MONTREAL — The next step in the proposed uranium mine project near Mistissini in northern Quebec got a green light from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission last week, but even the commission acknowledges that the Cree Nation is waving a big red stop sign.
Chief Robert Shecapio flew down to Montreal from his community of Mistissini, north of Chibaugamau, this month to draw attention to his community’s intense opposition to uranium mining. That position is held widely across the nine Cree nations of northern Quebec, not to mention hundreds of municipalities all over the province that have passed resolutions against it.
“We are not opposed to any other kind of development foreseen in our territory … (but as for uranium), our opposition will not change.” Shecapio told The Gazette last week.
The Matoush Project is the most advanced of about 20 proposed uranium mining projects for northern Quebec, and was part of the defeated Liberal government’s much-vaunted Plan Nord. While the Parti Québécois called for a moratorium on uranium mining in 2009, the party was less clear on the issue during the recent election campaign.
Environment Minister Daniel Breton and his aide Danielle Rioux have refused repeated requests for an interview with The Gazette on the issue over the last two weeks.
But those opposed to the project took heart that Premier Pauline Marois told reporters from Paris last week that her government intends to continue to develop the north, but will “respect the aboriginal people and the First Nations who occupy the territory.”
For Ugo Lapointe, who heads the mining watchdog group Pour que le Québec ait meilleure mine, respecting the Cree has to mean killing the Matoush project and other uranium mining projects in the province.
“The Crees have said loud and clear they don’t want it, so unless the government wants to go into a war, a political war, over Cree lands,” it has to say no to this type of development, Lapointe said.
Going ahead with the project would go against the spirit and the letter of the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, which paved the way for hydroelectric development on Cree territory, as well as an updated version of that agreement signed in 2002 called La Paix des Braves, he said. Both of these agreements stress the importance of social acceptance by native communities of any development projects in the north.
But Lapointe acknowledged the mining industry lobby is strong.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Montreal Gazette website: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Cree+their+opposition+uranium+mines+change+despite+approval+from+Canadian+Nuclear+Safety+Commission/7434955/story.html