OCIP has adopted the operational theme of “Getting Involved” or “Being at the Table” as the key to building the Impact Indigenous Peoples have in the World. Meanwhile the NWMO has adopted a policy of acknowledgement of Indigenous rights as follows, “The NWMO acknowledges, respects and honours that Aboriginal peoples – Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada – have unique status and rights as recognized and affirmed in s.35 of the Constitution Act (1982). The NWMO is committed to respecting the Aboriginal rights and treaties of Aboriginal peoples. The NWMO also recognizes that there may be unresolved claims between Aboriginal communities and the Crown to be taken into account in relation to a proposed site.” (Taken from NWMO Aboriginal Policy-April 2014). Also NWMO has coupled to this the ongoing principal and understanding of Indigenous Knowledge, “Indigenous Knowledge recognizes that people are part of and are one with Mother Earth. Indigenous Knowledge systems emphasize the interrelationships among all components of the environment, and as such, believe Aboriginal peoples have a responsibility to be the protectors (guardians) of Mother Earth”. (Taken from Indigenous Knowledge Policy-October 2016). It was from all these understandings and the Great Creators wishes that OCIP and NWMO came together. Then, in a Historic Agreement (Letter of Understanding between NWMO and OCIP- September 2015) between these Peoples, a relationship was forged. Years have passed and the progress can be measured by the friendships made and the ever-present respect. Many would be impressed with the understanding that has been shown by these two very different ways of thinking. The Scientific Approach has learned the Indigenous Way of being and there is a new merging of understanding that has led to a whole new way of Approaching both Mother Earth and the Safe Storage of used Nuclear Materials or Waste. This new Approach has created a trend in Canada by making the pathway for others to follow. Many groups of both Indigenous and a more Main stream nature are now working hand in hand to both complete this project and bring this New Approach to the World. We all have found and proven that looking backwards at our Indigenous Past and Looking Forward to an unknown future can be accomplished as long as both parties have mutual respect and wisdom. OCIP, by no means was the first or even the only Indigenous Group or Organization to join with MWMO, but we do feel that our being at the table has been instrumental in this endeavor.
The forged Partnership between NWMO & OCIP has been founded on a strong foundation and will continue into the future.
Sentiments of Greg Plain
Partnerships are made by working not just on Issues, but rather its about making Friendships.
Chief Elmer St.Pierre
The NWMO stated Mandate or Purpose is “The purpose of the NWMO is to develop and implement, collaboratively with Canadians, a management approach for the long-term care of Canada’s used nuclear fuel that is socially acceptable, technically sound, environmentally responsible, and economically feasible.” (Taken from Implementing Adaptive Phased Management 2020-2024 –March 2020). This definition is but a brief glimpse of what the NWMO does. The NWMO is involved in education of the overall Nuclear Waste and in many cases the whole Power generation process. Also the NWMO is the public face of a rather pointed issue, so they must be a sympathetic sounding board. All the while they building relationships, “Collaboration is a core value of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), and we are committed to ensuring that all interested and potentially affected individuals and organizations have their questions and concerns addressed, and their views heard and taken into account as Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel is implemented.” (Taken from Triennial report COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ACTIVITIES 2017 TO 2019 –March 2020). Lastly, the NWMO must implement a whole host of safety and Regulatory procedures, “The Government of Canada, through the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (2002), assigned responsibility for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel to the NWMO. The NWMO is committed to meeting or exceeding all applicable regulatory standards and requirements for protecting the health, safety, and security of people and the environment”. (Taken from Regulatory Oversight of NWMO Website). To Summarize the NWMO Mandate, it is Education, Collaboration, and Safety. It is OCIPS view at this time that they have and are doing these three Mandates well.
NWMO Indigenous Focus
The question has been asked to Ray Hatfield, Joe Gaboury, and Greg Plain “if the Indigenous Focus is generated within the NWMO or is it something they adopted”. All three answered that the Indigenous Focus came from within the NWMO. On the surface, this seems like a simple question, however, OCIP and in Fact most Indigenous Peoples have learned that if an idea comes from inside any Person or Organization it will never be cast off. After all someone who just adopts an idea can just as easily adopt another idea. But those that believe something at their core are not easily swayed. This is exactly the way NWMO is, they hold to their beliefs that Indigenous Knowledge has a place in the decision making process. This was first shown in July 2003 in Drawing on Aboriginal Wisdom, “The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) would like to consult with aboriginal peoples on the use of traditional knowledge and how traditional knowledge can help guide consideration of future nuclear waste management proposals”. (Taken from Drawing on Aboriginal Wisdom By: Joanne Barnaby Consulting – July 2003). Then in November 2008 it was shown that NWMO had continued to incorporate Indigenous belief systems into their overall planning and thinking, “It also showed how the NWMO has modified its’ planning and decision making processes to include Aboriginal practices, as well as to consider Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and social values”. (Taken from Report of Traditional Knowledge Project –November 2008). Finally in October 2019 NWMO finalized its own Reconciliation Policy that included this brief policy statement, “The NWMO will build relationships with First Nation and Métis communities and municipalities, groups and peoples on a foundation of respect for languages and customs, cultural protocols, and political, social, economic, and cultural institutions”. (Taken from Reconciliation Policy –October 2019). NWMO has shown in approx. 18 year history that at its core it believes that the Indigenous Voice is worthy of incorporation into its plan and respect in all levels of its thinking. One need not look any further than its web-page dedicated to “Council of Elders and Youth”. You see the admiration and respect in this web-page and in all aspects of the NWMO Organization. OCIP has grown to see that NWMO is not merely trying to sell itself; it is in fact an ally in moving the Indigenous Cause and Voice Forward.
NWMO Environmental Focus
The true test of any Nation or People is how it looks after its People and its Land or Environment. Many say they are advanced; meanwhile they gobble up the resources like a plaque. This then effects the environment and ultimately the People. Nothing is as toxic as Nuclear Waste as its harmful effects lasts for countless years. So the very first though of protection to the Environment or Mother Earth needs to be one related to time. The NWMO has set this as one of its key thoughts from its beginning consultations “On November 6, 2001, Grand Chief Mathew Coon Come of the Assembly of First Nation in his submission to the Committee said; “Our elders advise us that we should think of the impact of our actions seven generations hence. Nowhere is this truer than with respect to the creation and disposal of nuclear waste”. (Taken from Drawing on Aboriginal Wisdom By: Joanne Barnaby Consulting – July 2003). NWMO places at the center of its Environmental Safety Mission the concept of Time. Although Mother Earth can be left alone to do her wondrous work, Nuclear Waste can’t be left along. So NWMO is creating a whole Safety System to monitor this Waste. This might sound like over cautiousness however this shows the total commitment and dedication to both Mother Earth and Future Generations. The next consideration is always one of harmful effects. It was a very mental picture that so many people grew up with that nuclear rods and hence waste was a long green glowing rod that was carried around in big rubber gloves. Here NWMO and in fact all Nuclear Power Generation has created a system to safely contain these Nuclear products, there by-products, and waste under normal circumstances. But this is the very point that NWMO starts at, the abnormal circumstances. Its view is always on what can go wrong, what mistakes can be made, etc. This very view is what Mother Earth needs. It was best recorded by The Council of Elders and Youth of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), “We will not back away from our responsibilities to protect Mother Earth, Her Laws and the Beings in Creation”. (Taken from DECLARATION OF THE KEEPERS OF THE LAND). This is at the core of the thinking, planning, implementation, etc. of the NWMO in all the phases of this endeavour. One can look into the far future and see NWMO standing ready to face any calamity or problems that will arise.
OCIPS Partnership with NWMO
The greatest test of any Friendship or Partnership is not the amount of laughter or joy the other brings; perhaps it is that each keeps to other true to their core and find its Voice. This is exactly how the Partnership and Friendship between OCIP and NWMO. Each assists the other in their core beliefs and duties. OCIP has been allowed to do various programs, meetings, feasts, and it’s AGA (Annual General Meeting). Also NWMO has made it possible to spread our Voice to our members and to the world. This Voice is changing hearts and minds by showing that our Indigenous Voice counts and is one of pride. Meanwhile, OCIP has assisted NWMO to dig deeper into its core to find its own Voice, a Voice where both Science and Indigenous Wisdom stand together to Protect Mother Earth. Both OCIP and NWMO feel pride at the progress has been made. Greater still is both Partners know that for as long as the others Voice remains true they will be there to uplift them. Yes, both Voices sings in different ways and their Stories will be different, but both OCIP and NWMO sing together that Indigenous Wisdom has a place now and in the future. Also that Mother Earth and all those beings that rely on her must be the protected. In this both the NWMO and OCIP have picked up this song.
The overall format of the NWMO Information Sessions are very much the same for each Session. Although the topics fall into one of three general areas of Influence; Site Selection, Storage, and Transportation. The overall format includes a discussion of how much progress has been made in the Site Selection, this usually includes a general history of the NWMO that includes lively discussion of their founding principles. Next, there is, depending on if it’s a “Storage” or “Transportation” Session, a longer discussion on either of these two areas and a shorter one on its counterpart. So in a Storage Information Session you will have a longer discussion about Storage and a shorter one about Transportation. The opposite is true in a Transportation Information Session. It has long been felt by the NWMO representatives that it is important to touch on all three areas, because knowledge is built upon and it is important to connect to parts. So Site Selection does connect to Storage, which in turn connects to Transportation. So this interconnected approach has been at the center of all NWMO Information Sessions and the results has been a better informed OCIP Membership.
We have had many meetings in the past and noted here is an example of some from Blind River Information Session on Saturday, May 28th, 2016, Sault Ste. Marie Aboriginal Youth Information Session on Saturday, February 27, 2016, and Thunder Bay Information Session on Saturday, August 6, 2016 in the “NWMO Past Information Sessions”. In the 2019-2020 contract we held Information Sessions in London, Ontario on Oct. 19, 2019, North Bay, Ontario on April 13, 2019, Sudbury, Ontario on June 1, 2019, Thunder Bay, Ontario on Sept 21, 2019, also as part of OCIPS AGA in Ottawa, Ontario on Sept. 28, 2019, and lastly in the city of Pembroke, Ontario on Feb. 1, 2020.
For the Future NWMO Information Sessions, OCIP and the NWMO have signed a contract for the 2020-2021 term. With the Covid 19 pandemic we are working to keep all safe and as such we will be holding these meetings accordingly. We will keep you informed as things are clearer.