Canada Confirms Potential Nuclear Waste Site Near Lake Huron And Michigan

Nuclear Power Plant Canada

In 2007, the Canadian government established the Nuclear Waste Management Organization. Its goal was to come up with a plan and a list of proposed sites to contain all of the country’s used fuel in one deep geological repository. The waste contained on this site would include the most toxic and radioactive materials from Canada’s nuclear power plants. The spent nuclear fuel rods stored on the site would be toxic for millions of years.

In September 2019 Thumbwind reached out to Honourable Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. We inquired about the process Canada used to determine site selection that Ontario Power Generation used for placing a full-service nuclear waste repository near the shores of Lake Huron. One site being considered was at the Bruce nuclear power plant near Kincardine, Ontario. This location is less than 70 miles away from the shores of Michigan’s Thumb region.

Canadian Government Responds

We received a response from the Vice President of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, Terence Hubbard. Hubbard confirmed that Canada will be using a process called Adaptive Planned Management to select the disposal site. He indicated that several sites are currently under consideration including the area near Kincardine, Ontario. He went on to note, “Adaptive Phased Management will only proceed with an informed and willing host, and it continues to work with communities, Indigenous groups and municipalities surround the areas that are involved in the site selection process.”

Bruce Nuclear Plant
Bruce Nuclear Plant – Kincardine, Ontario

The site selection process is far from being complete. Hubbard went on to note in his letter, “The implementation of the Adaptive Phased Management will occur over many decades, involve a formal site selection process and require several regulatory approvals.” Hubbard anticipates that a federal environmental assessment will be conducted as part of the licensing of the Canada nuclear waste disposal facility. The full letter from the Impact Agency of Canada can be read here.

Letter from the Impact Agency of Canada
Impact Assessment Agency Response to Thumbwind.

Video Synopsis

Past Articles On Canada’s Nuclear Waste Dilemma

Ontario Nuclear Dump
Site of Proposed Waste Dump 

In early 2015 we noted that an Ontario Lobby Group was hopeful the incoming Liberal Government will live up to a promise to protect the environment and put a stop to plans to bury nuclear waste in Canada. See Pressure Grows to Stop Nuclear Dump in Canada.
Later in 2015, we found that a Canadian federal panel has given an overall seal of approval to the controversial Canada nuclear waste disposal site proposed for a subterranean crypt below the Bruce nuclear station near Kincardine, Ontario. See Canada Feds “OK” Proposed Nuclear Waste Site Near Lake Huron.
Finally, in September 2019, we found that Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), recommended a proposal to contain all the country’s used fuel in one deep geological repository. This would mean a second nuclear waste dump in Ontario. The facility would have to have the capacity to store 57,000 tons of used nuclear fuel. See Canada Plans Ontario Nuclear Waste Dump.

Nuclear waste disposal in Ontario Canada remains a topic we will continue to monitor and report. SOURCE

David Suzuki: Conservation and climate action go together


We live on a changing planet. Unnaturally rapid global warming is altering everything, including lands and waters. Evidence shows we’ve already emitted enough greenhouse gases to alter the structure of ecosystems and interactions within them. Because many gases, such as carbon dioxide, remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, impacts to the planet will continue even if we stop all atmospheric emissions tomorrow.

Approaches to conservation are also changing in response to climate disruption. Protected areas were initially established primarily for the benefit of people: to preserve breeding grounds for game that hunters prefer or to optimize areas for human recreation. Over several decades, efforts have shifted toward prioritizing ecological integrity for Canada’s parks and recognizing the role of Indigenous leadership in conservation and stewardship.

Protected areas can be excellent climate-mitigation tools. Mature forests, peatlands, oceans, and marshes house significant carbon stores, while disturbing these ecosystems releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Evidence shows Earth is heating at an accelerating rate, outpacing the capacity of numerous plant and animal species to adapt. To safeguard biodiversity, protected-area planning has had to evolve to address the habitat changes brought by climate disruption.

This planning isn’t new. Twenty years ago, the World Wildlife Fund produced Buying Time: A User’s Manual for Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems, based on the premise that strategic conservation measures could give nature breathing room until the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy was complete.

“Climate change is happening now and nature is experiencing its impacts first,” the report says. “Whether one looks at coral reefs, mangroves, arctic areas, or montane regions, climate change poses a complex and bewildering array of problems for ecosystems. The key question is, what can be done—in addition to the rapid reduction of CO2 emissions now—to increase the resiliency of these ecosystems to climate change?”

The WWF team developed three broad approaches: protect adequate and appropriate space, limit all nonclimate stresses, and practise adaptive management and strategy-testing. Maintaining functional ecosystems and keystone species must be taken into consideration. Other stresses—like chemical pollutants, fragmentation by roads, and industrial activities—must be reduced. Conservation-method outcomes must be regularly assessed and recalibrated.

More recently, an article in the journal Environmental Research Letters explored “climate-wise connectivity”, natural-area connection “that specifically facilitates animal and plant movement in response to climate change”.

Climate-wise connectivity looks at a number of strategies for conservation planning amid the climate crisis as emergent ecosystems appear. These include increasing the amount of habitat conserved throughout the landscape, adding corridors between protected areas, creating small “stepping stones” of habitat, taking into account the pace of habitat change in different areas so that rapidly changing areas can be buffered by those changing at a slower velocity, and maintaining biologically rich hot spots.

Connectivity corridors that link conservation areas are, at heart, efforts to provide wildlife with pathways on their journeys to continued survival. The article notes that “geophysical features that create a diversity of microclimates are important to focus on as they can buffer the effects of climate change, giving species more opportunities and time to track the changing climate.”

As landscapes and our approaches to conserving them shift, so must our social systems. Climate justice and social justice are intricately linked. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has noted that climate change is disproportionately affecting the poor and most vulnerable, both internationally and within Canada, and will continue to do so.

Humans are part of nature. We form what some social scientists call a “social-ecological system“. We must also build resilience in our own lives and support others less fortunate than ourselves, as human resilience is shaped by many factors: where we live, our relationships with the land, at-hand government support systems, and our personal economic and social resources.

Activism is one way to foster resilience. It can help overcome despair. As people living in Canada, we must help shift social and economic structures to advance climate and ecological resilience. This includes advocating for the establishment of protected areas as tools to maintain carbon, supporting Indigenous-led conservation initiatives, and demanding justice for those displaced and impoverished by climate change, within our borders and without.

They ‘Would Love to See a Woman in Office,’ but It’s Not Priority No. 1

In the Trump era, some voters say the power of a symbolic first is overshadowed by anxiety about defeating him.

A voter asked Pete Buttigieg a question during a town hall in Winterset, Iowa.

Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

WINTERSET, Iowa — Almost exactly three years ago, Leila Schlenker marveled at the crowds at the Women’s March in Des Moines, which drew more than 26,000 people to the grounds of the state capitol and reminded her of the large social protests of the 1960s.

Her daughter, now a mother herself, used to roll her eyes when her mom would talk about the importance of fighting for issues like abortion rights and equal pay. But Ms. Schlenker has seen how the current political moment has convinced her daughter that her rights could be taken away, and that sexism remains a force in both of their lives. And she’s watched in horror as the Trump administration has worked to roll back funding for clinics specializing in reproductive health care, the field she worked in for more than a quarter century.

Yet, as she sat in the front row of a crowded banquet hall on Monday morning, waiting for Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., to take the stage, Ms. Schlenker, 66, made clear that there was at least one area of her life where gender was not a determining factor.

“I would love to see a woman in office,” she said. “But I still like Pete.”

In the final weeks before the Iowa caucuses, the two leading female candidates remaining in the Democratic primary are embracing their gender as an asset, decisively pushing back against concerns that a woman can’t be elected president. Those sensitive conversations burst into public view this past week at the Democratic debate, in a nationally televised discussion about sexism and experience between Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Since Donald J. Trump took office, women have emerged as the backbone of the Democratic Party, leading protests, creating new political organizations and running for office. A record number of women are serving in Congress, and the #MeToo movement has raised awareness of sexual assault and gender bias. Saturday marks the fourth annual Women’s March, with events taking place around the country and the world.

Yet, the sisterhood may stop before the White House. In interviews with nearly two dozen female voters in Iowa this week, the symbolism of breaking what Hillary Clinton called “that highest, hardest glass ceiling” in politics seemed to be less resonant than ever before, particularly for older voters, who were subsumed by anxiety about defeating Mr. Trump.

Some voters who backed either Ms. Warren or Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota bristled at the idea that they might support them because they are women, even as many acknowledged a greater awareness of the sexism women candidates face. All the marches, protests and public discussion of gender gaps, double binds and sexual harassment seem to have led some voters to a perhaps surprising conclusion: This is not our time.

Becky Kakac, 68, said she would like to see a woman president in her lifetime and would love to support a female candidate — just not now. MORE


A colossal waste’: BC Hydro report hints at cost overruns at Site C dam

A revealing update from BC Hydro says the project’s budget — which has grown from $6.6 billion to $10.7 billion — is now ‘under pressure’ and ‘did not contemplate certain unforeseen financial impacts’

Ken Boon Peace Valley Site C dam

A farmer looks out over construction at the Site C dam. Several family farms will be flooded by the dam’s 128-kilometre reservoir. Photo: Jayce Hawkins / The Narwhal

he troubled Site C dam project is poised for more cost overruns and schedule delays despite repeated assurances from B.C.’s NDP government that the project will be delivered on time and within its revised budget of $10.7 billion.

Details are found in BC Hydro’s unusually frank quarterly report to the B.C. Utilities Commission, filed on Jan. 15, which reveals significant problems with the publicly funded dam amidst the typically positive project updates.

Some of the more serious issues include “significant cost pressures and/or budget increases” since the NDP government approved an additional $2 billion for the project two years ago and a September cost risk analysis showing that the revised Site C dam project budget is already “under pressure.”

Site C BCUC Report under pressure

An excerpt from BC Hydro’s latest quarterly report to the B.C. Utilities Commission noting the project’s budget is “under pressure.”

18-metre concrete chunk fell from tunnel lining

BC Hydro also acknowledged, for the first time, that a fast-approaching and already revised timeline for completing two critical river diversion tunnels is “at risk,” noting issues with the tunnel liner concrete that include falling pieces of concrete chunks as large as 18 metres by three metres.

If the river diversion tunnels are not finished next month as forecast, the Site C project’s long-promised completion date of 2024 could be delayed by one year, adding further to the project’s escalating cost.

“I’m not at all surprised by what’s happening,” former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen told The Narwhal.

“Even given the limited information which is contained in this quarterly report … clearly we’re going to see a project that is upwards of $12 to $13 billion at the end of the day,” said Eliesen, who is also the former chair and CEO of Ontario Hydro, the former chair of Manitoba Hydro and the former chair and CEO of the Manitoba Energy Authority.

“This to me is just shocking and a colossal waste for the ratepayers of the province.”

Site C construction. Peace River. B.C.

Construction at the Site C dam on the Peace River in the summer of 2018. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

The Site C dam was announced in 2010 as a $6.6 billion project. The cost was bumped up to $7.9 billion prior to the deliberations of a panel that examined the project for the federal and provincial governments and drew its conclusions based on that figure.

The project budget subsequently climbed to $8.8 billion when the former BC Liberal government approved the project in December 2014 — after changing the law to strip the watchdog B.C. Utilities Commission of its responsibility to determine if building the dam was in the public interest. It then jumped to $10.7 billion in December 2017.

The Narwhal first flagged the Site C dam’s rising costs in June 2016, when the project was in the preliminary stages of construction. In response to our article, which was based on BC Hydro’s own reports, BC Hydro issued a press release calling our story “inaccurate.”

That BC Hydro press release, claiming the Site C dam is “on budget and on schedule” at $8.8 billion, is still on its Site C dam website.

‘Unforeseen financial impacts’ disclosed in report

Eliesen and other energy experts have been sounding the alarm for years about what they say is the unacceptable and unnecessary cost of the Site C dam, which would flood 128 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries to produce 680 megawatts of power at average capacity — 1,100 megawatts of power if the project reaches peak capacity.

An independent review of the project’s economics in 2018 by the B.C. Utilities Commission found that 1,100 megawatts of power could be produced by a suite of less destructive renewable energy projects, including wind, for $8.8 billion or less.

Ignoring a warning from the utilities commission that Site C’s cost could exceed $12 billion, the newly elected NDP government moved forward with dam construction in December 2017 with a $2 billion increase in the project’s budget.

Premier John Horgan subsequently set up a “Site C Project Assurance Board” to ensure the cost would not exceed the newly inflated $10.7 billion price tag and the dam would be fully operational in 2024, as promised by successive governments.

This week’s quarterly report — covering a three-month period up to Sept. 30, 2019 — discloses BC Hydro has spent approximately 63 per cent of the project’s $858 million contingency allowance.

“BC Hydro expects to request a draw on the [$708 million treasury board] project reserve, as and when needed to make future contractual commitments,” the report further notes.

In the report, BC Hydro says the Site C dam’s revised budget of $10.7 billion “did not contemplate certain unforeseen financial impacts.”

Those include First Nations treaty infringement claims and an injunction application by West Moberly First Nations, according to the report.

The injunction application, heard in 2018, made an ultimately unsuccessful bid to protect 13 areas of spiritual and cultural significance until the nation’s treaty rights case could be heard.

West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation have each filed civil actions alleging that the Site C dam and two previous dams on the Peace River constitute an unjustifiable infringement of their treaty rights.

In a recent decision, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Canada to suspend the Site C project — along with the Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain pipeline projects — until it receives the “free, prior and informed” consent of Indigenous peoples, in keeping with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that B.C. recently enshrined in law.

The Site C dam would flood Indigenous burial sites and traditional hunting and fishing grounds, poisoning bull trout and other food fish with methylmercury.

‘Maybe financially we’re still not at the point of no return’

Eliesen pointed out that treaty infringement settlements could cost more than $1 billion, noting that Horgan himself has acknowledged their potentially high cost.

“These are things that people knew about in advance and they didn’t want to take them into consideration in cost and schedule because they knew it would scare people away,” Eliesen said.

“So we have the very same people, whether it’s the people in government or the people in BC Hydro, who have been continuously wrong with regard to cost and schedule.”

BC Hydro also noted the Site C project is experiencing material cost pressures due to contractor delay and other unspecified claims, additional labour resource requirements, worker accommodation expansion and estimated site reclamation costs.

Eliesen said it “doesn’t take a space scientist” to figure out that highly competitive jobs on other major resource projects in B.C. — including the LNG Canada project and Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — will have an impact on the Site C project in terms of labour availability and cost.

“This was to be expected,” he said. “It’s going to impact the cost, there’s no question about that. It’s going to be significant. And that has never been included in the overall estimate and the overall cost.”

Ken Boon, president of the Peace Valley Landowner Association, which represents 70 local landowners impacted by the Site C dam, said it might still be cheaper to cancel the project than for construction to continue.

“Maybe financially we’re still not at the point of no return,” Boon said in an interview, referring to former B.C. premier Christy Clark’s pledge to ensure the project reached what Clark called “the point of no return.”

Ken and Arlene Boon Site C dam Yellow Stakes

Ken Boon stands with his wife, Arlene, in front of hundreds of yellow stakes on the couple’s third-generation family farm. The stakes each represent a $100 dollar donation to First Nations’ legal challenges of the Site C dam project. Photo: Jayce Hawkins / The Narwhal

“What we’re seeing in this quarterly report is what we’ve all feared and what we’ve predicted — that it’s a project just rife with problems. And we’re looking now at cost overruns,” Boon said.

“These megaprojects like dams just continue to skyrocket out of control cost-wise while the clean and green renewables continue to drop in price. This quarterly report just speaks to that happening with the Site C dam.”

Eliesen noted there is “not one word” in the quarterly report about the financial risks to the Site C dam’s construction and operations that are posed by fracking in the Peace Valley area — risks that “BC Hydro’s own safety engineers have attempted over the years to bring to the attention of senior management and the government unsuccessfully.”

The Site C dam will be completely dependent on the Peace Canyon dam 83 kilometres upstream which is built on weak, unstable rock and officials warn could fail in an earthquake triggered by a nearby natural gas industry fracking or disposal well operation.

Other issues cited in the report include safety incidents for workers and a major left bank excavation that is behind schedule due to contractor concerns about slope safety.

The banks of the Peace River Valley are notoriously unstable. A major landslide last year, very close to the dam site, renewed calls for an independent safety investigation of the project.

Old Fort landslide Site C

A landslide in late 2018 destroyed a portion of the Old Fort Road, a short distance from the Site C dam project. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

The report also highlighted other troubling issues that could affect the project’s schedule and cost.

Less than one-half of the steel for penstocks had been fabricated by the end of September as planned, according to the report, which said BC Hydro is working with the generating station and spillways contractor to “recover” the schedule.

The report further noted “instances of resistance” from the contractor responsible for the majority of turbine generator components in providing BC Hydro’s local inspectors access to its São Paulo manufacturing facility for surveillance inspections. BC Hydro said it is addressing the situation through regular meetings with the contractor.

Boon said until he read the report he wasn’t aware of a left bank drainage adit — a horizontal passageway that can be used for drainage — that will cross above the diversion tunnel.

“That just sounds like a recipe for problems,” he said. “What it indicates to me is they’re having water or drainage issues on that north bank. We know the north bank has been an ongoing problem for them with stabilization and water.”

“Obviously if you can’t divert the river you can’t build a dam and they’re having some real problems there.”

Lack of transparency at Site C

Eliesen said the last time British Columbians received up to date and comprehensive information about project costs, schedule and areas of risk was in the fall of 2017 when the B.C. Utilities Commission reviewed the economics of the project.

“Now we only get on a quarterly basis, months after, the information that BC Hydro wants released,” he said.

“There’s no independent analysis. There’s no independent reporting, contrary to what Horgan promised in December [2017]. He said there was going to be an independent quality assessment outside of BC Hydro. That never took place.”

All findings of the Site C Project Assurance board have been kept secret by the B.C. government and BC Hydro.

Six BC Hydro directors sit on the assurance board, according to court documents. They include John Nunn, who was Site C project’s chief project engineer. Nunn worked for the engineering and consulting firm Klohn Crippen Berger, a Vancouver-based company that holds a current contract, along with SNC-Lavalin, for “design services” on the Site C project.

“So there’s no independent look at what BC Hydro is doing and to advise the ratepayers of what’s been happening,” Eliesen said.

“Even with these quarterly reports, it’s a very secretive project,” Boon said. “As before, the people are kept in the dark other than to read through these quarterly reports and try to glean what they can.”

Despite the red flags about cost pressures on the Site C dam budget, BC Hydro says in the report, in a carefully worded sentence, that it “continues to manage the project within the approved budget of $10.7 billion.”

In a prominently displayed table assessing the status of the project, BC Hydro assigns a “yellow” status to the categories of cost, schedule, overall project health, litigation and safety — denoting “moderate issues.” According to the table, a green dot indicates a category is on track to meet project targets.

Site C BCUC Report Risk

Coloured dots denote risk in BC Hydro’s recent report.

Green dots were assigned for seven out of 12 categories, including for Indigenous relations, the “quality of work” and project permits and authorizations, more than one-quarter of which are still outstanding.

“There are no red dots,” Eliesen noted. “There are yellow dots from their estimation. Maybe if someone independent did it there would be a lot of red dots of major risk.”

In another carefully worded statement, BC Hydro notes in the report that a new “optimized” schedule to complete the diversion tunnels will still achieve “the key schedule milestones associated with river diversion in fall 2020,” raising questions about whether or not that means the river diversion will go ahead as planned.

In response to questions from The Narwhal, the B.C. energy ministry said the Site C project “remains on schedule for achieving an in-service date of 2024 and BC Hydro continues to manage the project within the $10.7 billion budget.”

The ministry also said BC Hydro is on track for river diversion in 2020, noting the concrete tunnel lining process is, on average, about 50 per cent complete. It also said the lining is nearing completion in one tunnel, hinting that lining in the second tunnel is far from complete.

“The lined tunnels, and related intake and outlet structures at either end, are scheduled to be completed in early 2020 in advance of river diversion,” the ministry said.

The ministry also noted that BC Hydro’s quarterly reports on the Site C project “are reviewed and approved by the Project Assurance Board.”

The ministry did not answer a question about why the project assurance board’s findings are not public.

Horgan’s Pipeline Push Betrays His Reconciliation Promise


‘Is this a scorecard of how many First Nations say yes compared to those who say no? Is that how we measure rights and title?’ Photo by Michael Toledano.

It’s the same old story Indigenous Peoples have heard for generations.

B.C. Premier John Horgan tells the public “the rule of law” demands the Coastal GasLink pipeline go ahead. Permits are in place, and the courts have approved construction.

The opposition of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs is not important to Horgan, as he points to 20 First Nations that have signed agreements to allow the pipeline and negotiated benefits. The five clans who have not agreed don’t seem to count.

Is this a scorecard of how many First Nations say yes compared to those who say no? Is that how we measure rights and title?

Are we not in a new era of reconciliation? A new decade? The decade of the enactment of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Act in this province?

What would I expect from the premier in this new era, in this particular situation when he needs credibility with First Nations if his commitment to UNDRIP is to be taken seriously?

I would expect the premier to look back on past decisions and ensure they were made in the spirit of UNDRIP — including approval of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. His party was making political promises to uphold UNDRIP long before the NDP were in government.

In the 2014 Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhqot’in decision, the justices stated clearly that provincial and federal governments need to be prepared to cancel already approved projects if First Nations establish title to the land and oppose them.

“Once title is established, it may be necessary for the Crown to reassess prior conduct in light of the new reality in order to faithfully discharge its fiduciary duty to the title-holding group going forward,” the judgment says. “For example, if the Crown begins a project without consent prior to Aboriginal title being established, it may be required to cancel the project upon establishment of the title if continuation of the project would be unjustifiably infringing.” (Emphasis added.)

The court also sets out the correct path for governments.

“Governments and individuals proposing to use or exploit land, whether before or after a declaration of Aboriginal title, can avoid a charge of infringement or failure to adequately consult by obtaining the consent of the interested Aboriginal group.

Horgan should heed the advice of the Supreme Court of Canada and revisit the decision to proceed with the pipeline, especially in light of his commitments to resolve land titles, implement UNDRIP and advance reconciliation. The court advised getting the consent of Indigenous people; that’s what he should do.

The right to self-determination

Furthermore, UNDRIP is very clear that all Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination. Self-determination means that Indigenous Peoples will freely determine their own political status. That means governments and companies cannot decide which is the right governing body for a nation. That is a matter for Indigenous Peoples.

The Indian Act imposed a system of government on First Nations, attempting to dismantle a governance system that had functioned for centuries. It made chiefs and councils the owners of the land and gave them total power.

But traditional government systems have not been eradicated.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are opposing the pipeline, and some are questioning their legitimacy.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs launched the lawsuit and took the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Surely this should indicate to the government and companies who has title and rights to the land. And surely, they should recognize that it is up to the Indigenous people to determine this, not the provincial government. Clearly the hereditary chiefs must be part of this decision on whether the pipeline proceeds.

Free, prior and informed consent

Free, prior and informed consent has been and will continue to be an issue in relation to UNDRIP, because governments and Indigenous people do not agree on its meaning.

Horgan’s government has said it was waiting for the UNDRIP legislation to pass before working to reach agreement about what free, prior and informed consent means. He has not tried to work this out with First Nations in advance, even though that would have been prudent.

We have heard Horgan and Minister of Indigenous Relations Scott Fraser say that the requirement for free, prior and informed consent does not give First Nations a veto over projects in their territories.

Then what is consent under UNDRIP? Is it a simple yes or no? Does it give a veto because no means no? These are good questions that must be answered by Indigenous Peoples and governments.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are saying no. No consent. No project. No access. Not on their lands.

In criminal law, a woman can say no to a man and no means no. If he proceeds against her wishes, he can be guilty of a crime. Why doesn’t the requirement for free, prior and informed consent give the same right to Indigenous Peoples?

So what does consent mean to this B.C. government? That they have the final say? That they can decide no does not mean no. That the status quo continues when it comes to development?

That would not reflect a new era of reconciliation, or the principles of UNDRIP. That would be the Crown asserting jurisdiction over First Nations laws and title once again.

Sending in the RCMP to remove protesters is also the same old story — a show of force against defenders of the land who are not armed, who are elders, youth and chiefs. RCMP assert their power under a court order that hasn’t taken into account Indigenous laws.

This pipeline dispute is not new. It has been ongoing for years. That it has not been resolved speaks volumes about the unwillingness of this government to sit down at a table with the hereditary chiefs and talk about why they are opposed and try and resolve differences.

If we are in the era of reconciliation, there needs to be more efforts to come to agreements. If agreements cannot be reached, there needs to be impartial tribunals established to help find those solutions. And if no solutions are found, then there is no project.

If the principles of UNDRIP are being implemented and being placed into laws, the government has to start respecting its provisions now.

For instance, Article 18 gives the Wet’suwet’en the right to participate in any decision-making through their own procedures and law. This has not happened.

Article 26 gives them the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources they possess through ownership, and says the state must give legal recognition and protect their lands and resources. None of this has occurred to date, and it doesn’t look like B.C. is even considering it. The government is saying this is Crown land, the company has Crown permits, so therefore the development must happen.

Article 25 gives the Wet’suwet’en the right to strengthen their spiritual relationship with the land, waters and resources in their territories. But if their territory is destroyed for a pipeline, their relationship with their land will also be destroyed.

Article 29 gives them the right to the productive capacity of their territories, and a pipeline does not allow for this.

There are many more articles on implementing laws and protecting sacred and cultural sites that B.C. is violating by continuing with the pipeline project over Wet’suwet’en objections.

These statements by Horgan set back the ambitious, positive agenda set by his government in implementing UNDRIP. They signal to First Nations’ people in B.C. that the government is not serious about the new law.

And they strongly signal trouble ahead as B.C. continues with its status quo agenda that claims government has final say over developments on First Nation title lands, and the requirement for free, prior and informed consent will not be taken seriously.

Many First Nations peoples in this province are hearing Horgan and asking what has changed?

The answer is nothing. B.C. is moving ahead with the government’s economic agenda at the expense of First Nations rights, title and all the requirements set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

First Nations people thought we were throwing out the old book and beginning a new one. Sadly, it looks like the same old story. This is not the new decade we were looking for. SOURCE


Supreme Court unanimously dismisses B.C. appeal in Trans Mountain case
Oil and gas industry applauds Supreme Court’s dismissal of pipeline case
The criminalization of Indigenous land defenders is a global concern

We have 10 years to save Earth’s biodiversity as mass extinction caused by humans takes hold, UN warns

(CNN)Almost a third of the Earth will need to be protected by 2030 and pollution cut by half to save our remaining wildlife, as we enter the planet’s sixth era of mass extinction, according to a United Nations agency.

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity released a draft plan on Monday, which sets global goals to combat the ongoing biodiversity crisis in the coming decades.
The convention had set similar targets in 2010, at a summit in Japan. But the world failed to meet most of those 2020 goals — and is now facing unprecedented extinction rates, threatened ecosystems, and severe consequences for human survival.
“Biodiversity, and the benefits it provides, is fundamental to human well-being and a healthy planet,” the draft plan reads. “Despite ongoing efforts, biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide and this decline is projected to continue or worsen under business-as-usual scenarios.”
The convention aims to stabilize our fragile biodiversity by 2030 and allow ecosystems to recover by 2050, allowing for a final vision of “living in harmony with nature” — but these goals will require urgent action on both local and global levels.
To achieve this, the draft plans lays out 20 targets for the next decade, ranging from carbon emission reduction to food sustainability.
One target is to give protected status to sites important for biodiversity — covering at least 30% of these land and sea areas by 2030, with at least 10% under “strict protection.” Another target is to cut pollution from biocides, plastic wastes, and excess nutrients by at least 50%.
Other 2030 targets include ensuring that the trade of all wild species is legal and sustainable, bringing greater sustainability to economic sectors and individual consumption, and empowering indigenous communities in the conservation effort.
Some targets focus on the quality of human life, like providing better food security and clean water for the most vulnerable communities — which are then expected to reduce “human-wildlife conflict,” the draft plan said.
The plan will be finalized and adopted in October at a biodiversity summit in Kunming, China.

Earth has entered its sixth mass extinction

For years, scientists have warned that we are in the midst of a mass extinction — the sixth in the planet’s history, and the first one caused by humans.
Elephants could be gone from the wild within a generation. Amphibian populations are collapsing. And climate change is warming and acidifying the oceans, threatening to annihilate coral reefs.

In total, a million of the world’s 8 million species are currently facing extinction, many within decades, the UN warned in 2019. The global rate of species extinction is at least tens of hundreds of times higher than it has been on average over the past 10 million years.

The main threats are shrinking habitats, the exploitation of natural resources, climate change and pollution, said the 2019 UN report. Humans have altered 75% of Earth’s land and 66% of marine ecosystems since pre-industrial times — changes that come in different forms, from waste dumped into oceans to human-introduced invasive species.
We have wrecked the world’s natural ecosystems — almost 600 plant species have been wiped out in the past 250 years, an extinction rate 500 times faster than it would have been without human intervention. The plants’ mass extinction spell trouble for the millions of species — including humans — that depend upon them.
A huge part of the problem lies in population growth, rising demand, and depleted resources. With a growing population, we have more mouths to feed, but fewer resources than ever. The planet’s declining biodiversity threatens agriculture, placing our livestock breeds and crops at risk.
But the population boom won’t end anytime soon. The draft plan released Monday warned that the current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion by 2030 and 9.8 billion by 2050 — with severe “implications for the demand for resources, including food, infrastructure and land use.” SOURCE

All you need to know about the teachers’ strikes across Ontario

Rotating one-day teacher strikes will hit the GTA next week.


Why are the teachers going on strike?

Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that the government will not offer teachers’ unions a raise of more than one per cent yearly. This is about half what they are seeking.

The unions vow to fight legislation capping the wage settlements for hundreds of thousands of teachers, nurses, professors, bureaucrats, and numerous other public service employees at one per cent annually for the next three years.

The province is also looking to boost class sizes in secondary schools from last year’s average of 22 to 25, down from its original plan of jumping to 28 over four years.

This is a move that would phase out thousands of teaching jobs and tens of thousands of course options for teens.

The government would mandate two online courses for teens, not four. Such classes are optional now, and there is no jurisdiction in North America that has such a requirement.

An Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario memo, obtained by the Star, says no contract talks are scheduled, and says the “critical issues” it wants the province to address include smaller classes, better supports for special needs students, a commitment to full-day kindergarten, and compensation.

Who is walking off the job next? 

For the first time in more than two decades, all of the province’s teachers’ unions are involved in job action, ranging from work-to-rule to rotating one-day strikes.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario are planning a one-day strike on Monday in Toronto, hitting both the public and Catholic boards (where the union represents early childhood educators), York Region and Ottawa.

On Tuesday, they will join all English Catholic teachers in the province, as well as public high school teachers and support staff in 13 boards, who are also hitting the picket lines.

Ontario’s public elementary teachers will walkout Wednedsay in Rainy River (Fort Frances area), Thames Valley (London area) and Rainbow (Sudbury area).

The elementary teachers’ union told members a Friday memo that the rotating strikes will continue “until we have a collective agreement or a decision is made to escalate our strike action further.”

No talks are scheduled.

How do parents get compensated for daycare costs?

The province has pledged to reimburse parents for any child-care costs incurred during the Ontario teachers’ strikes. Parents have to register online to receive compensation. No receipts are required for the payouts.

Depending on the child, parents are eligible to receive up to $60 per day. Click here for details on who’s eligible for compensation and how to apply for funds.

As of 9 a.m. Thursday, the government has received 33,000 applications for funding.

Ford’s government has already announced it will spend up to $48 million per day to repay parents for child-care costs during any work stoppage from teacher strikes.

The daily subsidies of up to $60 per child will be funded by savings from teacher salaries during the walkouts.

The 2019-20 academic year for Ontario students has been disrupted by labour disruption. This includes the first teacher walkout in the province since 1997. Here’s everything you need to know about the job action and the issues driving it. 

Where can I take my kids on the day off? 

Next week is setting up to be a busy and possibly stressful week for Toronto parents scrambling to find daycare — click here for a few options , ranging from hockey to arts camps to coding and skateboarding.

What’s happened in the past?

Until last December, there hadn’t been a full-blown strike or lockout involving Ontario’s secondary school teachers since 1997.

There have been targeted job actions, such as work-to-rule campaigns that eliminated extracurriculars, but no full-fledged, full-scale walkouts.

Ontario school job actions going back more than two decades are set out in the timeline this link provides.

Should university funding be tied to what graduates earn? Doug Ford thinks so

Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Ross Romano, seen here in June 2019, during a cabinet shuffle. Romano will oversee the implementation of postsecondary funding that will be a dramatic departure from the past, Martin Regg Cohn writes.

Doug Ford’s Tories want to know if Ontario’s colleges and universities measure up.

If not, public funding will dry up.

In one of the most ambitious plans undertaken by the Progressive Conservative government, annual funding of higher education is facing a major overhaul that will place new emphasis on economic performance.

Over the next two months, the Tories are putting the finishing touches on plans to measure not merely how many students graduate, but how fast they land jobs — and how much money they make. The less these graduates earn, the less in turn will be the cash flow from the government to their alma mater.

Once the metrics are phased in over the next few years, fully 60 per cent of $4.5 billion in provincial funding will be subject to review and punitive clawbacks on every campus. That compares to as little as 1.2 per cent today.

The controversial changes to postsecondary cash flow, buried in Ford’s first budget, raised few eyebrows at the time — overshadowed by a larger conflict with teachers’ unions and unpopular changes in class sizes. Now, with billions of dollars at stake, colleges and universities are scrambling to make sense of the budget’s biggest sleeper issue.

Are the Tories trying to turn the academy into an algorithm? Will the humanities and social sciences — which teach critical thinking and reward intellectual curiosity — pay the price if graduates don’t find lucrative work compared to, say, more nimble and practical commerce students?

Will we teach students for the jobs of today, not the work of tomorrow? What happens to popular STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) faculties if the booming economy goes bust and graduates can’t command the same salaries they once did? Will schools be squeezed for reasons beyond their control?

All fair questions. But there are other good ones worth asking, some of which are top of mind for this government:

Shouldn’t universities and colleges be accountable for the billions they get from taxpayers every year? Can’t their performance be measurable? Are high-paid professors, protected by the tradition of tenure, adapting to the demands of millennials in a modern economy?

Now a rookie minister is trying to decide next steps.

After Ross Romano landed the higher education portfolio last summer, he set out to meet every one of Ontario’s 45 university and college presidents for quiet consultations out of the public eye. It was a marked departure from his predecessor, the elusive Merrilee Fullerton, who announced this and other major changes to the sector without ever meeting most of the people who run it.

“If the data is off, the whole thing fails,” says Romano, perched in the downtown office where he blue-skies his ideas by marking up a window that he uses as a mock whiteboard.

Isn’t he worried that a liberal arts education will get squeezed by metrics that emphasize return on investment? In the spirit of full disclosure I confess to studying the humanities before majoring in economics (and that I’m a visiting practitioner at Ryerson), before asking Romano what he studied.

Turns out he took sociology, psychology and justice courses at Algoma University in his native Sault Ste. Marie before studying law in Windsor, adding: “I wouldn’t be here if not for the arts and humanities.”

Romano insists he won’t sell out the liberal arts just because it doesn’t pay big dividends. He points out that future humanities programs will be measured against their own past performance, not compared to rival faculties that command a premium on the job market.

He acknowledges that campuses can’t be held hostage to economic swings. After university presidents pointed out the problem, he asked for “force majeure” language to make allowance for economic volatility beyond their control. SOURCE

Ontario pushes pause on recycling watchdog, citing need to cut ‘red tape.’ Critics decry loss of independent oversight

Environment Minister Jeff Yurek’s office told the Star that the new Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority “makes Ontario a less competitive place to do business, which increases costs for consumers.”

Premier Doug Ford’s government is weakening the powers of the independent recycling regulator that was supposed to hold producers of electronics or household hazardous waste accountable for the products they sell.

Citing a desire to reduce “red tape,” Environment Minister Jeff Yurek’s office told the Star that the new Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA) “makes Ontario a less competitive place to do business, which increases costs for consumers.”

It is unclear what precipitated the minister’s decision, although Yurek and his staff have been the focus of a lobbying campaign by the industries that sell computers, printers, paint and household cleaners. In letters and emails obtained by the Star and during a Dec. 5 meeting with Yurek, lobbyists complained of “red tape” and “scope creep” by the oversight authority.

It is also unclear how the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks plans to move forward. For now, the loss of RPRA’s strong regulatory powers to investigate industry recycling claims means Ontario will have no way to independently track if materials are recycled or sent to landfill. The recycling industry says the decision will rule out business investments in new plants and recycling technology.

The minister’s office said it will continue with “strict new recycling regulations,” including higher diversion targets and new blue box standards.

But without strong and independent enforcement, those new recycling plans will not work, said Rob Cook of the Ontario Waste Management Association.

“They are missing the point that it is all for naught if you don’t have the full oversight of RPRA,” Cook said.

The recycling authority was created in 2016 as part of Liberal legislation called the Waste-Free Ontario Act and the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act. It operates on funding from the producers and regulations set by the government.

RPRA was designed to act as an external regulatory body that would have the power to verify where materials are sent. One of the problems with the old recycling system involved the dumping of plastics in countries like China, with lax environmental laws. China has now closed its doors to “contaminated” materials from other countries, including Canada, highlighting the need for stronger regulations.

The loss of RPRA's strong regulatory powers to investigate industry recycling claims means Ontario will have no way to independently track if materials are recycled or sent to landfill. Above, a handful of ground electronic components on its way to be recycled.

The Liberals and the Conservatives put the existing industry-controlled recycling programs on notice with “wind-up” letters detailing when those programs would end. They were considered monopolies by people in the waste management industry, and the new legislation was to open the industry to competition by allowing new companies to run the recycling programs.

Tires were the first to fall under the authority’s watch. Since January 2019, Ontario tire recyclers have invested or have planned to invest $13 million in processing plants and technology, said Peter Hargreave, president of Policy Integrity consulting.

The Ontario Electronics Stewardship, the industry-controlled recycling program, was told to end its operations at the end of this year and Stewardship Ontario was told to wrap up its household hazardous waste program by the end of June 2021. Stewardship Ontario also oversees the blue box program, which is supposed to go through a major change as well, with the producers of plastics, packaging and newspapers taking full responsibility for the costs of recycling.

In other words, a huge transformation of the industry was underway, with promises of regulations for targets to divert from landfill combined with RPRA’s oversight to ensure proper recycling actually happened.

A few months ago, it appeared that Yurek was moving ahead with those plans. He sent the “wind-up” letters and expanded RPRA’s mandate by adding a digital registry for hazardous waste.

Regulations that were expected to have a fall 2019 deadline still haven’t passed. And that left the door open to the producers’ associations, who lobbied against change.

One of the lobbyists, Shelagh Kerr, president and CEO of the Electronics Product Stewardship Canada, sent a letter in November to the government asking it to regulate “mature” recycling programs under the ministry’s Environmental Protection Act. Kerr also asked the government to control the regulatory powers it gives to RPRA.

The ministry is now starting a new search for “oversight models that have been used in other jurisdictions,” its statement said.

Cook, of the waste management association, said before the 2016 legislation was written, the ministry studied numerous models in other jurisdictions. Many had serious flaws, he said. As a result, the government designed RPRA. Ministry staff who worked on the waste-free plans won an Ontario Public Service Amethyst Award for “outstanding achievements.”

The fight over RPRA’s existence is just the latest in a long struggle between the corporations that produce materials and the waste management industry that recycles them.

In the middle is a government that claims it is sympathetic to business.

In recent months, lobbyists for the producers repeatedly cited red tape, a buzz term the Conservatives have used so often they put an associate minister in charge of its reduction. The recycling industry asked the government to support jobs and business investments by keeping the authority intact.

Last week, before the government’s new position on RPRA, Cook said its continued existence would ensure a “level-playing field” between progressive companies that already invest money in recycling and those with a more lackadaisical approach.