Photo: Indigenous and environmental group demonstrations in Queens Park
Last Thursday, November 9th, a large protest occurred in Queens Park by a number of indigenous and environmental groups. The groups demonstrations centered on the discontinuing of nuclear power usage in Canada. They at first gathered during a panel in the University of Toronto, and then migrated to Queens Park as the demonstration grew larger, even starting a drum circle. (Gignac, 2017)
Nuclear power uses radioactive metals such as uranium and plutonium to release energy as heat through changes in the nucleolus (BBC, 2014). The main advantage to this method of power is that fossil fuels are not burned into the atmosphere and releasing CO2 emissions. It is because of this benefit that many countries look at nuclear power as a valuable option for an energy source (BBC, 2014).
However, the main disadvantage to this energy source, and the reason as to why many oppose to it, is that nuclear fuels are both non-renewable and unable to break down. Therefore, the toxic wastes associated to nuclear power are required to be stored either in containers or underground. This hazardous waste, if spilled, can create very dangerous hazards not only to its environment, but to the health of those surrounded by the toxic nuclear waste (BBC, 2014).
This is not the first instance of Indigenous groups protesting against nuclear power. In fact, members of the Algonquin tribe have been protesting the halting of uranium mining in Kingston, Ontario since 2007. Other groups in Saskatchewan and Alberta have also been publically opposing nuclear mining and power plants for more than a decade as well. (AAFNA, 2017)
The protesters in this demonstration stressed that the consequences of accidental release of these radioactive wastes were too dangerous for this method of power to be used. They also claimed that the current provincial and federal government do not have sufficient enough policies to moderate and adapt to nuclear waste management. The president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Dr. Gordon Edwards, for instance expressed during the demonstration the lack of consideration for nearby municipalities and First Nations groups as many nuclear power industries are near major rivers and lakes (Gignac, 2017).
A spokesperson for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, on the other hand, stated that radioactive waste disposal is “tightly regulated and safe for living” (Gignac, 2017). But, for indigenous communities, the earth isn’t just a space where you live, but is a spiritual being which has deep connection to them. “Would you poison your mother?” one protester stated, “that’s really what we’re doing when we poison mother earth” (Gignac, 2017). The only way to ensure the ‘purity’ of mother nature, is the priority towards renewable energy use and minimal waste through CO2 emissions and nuclear waste substances.