Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
from Steve Sharpe
Federal New Democratic Candidate – Peterborough
Good evening. My name is Steve Sharpe and I am the federal candidate for the New Democratic Party in the riding of Peterborough. First, I’d like to welcome this inquiry to Peterborough. Our citizens have expressed a significant amount of concern about the issues involving the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and Frontenac Ventures. The local NDP were fortunate enough to have Chief Paula Sherman speak at our annual general meeting in November and outline some of the concerns she had.|
Personally, I grew up hearing about uranium all the time. My father worked at GE Canada (now GE Hitachi) in the nuclear section, so I’d hear about bundles and endplates and fuelling machines across the dinner table. I didn’t really hear about the negative aspects of uranium other than how nuclear reactors built outside of Canada were more dangerous and more prone to inadvertently creating byproducts that could be made into weapons.
Needless to say, I look at nuclear energy from a different perspective than most members of my party, though I do agree that the future of energy in Canada must turn away from unsustainable fuel sources. And something we can all agree on, whether someone supports nuclear energy or not, is that uranium is the very definition of unsustainable. There is no new uranium being generated in the world; what we find in the earth is all that will ever exist on this planet.
Arguments by the Ontario Government in favour of more uranium exploration tend toward emphasizing our coming need of new uranium for the new reactors planned in Ontario. Most of these politicians, including our premier Mr. McGuinty, are surprised to find that we export most of our uranium, 80% in fact. Canada is one of the world’s largest exporters of uranium and, like the tar sands in Alberta, our elected representatives seem willing to set aside any concerns about the environment, the health of Canadians and the rights of our First Nations in order to allow the exploitation of our natural resources to continue.
The concerns about the proposed uranium mine near Sharbot Lake have more in common with the tar sands than just the willful ignorance of governments though, since both have ramifications downstream. The water used to extract oil from the tarsands in Alberta are draining the Athabasca River and creating numerous environmental disasters downriver. Much of the purpose behind the peaceful demonstrations by the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation was to prevent the Ottawa watershed from becoming fouled with tailings from the mining process. Ottawa City council is in strong support of a moratorium on mining in eastern Ontario since they would be the recipients of anything washing down the river. The principle concern is that while uranium isn’t very toxic or harmful to humans normally, ingested or inhaled uranium can be very harmful. And the fine dust that makes up uranium tailings is unfortunately ideal for both vectors.
All this is in addition to the lack of consultation between Frontenac Ventures and the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation. Chief Sherman was very clear when she spoke to the NDP about their demonstration in Sharbot Lake that her people were asking for free, prior and informed consent before mining exploration began. Any mining operation should have the legal obligation to work with residents, landowners or government in a cooperative, accommodating manner in order to reduce damage to the environment and health of the nearby population.
And speaking of obligations, it is the obligation of elected representatives to review and correct laws, such as the Ontario Mining Act, that have outdated assumptions and preconceptions. It is the responsibility of law-makers, not law enforcement, to make sure our laws are fair and compatible with the views of the day. The protest at Sharbot Lake was deemed illegal, but nearly the entire community rallied around this cause. Hell, most of Ontario rallied to this cause if the attendance at this inquiry is any indication. It is important that our elected representatives see that support and step in.
Bob Lovelace shouldn’t be imprisoned and no fines should be paid when an issue like this proposed uranium mine galvanizes Ontarians. And the responsibility lies with our provincial government to both overturn these penalties and to correct our laws to reflect our values.
I’d like to thank the inquiry for this opportunity.