIckerson has done, these are people I am honoured to know (or know of). Standing in solidarity with them is one of the things which gives me hope as we face calamity in the form of environmental collapse, unending war and an unjust economic system which condemns many to extreme poverty, while a few individuals have economic (and environmental) footprints that are larger than those of some nations.

One of the people who recognized the challenges we now face is the late Father Bob Ogle, once an NDP MP from Saskatchewan. "More than half the resources consumed in the history of the planet," he once wrote, "have been used up in my lifetime. Most of the pollution destroying creation has occurred since my father was born. Fifteen billion years of creation destroyed in two generations!"

Thankfully, there is still much that has not yet been destroyed. But we know in ways that Father Bob could not have known, that the decisions we make now can cause destruction far into the future.

By using more energy than any beings have ever used before, many people have been freed up from time-consuming work such as growing their food, hauling their water, chopping the wood needed for fires and so on. What have we done with the time we have been given? A good question to reflect on; let's also reflect on which places have scored highest for happiness in recent studies: Vanuatu, where sense of community is high but GNP is almost non-existent and Denmark, known for its progressive socio-economic and energy policies. Indeed, years ago Denmark invested heavily in wind power and conservation measures and closed the door to nuclear reactors. Let us use the time we have now, the energy and resources we have now, to find ways to live that will protect what is left of the earth we love, so that our children and theirs will not inherit a wasteland.

The Ontario government's decision to invest billions of dollars in its nuclear industry is a turn in the wrong direction. If the Province goes ahead with this plan, that money, those resources, will be unavailable for investing in conservation measures and renewable energy. And, once again, the investment will be in a non-renewable resource, one which can make some people rich but condemn us to further destroy the earth... and leads to a dead end once the resource is used up.

The nuclear industry threatens current and future generations with radioactive waste, some of which is being manufactured into weapons and spread around the world by war. Nuclear reactors leave us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks than a more decentralized energy system. And we erode fundamental principles of democracy and justice by ignoring the 14 cities and townships which have passed resolutions calling for a moratorium on uranium mining and the dedicated pleas of citizens, including Ardoch Algonquin First Nation negotiator Bob Lovelace, currently serving a 6 month prison term and forced, along with others, to pay outrageous fines for their nonviolent actions to oppose uranium mining.

Ontario and Canada already have a sorry history of injustice towards First Nations peoples; it is past time to heed the Amnesty International call for "the province to work with Indigenous peoples to undertake immediate reform of provincial laws and policies that fail to respect and uphold the duty of meaningful consultation, accommodation and consent."

I would like now to quote from some of the people who are showing us the way forward, but who so far, are largely being ignored by the provincial government. These are our heroes, the people I will do my best to help, as they break the trail towards a healthier, safer future.

Donna Dillman, the grandmother who fasted for 68 days and wrote numerous letters to Premier McGuinty, said it was easy to explain why she had made such a commitment: "Having been part of the generation responsible for bringing about so much havoc to the planet in the way of resource drawdown, toxic waste and pollution, I feel I owe it to my grandchildren, and yours, to step up to the plate and say Oenough."

Helen Forsey, another familiar face at the uranium protest camp, wrote of how her father, Senator Eugene Forsey, nurtured her love of nature and commitment to work for justice:
"My work in international and Native solidarity and in the women's movement is based not only in my personal experience and commitment, but in the passion for justice that I picked up at my father's knee. Similarly, my involvement in the environmental movement is rooted in our family's love of natureand the out-of-doors."

I like to think that Eugene can yet be a kind of father to us all, his example helping to spur us on to protect the earth and work for social justice.

Paul York, a University of Toronto student and member of Students Against Climate Change urged Premier McGuinty to reflect more deeply on his commitment to Christian values, writing: "Mr. McGuinty, you claim to be a Christian, but to allow this to happen is decidedly contrary to Jesus' ethical teachings to love our neighbours. Those neighbours include people at risk from tritium poisoning and future generations at risk from nuclear waste. Like Robert Oppenheimer [the "father of the atomic bomb"], you are unleashing a dread force on the world, and like him you are personally and morally responsible. And like him you can reverse yourself and try to make amends. It is not too late."

Robert Lovelace is still in prison. The more I learn about him, the more impressed I am; he is a retired chief and has taught at Queens University and is a student counsellor at Fleming College. He is also the father of Skye, his 12-year-old adoptive daughter. I quote from a letter he wrote to her, explaining why he is away in jail:

"Dearest Skye:

I received your letter the other day and it made me so happy.
[...]
I don't like being in prison. It is not nice here and I miss you and River, Michael and Victoria very much. But I think I did the right thing. You children need clean, beautiful land on which to live your lives. The land gives us everything we need and our Indian culture comes from the land. Harold, your adopted grandfather, and I promised each other many years ago that we would fight for the land and people; that we would make sure that the children, you and your children, would have what Kijimanide, the Creator, gave our ancestors.

So I hope this helps you understand why I am in prison. I pray every day that I will be home soon, and I know that many other people are praying as well for my release. We will be together again soon, so don't give up hope.

I love you.

Love Bobby

(your Dad)"

The reasons to stop uranium mining have their roots far into the future, but there are also the very immediate and compelling bonds of solidarity and love which inform our call for a moratorium. As poet Adrienne Rich wrote in "The Dream of a Common Language",

My heart is moved by all
I cannot save
So much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
With no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.