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Action Alert picture Thanksgiving - First Nations MOX protest

25 Nov 1999

On Thanksgiving Day -- a day more and more Native Americans are using to commemorate centuries of on-going oppression -- First Nations in Ontario will hold a protest against the Parallex MOX shipment. The shipment, from Los Alamos to Chalk River Nuclear Lab in Ontario, is slated to pass through or near their reservations in Canada after it has traveled through Michigan and across the border at Sault Sainte Marie.

The protest will take place starting at noon on Thursday, Nov. 25, just east of the Canada/U.S. border at the Garden River First Nation community center. The event is sponsored by the North Shore Tribal Council, which represents several First Nations along the North Shore of Lake Huron. Event organizer Elaine Johnson predicts that as many as 200 Native Americans will take part, representing numerous First Nations along the targeted transport route. The plan is to form a symbolic human chain across the targeted Trans Canada highway, a symbol which numerous Native American leaders have vowed to make a reality if and when the shipment actually approached their communities.

The North Shore Tribal Council is calling for messages of support from near and far, from those who cannot attend the event in person. Please fax your message of support to Bob Goulais, Communications Director at North Shore Tribal Council, at (705) 497-9135. If you cannot fax and must e-mail, please send them to Kay Cumbow at, who can then fax them on. Thanks.

First Nations vow to block MOX


The North Shore Tribal Council vows it will block the shipment of weapons-grade plutonium through First Nations territory when the federal government attempts to truck it to Chalk River. Earl Commanda, chair of the North Shore Tribal Council and Chief of Serpent River First Nation, said at a press conference Thursday that meetings between area First Nations communities have resulted in a commitment and a plan to block the shipment of plutonium when it reaches the westerly border of the Garden River First Nation sometime next spring. The meeting was originally intended to invite federal government representatives to the table to discuss the issues of paramount concern to the First Nation communities about the MOX fuel shipment. The North Shore Tribal Council represents about 10,000 natives in communities between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.

The communities have also vowed to hold a peaceful demonstration at the Sault Ste. Marie - Garden River First Nation border next Thursday to protest the planned shipment of the mixed-oxide fuels and to create a greater public awareness of this issue and the potential negative long-term effects of bringing nuclear waste into Canada.

Arrangements on the time of next week's demonstration and whether or not traffic will be blocked, have yet to be finalized. Transport Canada announced earlier this week that it has given the green light to a plan to import weapons-grade plutonium from Russia and the United States for test burns at an Ottawa Valley nuclear facility.

The Liberal government has lobbied the Russians and Americans to test a small amount of plutonium to determine if Canada's Candu reactors can dispose of the plutonium. A test burn involves obtaining a small portion of American MOX fuel and the same amount of Russian MOX fuel to test in the Ontario reactors. The proposed shipments _ five-kilogram bundles, 97 per cent uranium oxide and three per cent plutonium oxide _ contain 251 grams of weapons-grade plutonium from dismantled atomic warheads encased in ceramic pellets.

The American fuel is to be shipped along highways through the U.S. and into Ontario via Sault Ste. Marie.

A second route along the St. Lawrence Seaway to Cornwall, Ont., for the Russian shipment has also been approved.

Although the United States has agreed to the test burn, it says it has enough reactor capacity to immobilize all of the 33 tonnes of plutonium it has earmarked for disposal in commercial reactors.

Commanda said Thursday that First Nation communities between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury are concerned about the lack of federal response, the lack of consultation and the lack of answers to questions and issues raised about the shipment and the federal government's motives.

``We've had no real indication from the federal government that they are willing to come together to find a resolution,'' he said at the Garden River Community Centre. ``Our backs are up against a wall.''

The North Shore Tribal Council had sent formal invitations last week to various government offices, requesting that representatives attend the meeting to be held at Garden River, and listen to the issues of the First Nation communities and answer some questions.

Ministries invited to the meeting included Indian Affairs, Transportation, Natural Resources, Foreign Affairs, Energy and Atomic Energy of Canada.

``We did not have one single response,'' Commanda said, adding that the First Nation communities have not been consulted in the planning stages.

Due to the lack of consultation and federal government response, Commanda said the council is prepared to block the Trans Canada highway when the shipment arrives in Ontario and will be working with its American friends to track the truckload and anticipate its arrival.

The U.S. government has already said that it will not announce the shipment date or route as the plutonium is transported from New Mexico.

Commanda said he's been lobbying with communities in Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich. that have been working with Congressman Bart Stupak in an effort to stop the shipment of MOX fuel.

He said the shipment will be monitored throughout the transportation route, allowing several hours notice for the North Shore Tribal Council to mobilize its people and set up the blockade.

Garden River Chief Lyle Sayers said the plan to stop the shipment is in its early stages and vows that the action will be supported.

``We are committed to stopping it with the support of the Union of Ontario Indians, the North Shore Tribal Council and the communities,'' he said. ``It needs to be stopped and it needs to be stopped now.''

Kathy Brosemer, spokesperson of Northwatch, a regional coalition of environmental groups in Northern Ontario, said that environmental groups are in solidarity with the position taken by the North Shore Tribal Council.

Brosemer said that Northwatch, which was formed in 1988, addresses environmental issues of a regional nature from a northern perspective.

She said the group is excited to be involved in the First Nations plans. She added that she's received calls from many area residents who want to stop the plutonium shipment from travelling through Sault Ste. Marie.

``I will ask them to join in next week's demonstration,'' she said.

Commanda said that since the U.S. government has said it can take care of its own plutonium and doesn't need the Candu reactors, there is no need for the test burn.

``Nuclear responsibility goes beyond the transportation safety of the mixed-oxide fuel,'' Commanda said. ``Our elders say we have a responsibility to protect Mother Earth. She was a gift given to us by the Creator and we as human beings who live on this planet have been negligent in taking care of Mother Earth.''

He said the teachings talk about changes to the land such as global warming, increased floodings, hurricanes and storms will continue to build ``while we continue on the path we are on. We need to deal with these problems.''

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