As published in The Shoreline Beacon (Jul. 4, 2012). SOS On the March.
By Jennifer Schleich
Adorned in costume, “No Nuke Dump” t-shirts and protest signs, between approximately 200 and 300 Saugeen Shores residents and visitors gathered at the Southampton flag pole on Saturday morning to participate in a peaceful march in opposition to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s proposed high-level nuclear waste deep geological repository (DGR).
“Our message today is we want council to opt out of the process,” said Cherly Grace of Save Our Saugeen Shores (SOS), the group of 15-20 people behind the protest. “We want transparency, and we want to protect the region and the Great Lakes.”
Eight-year-old and nine-year-old Kyra and Emily Hagedorn of Durham, who turned out to support their grandmother and SOS member Pat Dobec, were not out of place at the protest, which welcomed people of all ages.
“We think the DGR is a little gross,” said the girls, about the potential construction of an underground storage facility for spent nuclear fuel.
Saugeen First Nations residents were also in attendance at the protest with their own view about the DGR’s impact on the community.
“We have to have a joint effort, this affects everybody,” said James and Lori Kewaquom. “This is our traditional territory and burying poison in the ground affects all life and the land.”
The pair brought an eagle staff with them to the march, a symbol of the sanctity of life.
The protest was the latest in a series of efforts to put a stop to the NWMO’s process, which could eventually see a DGR constructed several decades down the road.
This week the group also erected a large billboard advertisement on Highway 21 in Southampton, decrying “No Nuke Dump: Take Action Now”, much to the displeasure of many residents who have written a string of letters complaining about the advertisement’s effect on tourism and the group’s presumption to speak for the community.
“We believe in freedom of speech and we have the right to express our dismay,” said Grace in defence of the billboard. “The long-term effects of the site selection process, the construction of a DGR and the ultimate stigma it would create, is much more harmful to tourism then a summer of signs and billboards.”
The group has also brought a series of deputations to Saugeen Shores council and has collected more than 2,000 signatures on a petition opposing the DGR.
“A lot of people will be here this holiday weekend who don’t come to council, we wanted to continue to raise awareness and get people involved,” added Grace.
Saugeen Shores is but one community in the region, which has expressed an interest in learning more about hosting the NWMO’s facility.