Last week I looked at how the North Saskatchewan Environmental Quality Committee (NSEQC) is too close to industry to have any significant influence on protecting the North. This week I look at how the Athabasca Working Group (AWG) environmental monitoring program is also too close to industry and how this undercuts its scientific credibility and ability to reassure northerners that it continues to be safe to live off the land.
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On my recent trip to the Keepers of the Water gathering at Wollaston Lake I witnessed the intricacies of northern uranium politics. On June 29th the Inuit group Nunavummiut Makitagunarninit had called for a public inquiry on the proposed Kiggavik uranium mine in Nunavut. It opposed leaving the decision solely to the regulatory process, arguing a public inquiry “is more transparent, flexible and democratic”. It added, “Nunavut’s organizations have already shown themselves incapable of protecting the public interest” and “land claims institutions are not equipped to deal with the complex long-term cumulative effects of a nascent uranium industry in the territory.”
I have just returned from the Watershed Gathering at Wollaston Lake August 19th to 23rd. Five hundred people attended this event which was only accessible by plane or boat. Some Dene travelled four days by canoe to attend. Protecting water clearly draws on deep commitment.
Uranium is a water soluble, toxic heavy metal that emits radiation until it stabilizes into lead in 4.5 billion years. One of its many carcinogenic byproducts is radon gas, the world's second cause of lung cancer. No wonder jurisdictions concerned about environmental health want to keep it from being spread into watersheds, food chains and human bodies.