Green Cross International supports the petition against Areva’s uranium mining project on the Nunavut Inuit Territory

France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, Green Cross France et Territoires and Green Cross International support the petition started by the French antinuclear coalition Sortir du Nucléaire to prevent uranium mining by Areva on the Nunavut Inuit Territory, Canada.

This project raises fundamental questions on the consequences it might have on the livelihood of surrounding communities, their access to safe water supplies and their right to live in a healthy environment. As noted by local NGO Makita, the project and Areva’s operating habits put Nunavut’s fragile environment at risk. That’s why it is calling for a massive civil society’s response in the face of intimidation attempts.

Being extremely dependent on nuclear energy, France would be the first consumer of uranium extracted this way, which is at the expense of local communities’ living conditions. Our organisations hosted a workshop on “water and energy” in Marseilles in March, in the context of the National Debate on Energy Transition. We will not tolerate endangering the water supply and the right to a healthy environment of those Nunavut populations on one hand while promoting the French dependency on nuclear energy on the other when alternative solutions exist, are well known and have a much lower impact.

Emmanuel Poilane, Director of France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, reminds us that unlike some western governments and transnational companies, indigenous peoples have not forgotten that water is the essence of life, a global public good, and that it must be preserved for our general interest and for future generations. France’s energy choices must have limited impact on water quality and availability and, more specifically, engage in projects compatible with the respect of the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, the goal being to defend peoples’ ways of life and the environment.

Nicolas Imbert, Director of Green Cross France et Territoires, goes on saying that “France can and is confronted to the pressing need to develop energy efficiency and local energy supplies. Seeking to extract uranium in unacceptable conditions to fulfill our nuclear energy needs is not only strategically and financially hard to understand but also puts local communities at risk and too much pressure on the environment”.

Adam Koniuszewski, Green Cross International‘s Chief Operating Officer and treasurer of Green Cross France et Territoires, adds that “Nuvanut’s uranium mining project takes place in a context of disengagement by the federal government from environmental protection issues. In 2012, the Conservatives’ omnibus bill overhauled the Navigable Waters Protection Act so that federal approval is no longer required for developments that may affect the thousands of bodies of water crisscrossing Canada. The move was criticized by opposition parties and by environmental and aboriginal NGOs. “This is just another bill that removes protection of our lands from corporate industry and greed,” says Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. (…) The erosion of our people’s Treaty rights and our territories is just non-stop,” he said. “Harper (was) not looking out for the best interests of Canada’s citizens or First Nations and aboriginals. He’s certainly never consulted us.” (More on this)

This is why our three organisations actively support Sortir du Nucléaire’s petition, and in particular the letter sent to the French Ministers of Environment, Commerce and Foreign Affairs, as well as to the Deputy Minister in charge of Development, asking for the immediate interruption of the project:

“We urge the French government, who is Areva’s majority shareholder, to abide by France’s international human rights obligations, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which are incompatible with such projects. We also wish to remind the French authorities of the existence of the International Labor Organization Convention n°169, which deals specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, and which France should ratify considering its relevance for the respect of Indigenous Peoples rights (i.e. article 15.2)”

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