On October 7, the Grand Council of the Crees launched the web-based StandAgainstUranium.com campaign to inform people in Eeyou Istchee and the world about the Cree’s firm stance against uranium exploration on their traditional territory.
The campaign addresses the risks associated with uranium mining and shares opinions, photos and videos to provide a forum for Crees to discuss the issue with the world at large.
Strateco Resources’ Matoush uranium exploration project in the Otish Mountains was shelved when the company was unable to secure the final permit from the previous PQ government. But provincial environmental board hearings on the issue launched before last spring’s election continue.
To discuss the new campaign, the Nation spoke with Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come.
The Nation: Why do you feel that it is necessary at this time to make a stand against uranium when the province of Quebec has declared a moratorium on uranium mining?
Grand Chief Coon Come: In August 2012, the Cree Nation adopted a resolution banning uranium mining in Eeyou Istchee. We reached this decision after consulting with our community members and with experts, both within our communities and from the South. We are pleased that the Government of Quebec followed our lead and declared a moratorium on uranium mining in Quebec.
But the government has said this moratorium is only temporary, until the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) has issued its recommendations on the uranium industry. We know that uranium-mining companies hope that once the BAPE has completed its mandate, the issue will be up for debate again. The Cree Nation therefore cannot take any chances. We must continue to demonstrate our united stand against uranium, and make it clear to the BAPE and to the government that uranium is not wanted or needed in Eeyou Istchee.
TN: Tell us about the campaign you are doing for this involving social media?
GC: The Grand Council of the Crees has launched its #StandAgainstUranium campaign, a website and social media campaign expressing the Crees’ firm opposition to uranium development in Eeyou Istchee. Besides our website (www.StandAgainstUranium.com), you can also reach us on Facebook (James Bay Cree Against Uranium) and Twitter (@JBCAUranium). StandAgainstUranium.com is meant to inform the Crees about the risks associated with uranium mining. The campaign also provides a forum for the public to share their opinions, post photos and videos, and demonstrate their support for the Cree Nation’s fight to stop uranium development in Eeyou Istchee. The more informed we are, the stronger we stand.
TN: What do you hope to convey to Crees about it?
GC: Our message is simple: The Cree Nation opposes uranium development in Eeyou Istchee because it is incompatible with our values, our culture and our way-of-life. It imposes burdens on future generations that are wholly unacceptable. The Cree Nation stood united in our opposition to the Matoush Project, which was defeated. The Quebec government heard our message and responded by mandating the BAPE to look into the industry. We must maintain our momentum. We are strongest when we stand together.
TN: How about the rest of the Quebec population, what would you like to get across there?
GC: We have said from the start that once Quebecers learned the true facts about uranium, they will join with the Cree Nation in our stand against uranium. We encourage Quebecers to visit the website, inform themselves, and stand with us.
TN: The campaign has been out for a week already, has it gained any momentum yet?
GC: The #StandAgainstUranium campaign has taken off, and the movement is growing! You just have to visit our Facebook page to see for yourselves how many people are posting photos with our #StandAgainstUranium poster. In the coming weeks, we will be launching new interactive content at StandAgainstUranium.com, and people will be able to post photos, videos and thoughts about our #StandAgainstUranium campaign. For now, you can check out the site and ask your questions about uranium.
TN: Tell us about David Suzuki’s involvement?
GC: David Suzuki is a long-time ally and friend of the Crees, and he is standing with us in our opposition to uranium mining. Check out our Facebook page to see a photo of him with our #StandAgainstUranium poster!
TN: There is a promo on the Facebook site about a Cree legend that is part of this campaign, what can you tell me about this and the impact you hope it will have?
GC: The Wolverine tells the story of the ancient Cree legend of the Wolverine and the Skunk as a metaphor for the Cree Nation’s fight against uranium development in Eeyou Istchee. The film was directed by the incredible Cree director Ernest Webb of Rezolution Pictures, and was sponsored by the Grand Council of the Crees. The Wolverine premiered at the International Uranium Film Festival in Berlin early October, and will be screened in North America in April 2015, when the Cree Nation hosts the IUFF in Quebec City, Montreal and Mistissini. The film, which showcases the beauty of our pristine land, is about our connection to Eeyou Istchee, the importance of our culture, and the strength of our community. It conveys the essence of our people’s resolve to stand together to protect our lands and our way-of-life.
TN: Earlier this year the Matoush project was shut down and cleared out, so who do the Cree want to stop from mining or exploring for uranium?
GC: The Matoush site has been closed down, but Strateco is currently in court trying to overturn the Minister of the Environment’s decision to refuse its project. We have intervened in this case, in order to represent our people’s rights and interests. But our opposition to uranium mining is not just about Strateco’s Matoush Project. Many less advanced uranium projects have occurred on our territory over the past five years. We want uranium to stay in the ground, undisturbed, where it belongs.
TN: Is there anything else you would like to add?
GC: The BAPE will be visiting Eeyou Istchee one last time during the week of November 10, and I would encourage everyone to come out to one of their hearings in Chisasibi, Chibougamau or Mistissini. This is our last chance make our position clear to the BAPE. Let’s stand together against uranium development.