The Clearwater River Dene Nation (CRDN) of northwest Saskatchewan has erected what it calls a security checkpoint on Highway 995 that runs through its reserve to uranium projects on the southwest rim of the Athabasca Basin. The Nation has taken this action, it says, because the Saskatchewan government has failed to have an meaningful consultation with it or consent of its elders, trappers and community members, yet the province continues to approve uranium exploration permits.
The amount of exploration activity on the road use is a concern because it impacts moose, caribou and migratory bird nesting areas as young are being born or hatched. The potential for Covid-19 infection of families living on the land is a concern.
CRDN is allowing exploration companies and their workforces access through the reserve, but it also says the checkpoint plays a part in protecting its community from Covid-19 infections.
Band manager Walter Hainault said, “Governments allowed destructive uranium projects like the Gunnar mine to go ahead that is now a toxic uranium legacy. They approved the Cluff Lake uranium mine to the north of us, and our people have mostly left the area due to their fears over radioactive contamination and our cultural connection to the area was broken. We now have two major uranium mines being proposed in one of our Nation's most culturally important and vital areas – the Patterson Lake Area. Our People are kind, patient and have shown good will, but that patience is running out.”
Chief Teddy Clarke of the CRDN added, "[We] will not permit what happened in the past to occur again. Our elders, trappers, community members and youth will have the last say over the way the land is used and how it is left for the future generations.”
The Nation has retrain JFK Law, a Vancouver based firm, to represent it.
Visit the Clearwater River Dene Nation website at www.MLTC.net/nations/CRDN/.