Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
from Joan Rose
Welcome to my wake up reality! A few months ago, I was living in a fool’s ignorant paradise. I actually believed that our government was elected to represent us and to protect our rights. Believe it or not, I trusted that the law was created to protect us from harm and guarantee our rights to a safe, healthy environment. I assumed the government ministries such as: Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines, Environmental Protection, Health, were mandated to work together to balance the use of resources while monitoring the protection of our environment and ourselves.|
In a very few months, I am much older and, sadly, wiser. During the summer or 2007, I heard rumours that a company called Frontenac Ventures had been granted rights to stake claims to mine uranium in the heart of the ‘Land of Lakes’ tourist region which is situated at the head of the Mississippi Water Shed which ultimately delivers water to Kingston and Ottawa. I further read on Frontenac Ventures' website that the company was planning 'aggressive, open-pit mining’. I was shocked and disbelieving. Surely, it was a huge mistake which would be corrected by our government in view of the known toxic dangers of uranium exploration and mining.
Surely, the toxic effects of uranium mining were common knowledge. After all, we have documented examples of the effects uranium in areas such as Chalk River where there is evidence confirming increased instances of cancer, leukemia in children, and birth defects in human native populations in the vicinity.
In brief, the facts are that there is no known safe uranium mine. The radioactive poisons produced during the exploration and mining of uranium are irrevocable in that they remain with us for hundreds of thousands of years in our water and air. Incidentally, radon gas is the second most common cause of lung cancer after smoking. At least with smoking we have a choice.
As the news gradually sunk in that the Shabot and Ardock Algonquin First Nations were protesting this potentially poisonous desecration on lands which were subject to unresolved Native land claims, I rested uneasily in the knowledge that they had a chartered guarantee to fair and open consultation on the use of lands under dispute.
I say uneasily because I was aware that, as a regular citizen, I had no recourse under the law. I was helpless to move to protect the land, the environment, myself, my children and grandchildren from this eminent treat to the environment and to our health.
Subsequently, I was horrified to witness the travesty of justice in the Frontenac Court House, in which Bob Lovelace’s rights as an Aboriginal leader, subject to the law of his people to protect the land by opposing uranium mining on subject lands were denied. He was heavily penalized in order to set an example for the rest of us who might want to move to protect our rights. I was particularly angered at the accusation levelled at Mr. Lovelace, that he had been inciting others to join his cause. I never received any communication from him or his Native community. I followed the situation, educated myself and made my own decision to protest independently.
More recently, I have discovered the 1994 Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights which was passed during Bob Rea’s tenure as Premier. It states our rights thus:
WHEREAS ONTARIO’S ENVIRONMENT – ITS AIR, LAND, WATER, PLANT AND ANIMAL LIFE, AND ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS – HAS INHERENT VALUE; AND
the environment should be used wisely, protected and conserved, and where necessary, restored for the benefit of present and future generations; and
the people should have the means to ensure that this goal is achieved;
THE LEGISLATURE OF ONTARIO HAS PASSED THE ENVIRONMENTAL BILL OF RIGHTS WHICH GIVES THE PEOPLE OF THIS PROVINCE:
The Right to information on policies and actions that could significantly affect the environment;
The Right to have those policies and actions formally reviewed and publicly reported;
The Right to initiate investigations into situations or activities believed to be environmentally harmful and to take court action to prevent or remedy such harm;
The Right to greater protection as employees who take action to protect the environment:
The Right to have an Environmental Commissioner who shall act on their behalf to scrutinize the government to ensure that it meets its environmental responsibilities under this Bill.
THESE RIGHTS WILL ENABLE US AND FUTURE GENERATIONS TO ENJOY AND VALUE ONTARIO’S NATURAL ENVIRONMENT.
Date of Proclamation: February 15, 1994
So, do we actually have these rights under the law? If so how do we access them? Right now, we are denied these rights under the so called law. Bob Lovelace was denied his rights under the Indian Act which states a ‘duty to consult’ with First Nations people about any proposed use of their lands. The so called law has forced conscientious, sincere citizens back against the wall. Since they are denied their rights to health and safety, their only recourse is to break the so-called law in a desperate attempt to protect themselves and their loved ones. I am speaking of six newly charged, very principled persons, to be prosecuted on June 2nd for trespassing as a result of being anywhere close to the Robertsville mine site.
So what have I learned from this experience:
I have learned that the government will pick and choose which laws to follow in achieving its agenda.
I have learned that the government considers itself above the same laws that its citizens are required to follow.
I have learned that uranium mining has a proven record of the worst possible human health effects and irrevocable damage to the environment of any other polluting industry.
I have learned that the antiquated mining act dating from the turn of the century allows staking and mining of private land without permission, consultation or even notification of owners such as Frank and Gloria Morrison. Demands to reform this act have not been acted upon.
I have learned that our First Nations’ peoples, who have been so wronged and unfairly treated in the past, still have their constitutional rights delayed and ultimately denied; while the laws that support injustice to all are recognized and enforced first.
I have learned that our government and law will exact extreme penalty on anyone who strives to protect his/her rights when those rights conflict with government interests in order to 'set an example' and intimidate anyone else who might wish to do the same.
I have learned that our government is willing to ignore the unanimous call of all town and city councils (including Kingston and Ottawa) in this area to declare a moratorium on uranium mining until safety concerns are investigated.
I have concluded that our government values money first and the protection of the citizens who elected it last.
So far, our elected premier, Mr. McGuinty, has remained silent to multitudinous letters from concerned citizens and prominently the many impassioned letters of Donna Dillman who suffered a 68 day hunger strike for this cause. I was equally shocked to find that John Gerretson, our Kingston representative who is also our Minister of the Environment, is equally disinterested in our concerns, parroting the same dismissive response as our Prime Minister, “Are you willing to do without light?”
Shame on both of them! This is not a matter of light. This is a matter of life.