Grand Council Treaty #3 and Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation say they are not in support of storing any used nuclear waste in northwestern Ontario, but they are working with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization in order to protect their territory.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization has been working to identify a site for a $23 billion deep-geological nuclear waste storage facility that would hold used nuclear waste for 150 years in a 500-metre underground facility since 2010. It would be one of the first of its kind ever created.

It’s been a two-horse race to determine the facility’s final location for years now, down to Ignace in northwestern Ontario and Huron-Bruce in southern Ontario. It began with 22 communities. The NWMO is leading the site selection process, with support and direction from the federal government.

Now, the leadership of Grand Council Treaty #3 is clarifying that working with the NWMO and receiving their Learn More Agreement do not indicate a position or opinion on the development, and staff are simply working to ensure NWMO follows the guidance of Manito Aki Inakonigaawin, known as the Great Earth Law.

“Our people have been learning more about this project but it is a very complex matter. The feeling of the community remains one of skepticism but I can assure everyone that whatever our decision will be, it will be an informed decision,” said Wabigoon Lake Chief, Clayton Wetelainen.

Although Grand Council Treaty #3 notes that elders across the region have strongly opposed the project within Treaty #3 boundaries, as have many Treaty #3 residents, these agreements speak to the development of land-based learning, environmental monitoring and education in the nuclear industry.

They say when a decision is eventually made on the NWMO’s proposed project, the decision will be informed and rooted in traditional governance structure, laws and protocols of the nation – ensuring that all citizens are represented.

“I am incredibly proud of Chief Wetelainen and his Council for also recognizing the role of our Nation’s law in the form of Manito Aki Inakonigaawin in these processes that address developments in the core of Treaty #3’s territory,” said Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh.

A decision on the final site selection between Ignace and Huron-Bruce was initially expected by 2023, which has since been pushed back to 2024 after opposition to the work from the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

An organization of northwestern Ontario residents and volunteers, Environment North, has also been fighting against the proposed repository.