Ignace voting on potential nuclear waste facility

By Mike Stimpson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Thunder Bay Source

IGNACE — Residents and property owners began voting just after midnight Friday on whether they support Ignace moving forward as a potential host community for a nuclear waste repository.

Online and in-person, individuals aged 16 and over may cast a ballot on whether the township should “continue participating in the process.”

A consulting firm will use the results as data for a report to Ignace council on the degree of “community willingness.”

Laura Tanguay, a doctoral candidate in environmental and urban change at York University, believes the “willingness process” in Ignace to be flawed.

“I think showing willingness from a community (on) something that has such long-term risks and the potential for such serious impacts is absolutely necessary,” she said Thursday before speaking to members of Environment North in Thunder Bay.

“But I think that there are a lot of things that aren’t necessarily figured out in time here, like how we define community and how we define willingness and how we define being informed,” she continued.

“And I don’t know that everybody who will be at risk of impact is feeling like they are involved in what is being conceptualized within the community realm.”

The process should involve more people, including the many First Nations that could be impacted, she said.

An Ignace councillor has a different take on the process.

“The vote is very important for the people of Ignace, giving them an opportunity to do deliberative democracy,” Coun. Jodie Defeo said in an interview Thursday at the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association conference in Thunder Bay.

“It not only gives them a chance to have a quantitative vote where you have a number or percentage, something very concrete, but it also gives them an opportunity to have that qualitative piece, the story of how they got to their decision,” she said.

“So this decision is very important to every person who’s participated in the 14 years of conversation with NWMO.”

Ignace raised its hand 14 years ago as a possible host community for the deep geological repository being proposed by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, a body created by 2002 federal legislation and funded by Canada’s nuclear power producers.

The $26-billion repository would be situated hundreds of metres underground and store spent nuclear fuel from Canadian reactors.

The NWMO has shortened the list of candidate sites for the facility to just two. One lies south of Highway 17 between Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation and Ignace; the other is in Saugeen Ojibway Nation’s traditional territory near Lake Huron.

Site selection is scheduled to happen by the end of 2024 after potential host communities indicate their willingness to the NWMO.

Whichever site is selected, the NWMO does not expect to begin construction of the underground repository until about 10 years later.

The Township of Ignace in February signed a hosting agreement that says Ignace will communicate to the NWMO by the end of July whether the township is still interested in hosting the repository.

The community vote continues until Tuesday night.