Activists walk to Green Lake to oppose nuclear waste

George Merasty kneels down to fill a water bottle from the Meadow River. Merasty was unable to join the walkers on their trek to Green Lake, but felt it necessary to lend a symbolic aid to their cause. “As a protest, it's good for everybody,” he said.

By Ben Ingram

Fifteen protesters took to the highway to walk from the Meadow River to Green Lake on July 28 as part of a symbolic outcry against the possibility of nuclear waste storage in northern Saskatchewan.

The intention of the walk, led by Judy Bear of Flying Dust First Nation, was to deliver a bottle of the river’s water to a larger group of walkers headed to Regina from Pinehouse Lake.

“There’s not a lot of input from our leaders,” Bear said before the walk. “Elders and people in the communities don’t really know what’s going on.”

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization has been spending money to court the favour of Saskatchewan’s northern communities in an effort to find a location for a long-term storage facility.

The NWMO’s concept is one that would accept nuclear waste from parts of Canada like Ontario, where energy is produced through nuclear fission, creating hazardous radioactive waste. The hope is that by burying it deep within the bedrock of Saskatchewan’s north, the waste will be safely stored until it is no longer a hazard.

It’s a process that has been estimated to take as long as 100,000 years, and one that caught the attention of Bear’s daughter, 17-year-old Faryn Bear.

“When my mom mentioned nuclear waste coming to Saskatchewan, I’m not for that at all. Nuclear waste for Saskatchewan is atrocious to me,” Faryn said.

Faryn opted to join her mother on the walk along with the others. Together they delivered a bottle of water from the Meadow River to be poured into a buffalo horn carrying water from various other northern communities.

One of the primary concerns of the group is that long-term storage of nuclear waste could contaminate the province’s water, leading to environmental damage across the province by way of its arterial waterbed.

One of the walkers, Glenda Wuttunee, first heard of the situation from Judy Bear and was quickly motivated to join the walk.

“To me that’s almost lack of accountability,” she said of continued unawareness amongst people she’s discussed it with, something she blames on politicians and leaders for not doing more to raise awareness amongst the population.

“We’ve got our kids here, who’s going to stand in the gap for these kids for years to come?”

Bear recruited the participation of George Merasty to fill the role of the group’s elder. Merasty gathered the water from the river and handed it off to the walkers.

“It’s going to harm our land up north, it’s going to harm our families, everybody, including me,” he said of his reasons for helping out the group before their journey. “Politicians should know better then that, they’re leaders of this province.”

The walkers met up with the main thrust of the provincial walk in Green Lake, where activists will continue their journey from Pinehouse Lake to Regina to deliver a petition calling for the government to take action.

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