Dec 132012
 
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Despite community opposition, mayor announces signing ceremony for secretive deal.

from residents of Pinehouse, Saskatchewan

PINEHOUSE, December 12, 2012 — Residents of the northern Saskatchewan village of Pinehouse feel betrayed and appalled that the village council is about to sign a controversial “Collaboration Agreement” with uranium giants Cameco and Areva — despite community concerns and opposition to the deal.

At a community meeting held last night, Pinehouse Mayor Mike Natomagan announced that the agreement — which critics say amounts to a gag order that violates residents’ Charter rights — will be signed even though residents have not yet been provided with a copy of the agreement.

People have a right to see what’s in an agreement before it’s signed, not after.

“There are a lot of questions about the agreement in the community, and we’re being told that a confidentiality clause means we can’t get the answers we need from our administration,” says Pinehouse resident John Smerek.

“To us, it’s a simple issue of democracy. People have a right to see what’s in an agreement before it’s signed, not after. But even though we’ve asked to see the agreement and to have input, the residents here have been totally shut out of the process.”

“It’s evident that a land claim is being negotiated without my consent or knowledge. It’s tough to go on promises, but promises are all we’ve got about this agreement,” adds Pinehouse resident Dale Smith.

“You wouldn’t sign a mortgage without knowing the cost of the house or the details, but that’s what we’re being asked to do. If this is truly a good deal for us, why are Cameco, Areva and the council keeping it secret and rushing to ram it through as quickly as possible?”

Residents of Pinehouse have retained legal counsel and have sent a letter to Mayor Natomagan requesting that signing of the agreement be delayed “to allow a consultative process that permits full, prior and informed consent of those affected and potentially affected by the terms and implementation of that Agreement.”

The agreement also includes a promise that Pinehouse will “Make reasonable efforts to ensure Pinehouse members do not say or do anything that interferes with or delays Cameco/Areva’s mining…”

The letter, prepared by Kowalchuk Law Office, also outlined numerous concerns with the agreement, including “the impact of the Agreement on: the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms including s.35 and the duty to consult, as well as s.7 (the right to life, liberty and security of the person) and s.2(b) (freedom of expression); Aboriginal treaties; international law and environmental statutes.”

Residents were given their first opportunity to view a summary of the agreement at a November 13 meeting, where they were provided with a summary of the deal, which includes a number of controversial terms, including pledging community support for current, proposed and future Cameco and Areva operations. 

The agreement also includes a promise that Pinehouse will “Make reasonable efforts to ensure Pinehouse members do not say or do anything that interferes with or delays Cameco/Areva’s mining, or do or say anything that is not consistent with Pinehouse’s promises under the Collaboration Agreement.”

Residents are calling on Pinehouse, Cameco and Areva to delay signing of the agreement until consultations with the community have been completed and terms that may violate residents’ Charter rights are removed or amended.

Messages supporting Pinehouse residents and calling for a delay in signing the agreement have come in from across Canada and as far away as Australia, the UK and Germany.

If the agreement is signed as announced, residents plan to proceed with a court injunction against implementation of the agreement.

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