Cree march to demand ban on uranium exploration | Montreal Gazette
– Seven young members of the James Bay Cree Nation began an 800-kilometre trek from Mistissini to Montreal Sunday to demand a ban on uranium development in northern Quebec.
“We want a uranium-free Eeyou Istchee (Cree territory), ” said Youth Grand Chief Joshua Iserhoff, 36, who set out with six others at 11 a.m. in minus-2-degree weather.
They plan to arrive in Montreal on Dec. 15, the final day of hearings on uranium development by the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE).
The march underlines the Crees’ opposition to uranium exploration and mining, which they say would encroach on traplines, poison the environment and threaten their traditional way of life.
“It’s not just an issue for the First Nations but for Quebecers, too,” said Iserhoff, who launched an invitation to other marchers to join the walk at any point along the route to Montreal, via Chibougamau, the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region and Quebec City.
“Not only do we want to do this for our people but we want to save other natural resources from ever being contaminated and destroyed by uranium,” he said.
The BAPE started holding hearings on uranium development across the province in May and is scheduled to submit its recommendations to Environment Minister David Heurtel by next May.
Quebec has declared a moratorium on uranium projects pending the outcome of the BAPE hearings.
In 2013, Yves-François Blanchet, then environment minister in the Parti Québécois government, said no permits would be issued for the exploration or mining of uranium until an independent study on the mineral’s social acceptability and environmental impacts had been completed.
At that time, the only uranium project seeking an exploration permit was Strateco Resources Inc.’s Matoush site in the Otish mountains, about 275 kilometres north of Chibougamau.
Strateco, based in Boucherville, has invested $125 million on the project.
Stretco stocks plunged by more than 60 per cent in April 2013 after the government halted exploration.
The company said it had obtained authorizations from the federal government and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, in addition to 22 permits from Quebec to advance the project.
After following the first two phases of the BAPE process, the Cree Nation is convinced, now more than ever, of the significant long-term risks that uranium development would bring to our land.” — Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come
Two weeks ago, the Cree Nation launched a social-media campaign, #StandAgainstUranium, and website, standagainsturanium.com/.
“After following the first two phases of the BAPE process, the Cree Nation is convinced, now more than ever, of the significant long-term risks that uranium development would bring to our land,” Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come said on Nov. 14.
“We are not prepared to impose such burdens on our future generations,” he added.
Environmental groups have tabled 1,500 briefs opposing uranium development before the BAPE and launched an online campaign, www.quebecsansuranium.org.