Outrage at signing of First Nation and Cameco-Areva collaboration agreementPublished by MAC on 2013-06-11
Source: Statement, Meadow Lake Progress (2013-06-08)
Previous article on MAC: ‘Collaboration Agreement' with uranium giants sparks opposition in Saskatchewan
Outrage, resistance and divisions at signing of ERFN-Cameco-Areva collaboration agreement
8 June 2013
"There had been a wake going on that day, because there had been a death. Normally anything official would be postponed out of respect for the family. There were really hard feelings that that didn't happen," English River First Nation member Candyce Paul said of the May 31 signing of a collaboration agreement between the First Nation and uranium giants Cameco and Areva. "It's like a huge corporate takeover. It's kind of awful that way. We feel like we're in the middle of a really bad movie."
Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel said the company has "a long history of working collaboratively with English River, and I am pleased that this agreement will further strengthen that partnership," according to a Cameco news release.
"There's a significant amount of opposition - huge actually - compared to them saying they're happy about it. It's split the community, it's split families, it got ugly," said Paul.
Watch a video of the actual signing of the agreement in Patuanak amid outrage, resistance and divisions.
Cameco, Areva, English River ink $600M deal
By Paul Brian, Meadow Lake Progress
7 June 2013
English River First Nation (ERFN) has signed a collaboration agreement with Cameco Corporation and Areva Resources Canada Inc. worth an estimated $600 million over the first 10 years.
The agreement, signed between the 1,400 strong First Nation and the mining companies will see various increased benefits to ERFN and area, but there has been significant opposition from ERFN members charging inadequate consultation and attention to environmental concerns.
"All they talked about were the benefits, they never covered the impacts at all and when one of the councillors wanted to talk about his concerns, they (the band council and Cameco) cut him off. They all stood up and started walking towards him," said ERFN member Candyce Paul of La Plonge, Sask.
According to a May 31 press release from Cameco the deal will include benefits through contracts, wages, signing bonuses, milestone payments and "annual community investment payments based on mine production." The release goes on to say this agreement will lead to increased monetary support for education, health and recreation in the community.
Word that ERFN chief Alfred Dawatsare had stepped down May 22 and taken over as CEO of ERFN company Tron Power instead became muddled with reports that vice-chief Marie Black was the interim chief, according to Paul. At the signing Dawatsare was introduced as CEO of Tron Power and still chief until the signing date.
"You either stepped down or didn't step down, what did you do?" Paul said. "I saw places in the media where she (Black) was the interim chief. So that was another thing where people were like ‘how could this happen this way?'"
The long-term deal was reached through what ERFN vice-chief Black considers a positive precedent.
"It's a business deal that we've been working on for a number of years in an effort to collaborate more with industry," said Black. "We believe we are setting a precedent in our work with other industries for the future. We are moving forward."
Paul said that precedent is actually a Pandora's box for First Nations across Canada.
"This is going to start snowballing all over the country because of this. I'm pretty sure there were other chiefs phoning her (Black) warning: be careful what you're doing here because you're going to set a precedent."
Paul claimed ERFN members were told "directly" they would get a vote on the deal a week prior to its signing but then were informed they did not, as it was a business deal.
"We've always been able to do that. This has changed, this corporate thing. And when the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) comes in that will be a business deal, too," Paul said. "That's the concern here. Business protocol is overriding the Dene and Cree protocol. That's a big shift and it leaves us very, very vulnerable," she added.
Cameco has expressed strong support for the agreement which it heralds as a step forward in their practice of working together with First Nations, as has partner Areva.
According to Paul, ERFN members were not permitted to see the agreement but received a 12-page "watered-down" summary that includes the stipulation that ERFN discontinue a lawsuit over land near the Millennium mine project, a sensitive area for those with ties to the Cree Lake land it refers to and who do not feel it should be signed over for any price.
Gitzel's media statement, in contrast, championed the signing as an inclusive step forward that keeps in mind environmental concerns and teamwork.
"We have a long history of working collaboratively with English River, and I am pleased that this agreement will further strengthen that partnership," Gitzel said. "We share an interest in ensuring that the industry continues to succeed in northern Saskatchewan, while maintaining strong environmental stewardship."
That collaboration may not be as strong as Gitzel believes, if Paul's assessment of the reserve's mood is accurate.
"There's a significant amount of opposition - huge actually - compared to them saying they're happy about it. It's split the community, it's split families, it got ugly," Paul said.
As well, the signing took place during a wake on the ERFN reserve, a time that traditionally would delay such business out of respect.
"There had been a wake going on that day, because there had been a death. Normally anything official would be postponed out of respect for the family. There were really hard feelings that that didn't happen," Paul said. "It's like a huge corporate takeover. It's kind of awful that way. We feel like we're in the middle of a really bad movie."
ERFN vice-chief Marie Black did not respond to request for comment by time of publication.