While citizens in Gillam, Man., protested the burial of asbestos near its small town on northern Manitoba, Fort Severn First Nation prevented the passing of the toxic substance through its land by putting up a blockade.
Early in the second week of March, community members put up a blockade east of the community, preventing trucks loaded with asbestos-infested insulation and tiles from passing through the First Nation.
The asbestos originated from Site 500 of the Mid Canada Line Radar site near Weenusk First Nation (Peawanuck). The shipping of the substance to Gillam was part of the site clean up project that began last summer.
Mike Cartan, who heads the project for the Ministry of Natural Resources, said that the Fort Severn leadership had two issues with the shipments passing through its land.
He said that they were concerned about a lack of inspection of the loads as they passed through the community and whether the material was packaged properly.
Cartan said they were also concerned about the contractor’s use of the winter road and whether the contractor would contribute to its maintenance.
Following a conference call between Fort Severn, Peawanuck, Cartan and the contractor on March 8, a resolution was reached and the trucks were allowed to proceed following inspections.
Cartan said that in working toward a resolution with Fort Severn, the First Nation brought in an independent engineering contractor from Thunder Bay.
“This company is training someone in Fort Severn to do the inspections, so there’ll be someone employed in the community who will be an assistant inspector,” Cartan said. “I think the plan is to move him into being the full inspector.”
Following the resolution, 14 trucks were expected to pass through on March 9 after inspections. Cartan said they plan to ship 30-40 truckloads of the asbestos-infested materials before the end of the winter road season and more in 2013.
Calls to Fort Severn Chief Matthew Kakekaspan were not returned.
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