SASKATOON – The agenda for Cameco’s annual general meeting took a turn Wednesday when a group of protesters showed up at Cameco’s head office.
The focus shifted from updating shareholders on the financial future of the company to the ethics and environmental impact of uranium mining in northern Saskatchewan.
The protest of about 25 people was organized by members of the English River First Nation but was attended by people from all over the province including Lumsden, Outlook, Standing Buffalo, Saskatoon and an outspoken woman from La Ronge.
“All we will have done is increase the amount of radioactivity on the land,” said Kirsten Scansen, of La Ronge, Sask.
“It’s making our food, our land base, our wild meats, our fish, our plants, our berries, making them more dangerous in our lives and decreasing our livelihood, decreasing our health, decreasing our well being.”
The protesters biggest concerns are the radioactive tailings ponds left in the north and the high grade nuclear waste being disposed of.
The English River band chief and council signed an agreement with Cameco and Areva on May 31, 2013 supporting mining operations in the north. The $600-million deal, is to remain in effect as long as Cameco is in operation on the First Nation’s land.
The First Nation is supposed to benefit from the agreement through job opportunity and community investment but resident’s say they didn’t agree to it.
“They went to the back room door kind of deal and talked to the elected authority,” said protest organizer Candyce Paul.
“The people themselves were never really consulted.”
Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel credits his company for allowing the protest to take place at the building on 11th street.
Gitzel says the company is delivering on all fronts of the agreement with 50 per cent of its work force being of aboriginal descent.
“We make commitments on jobs, we make commitments on business opportunities, we contribute to the arts and sports in the communities. We do a lot of things and it’s a big benefit to Northern Saskatchewan,” said Gitzel.
“We’ve been doing it for 25 or 30 years and I believe, it’s my view, the north is better off with uranium mining.”
But Scansen says, “opposing the uranium industry becomes harder and harder because Cameco has a hand in absolutely everything.”
The group attempted to deliver the following letter to shareholders but was denied:
To Cameco and its Shareholders:
We, the Committee for Future Generations and a coalition of other groups and individuals deliver this letter to you.
Water and land unite us all. They are gifts given freely, but owned by no one. Each one of us living on this planet has a duty to protect these gifts which, with care, will continue to provide life for thousands of future generations. We take this duty seriously.
We stand, as people united with millions across this land you call Canada and beyond, to hold the nuclear industry to account for knowingly putting all life on this planet at risk, while continuing to create the most lethal man-made substance on Earth.
As keepers of this Land for future generations, we demand that you immediately begin to make changes towards alternative energy and plan for a nuclear free future. We do NOT accept your lies that nuclear energy is green, nor that you monitor and regulate yourselves for the safety of the people.
We do NOT accept contaminated money in exchange for that which is priceless. We DO act on the wisdom of our true Elders, that no amount of money would be able to buy back water and land once it is radiated.
We hold you and all other nuclear proponents accountable for all deaths, disease and misery caused by both military and non-military use of uranium you have taken from our territory.
We do NOT accept the risk of radioactive contamination. We do NOT consent to be your guinea pigs, nor do we surrender our territories as a sacrifice zone for the sake of jobs or your profits.
Our future generations MUST be protected. They will NOT be expendable, collateral damage for your benefit. For the EARTH and ALL that live on it, in the Spirit of Truth,
Committee for Future Generations
Protesters told Global News they’ll keep fighting.
Cameco owns and operates four uranium mines in Saskatchewan including Cigar Lake which began production in March, 2014. The Millennium Mine, north of Key Lake, is currently on hold.