PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. —Residents of the northern Saskatchewan community of Pinehouse and supporters from across the country have filed a statement of claim seeking to overturn a controversial deal between municipal officials and the uranium industry.
The “collaboration agreement” was signed on December 12, 2012 by uranium giants Cameco and Areva, the Northern Village of Pinehouse, and Kineepik Métis Local #9. The governments of Saskatchewan and Canada, Pinehouse mayor Mike Natomagan, and alleged Kineepik local elected official Vince Natomagan are also named as defendants.
Filed in the Prince Albert Court of Queen’s Bench on the morning of June 24, the 42 plaintiffs challenge the legality of the agreement. Community members were only notified of the initiative in November 2012, when they were given a brief summary of terms. The full text of the agreement was only released after it was signed.
“Our rights and freedoms are being suppressed by the spirit of this so-called collaboration agreement, in how it was negotiated,” says Dale Smith, a Pinehouse resident and plaintiff in the case. “How would you feel if you lost control of the future for yourselves and your children?”
“What happened here in Pinehouse is a reflection of what is happening throughout Canada,” adds Pinehouse resident and plaintiff Jon Smerek. “Industry development has become the train rushing by, leaving us powerless on the sidelines.”
Just last month, on May 31, Cameco and Areva signed a similar agreement with the English River First Nation, in spite of strong opposition from the membership.
“Many band members were shocked and appalled that this collaboration agreement was being approved and signed before most people had even heard about it,” says English River First Nation member Candyce Paul, also a plaintiff in the case. “We have grave concerns about the impacts these uranium mines are having on our environment, our food chain, and the health of our people now and in the future.”
The claim against the Pinehouse agreement asserts that it violates many statutes, including the Canadian Constitution, Treaty rights, the Northern Municipalities Act, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – particularly the right to free, prior and informed consent. Plaintiffs are also seeking an independent assessment of the impact of uranium mining on the environment and health of northerners.
Support for this legal action has seen plaintiffs from throughout Saskatchewan and across the country signing on to the claim.
“The implications of these illegal agreements extend far beyond the borders of the communities with whom these corporations are making their backroom deals,” says Jim Harding, a retired professor of environmental and justice studies. “If we allow this attack on democratic process to continue unchecked in any one of our communities, what’s to stop this from happening in your hometown?”
Support the Committee for Future Generations!!
Dale Smith, Pinehouse
306 – 884-7718
Candyce Paul, English River First Nation
306 – 288-2079/3157