SASKATOON, SK, May 31, 2021 /CNW/ – The Clearwater River Dene Nation (CRDN) of north-west Saskatchewan has erected a Security Checkpoint on Highway #955 that runs through its reserve to the uranium rich zones located just to the north of the community. The CRDN action is in response to the Government of Saskatchewan’s (GOS) ongoing granting of approvals to uranium exploration companies in the absence of any meaningful consultation with the CRDN or consent of its Elders, Trappers and community members.
The CRDN asserts the checkpoint is also required given the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to protect CRDN families at this critical time. The GOS is permitting exploration companies and their workforces access through the CRDN reserve and into lands north of Clearwater River occupied by CRDN families. The CRDN has experienced some of the highest rates of COVID exposure and infection of all First Nations in Canada. Allowing uranium exploration and development work to proceed on a business-as-usual basis at this time places CRDN community members’ health and well-being at risk.
Many CRDN community members have stated that they are concerned about how the spike in on the ground uranium exploration and airborne activity will impact moose, caribou and migratory bird nesting areas at this important time of the year when the young are being born. The sheer amount of activity is also having an adverse impact on CRDN families who are on the land at this time in their camps and cabins and seeking protection during the pandemic.
Chief Teddy Clarke of the CRDN states, «the Government of Saskatchewan ran roughshod over the rights of the Dene People in this region for decades. The issuance of uranium mineral rights and granting of exploration permits and approvals of damaging uranium mines by the GOS all occurred without our People’s meaningful involvement, participation or consent. This pattern of unacceptable behavior must come to an end, now.»
Other nearby First Nations have also felt compelled to take similar actions in recent weeks. Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) lends his support to the CRDN and states, «the strength of our people lies within the culture and traditions that are taught and passed on through the generations. Teachings that come from our lands and waters«. Cameron continues, «the Dene people have Inherent and Treaty Rights to live on and use these lands and waters as their ancestors have for generations. Our Treaty Rights trump provincial laws and we will continue to fight with Chief Clarke and the Dene people to ensure that these lands and waters are here for the generations to come.»
The CRDN feels that the Security Checkpoint is needed given the amount of uranium exploration activity now underway and that the community has little to no knowledge of the third parties entering its lands and conducting activities harmful to land, water, animals and the CRDN People.
Walter Hainault, CRDN Band Manager adds, «governments allowed destructive uranium projects like the Gunnar Mine to go ahead that is now a toxic uranium legacy. They approved the Cluff Lake (Orano)uranium mine to the north of us and our people have mostly left the area due to their fears over radioactive contamination and as our cultural connection to the area was broken. We now have two major uranium mines being proposed in one of our Nation’s most culturally important and vital areas – the Patterson Lake Area. All this starts with the GOS granting uranium mineral tenures, rights and exploration permits in the absence of meaningful consultation or sound analysis of its impacts on our rights, culture or People. Our People are kind, patient and have shown good will, but that patience is running out».
Given its concerns and the scope of uranium activity in CRDN lands, the CRDN retained JFK Law, a Vancouver based law firm, that has represented Indigenous People and Governments in regulatory proceedings, litigation and conflicts with the Crown and industry. The CRDN has also commenced community-based research involving Elders, Trappers and community members that exercise their rights and practice their culture in the Patterson Lake Area.
«The CRDN will not permit what happened in the past to occur again and they will use all means at their disposal to protect the Treaty rights, culture and interests of the CRDN Elders, trappers and People. Our Elders, Trappers, community members and youth will have the last say over the way the land is used and how it is left for the future generations», states Chief Teddy Clarke.
***Please note that no interviews will be conducted at this time***
SOURCE Clearwater River Dene Nation