Canadian Environmental Assessment Act Fails Inverhuron

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
2nd Session, 37th Parliament,
Volume 140, Issue 55
The Honourable Dan Hays, Speaker
Bill to Amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Second Reading

Hon. Mira Spivak:

Honourable senators, the second example I would like to cite comes from Inverhuron, Ontario, a hamlet of approximately 300 families immediately next to the Bruce nuclear complex. These families are concerned about their local food and drinking water that has been tested at 50 times the level of natural background radiation. They have suffered childhood leukemia deaths and two documented cases of advanced aging disease in children within a 25-kilometre radius of the plant. As the president of the ratepayers’ group told the committee in the other place, “When you see a six-year-old child who looks like sixty and who dies before the age of nine, it breaks your heart.”

These families live near the world’s largest nuclear facility, nine reactors and a heavy water plant that, in the past, emitted hydrogen sulphide gas. It is Canada’s only production facility to burn radioactive waste. In the past, it has emitted dioxins and furans hundreds of times in excess of national limits. It has two dedicated radioactive storage sites to store the waste from the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations. There have been documented leaks from these sites of radioactive contaminants into the groundwater.

When they learned that Bruce would also be the site of a new high-level waste storage facility for spent fuel bundles — some 40,000 tons of it — making it the world’s largest nuclear waste storage facility, here is what Normand de la Chevrotière, the ratepayers’ president, said that families believed:

This is a slam dunk. If anything deserves a panel review, this has to be it. But we’d better not be complacent. We’d better participate in the process.

With no intervener funding, because a panel review was not recommended, they spent thousands of their own dollars to hire experts. They had the support of their local MP, Ovid Jackson, the local medical officer of health, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the neighbouring First Nations. They learned the hard way that overwhelming public concern was not sufficient to trigger a panel review.

They went to court and discovered that the project had changed materially in the middle of the public comment period. When they lost in Federal Court, they appealed and lost again. They sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court and were denied. In the end, on top of lawyers’ fees, they faced $100,000 in costs to Ontario Power Generation and the federal government.

Mr. De la Chevrotière sums up the horrific experience this way. When their children ask what happened, they can reply:

We did everything humanly possible. We exhausted every regulatory avenue. We exhausted every legal avenue. We did not fail you; the system and the government failed you.

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