Nov 11/98: Radioactive waste will kill McLean Lake Nation


Canadian Alliance in Solidarity with the Native Peoples (CASNP)
Wednesday, November 11, 1998

CASNP. Kahnawake Mohawk Territory. 11 Nov. 98. A CASNP member has sent this letter to Saskatchewan Premier Romanow, which shows what one person can do. She was involved in the fight to stop El Dorado from mining at Wollaston Lake on the Lake Lahache First Nation territory.

Dear Premier Romanow:

This is a letter I never thought I would write. I guess being a senior citizen I have always hoped that there were at least a couple of good politicians left in the country. After last night's CBC documentary on the "Fifth Estate", I am very distressed that you and your government have fallen into the pit with all the others.

How dare you allow COGAMA, a French multi national corporation, or any other company, to dump radioactive tailings for a fee on land that will kill the people, land and water of the McLean Lake First Nation? As one of your parliamentary members callously said, you need the money. If you did not do it, then the next government would. Did you ever consider if you stopped all this destruction that maybe no other government would ever dare start it again?

Until you politicians stop considering the people of this land as robots and that we will accept anything in the name of money, you are leaving yourselves open to a rude awakening. I am not your usual letter writer. I did so for my grandchildren. I will do anything for them. I am aware of the disastrous affects of strip mining uranium. I am also aware that it affects the whole atmosphere of this country. I am asking you to come to your senses and to stop this terrible destruction. I also intend to write to the Prime Minister of Canada.

We cannot fail the Indigenous people of this area. What are you going to do?

- From a Concerned Grandmother


The Aboriginal people of Wollaston Lake, which is near MacLean Lake in Northern Saskatchewan, put out their first petition against dumping of radio active tailings on their land in 1984 and one year later blockaded the mine for two days. The Union of Saskatchewan Indians stopped the blockade because they had the contract to do the trucking. The Quakers and the Canadian Council of Churches worked alongside the Aboriginal people throughout this campaign. CASNP asks whether they will help the Lake MacLean People too?

BACKGROUND: In 1985 tests were done on the people and animals of Wollaston Lake who were found to have birth abnormalites. Scientist Rosale Bertell, a Quaker, expressed concern with the health of the food chain in "Voices from Wollaston Lake". She said that it slowly undermines the health and causes the children to be a little less healthy than their parents. The vigour of the people is irreversibly reduced.


Jamie Kneen
November 11, 1998

I happen to be somewhat familiar with this situation, though I don't have a TV and missed the Fifth Estate piece. I lived in Wollaston Lake and worked for the Band on environment and development issues in 1989-91, and have been involved with them (the Hatchet Lake Dene Nation) ever since. The situation continues to be a national disgrace; millions of tons of radioactive uranium mine tailings are deposited in experimental facilities, and essential baseline health and environment studies have never been done, even when demanded by the recent Joint Federal-Provincial Panel looking into the expansion of the mining industry in northern Saskatchewan. Even the few restrictive recommendations made by the Panel have been ignored by federal and provincial ministers and regulatory agencies (AECB, Saskatchewan Environment, etc.).

Fortunately, despite several spills and ongoing mining activity, the water and fish of Wollaston Lake seem to be relatively clean. Certainly better than any place in the south, where the water standards are developed (though that's not saying much). But the threat is very real, and will be there for hundreds of thousands of years, long after the mining companies have gone home, and I suspect, long after governments and relamation bonds have ceased to exist. The Denesuliné people will still be there; they do not want to leave their homelands and they have nowhere to go, even more so now that the government of Canada's Nunavut settlement and its bizarre interpretations of the Treaties has left them with no rights in their traditional lands north of 60.

The mining industry provides jobs, and those kinds of training that suit it -- the Athabasca communities are still virtually without qualified carpenters, electricians, and administrators. But those jobs don't make a dent in the unemployment rate, and Romanow's government, just like its predecessors, has shown no interest in simple measures like redirecting a portion of their royalties towards the affected communities, for economic development, training, social development, whatever. Various alternatives (fish plant, handcrafts, tourism, etc.) are continually discussed but never get support.

It has been very frustrating being involved in this. The only time anyone noticed there was a problem was when there was a blockade (1985) and at that time the support was very short-lived -- once the blockade came down, support evaporated. The Inter-Church Uranium Committee has been about the only consistent voice of sanity in support of the people, while the political leadership blows hot and cold on this as on many other issues.

Anyone interested in this is welcome to contact me.


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