Kebaowek First Nation

Protect the Kichi Sibi

Kebaowek First Nation is challenging a decision of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in court to protect the sacred Kichi Sibi (Ottawa River) from a nuclear waste disposal facility proposed by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). Time and time again, we see industry and government evading the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous Nations for projects that destroy their territory. Donate for Kebaowek to access justice to say NO to nuclear waste on their unceded territory.

Nuclear development on a very large area of unceded Algonquin territory started over 70 years ago with the construction of Chalk River Laboratories. It was built on the shores of the Kichi Sibi without the free, prior, and informed consent of the Algonquin Nation.

The Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) is intended to hold one million cubic metres of poorly catagorized legacy and imported nuclear waste in an above-ground mound. This waste comes from decades of nuclear research and production, where the world's first nuclear reactor meltdown occurred in 1952. If the project proceeds, it will lead to the displacement of culturally significant species, such as deer, moose, bears, and wolves through the destruction of 37 hectares of old growth forest. Worse yet, it risks further nuclear contamination of the watershed that provides drinking water to over nine million people in Ontario and Quebec. 

In January 2024, the CNSC gave amended approval to license the construction of the NSDF without getting the free, prior, and informed consent of Kebaowek First Nation. This is a clear violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Kebaowek does not approve of a nuclear waste facility that will permanently affect their sacred sites, inherent rights, unceded territory, and the Kichi Sibi. Kebaowek will argue for the implementation of free, prior, and informed consent under article 29.2 of UNDRIP. Kebaowek needs your support with their judicial review of the CNSC decision in federal court on July 10th and 11th, 2024. Donate now — we are stronger together.

“It’s a betrayal of a series of sacred trusts, Anishinaabe aki was not created for business profit. Our Nation was not built to turn the [Kichi Sìbì], our great river, into a self-storage unit for nuclear waste.” 

— Verma Polson, Councilor

Protect the River, and the River Will Protect you

The Kichi Sibi runs from the Laurentian Mountains to the St. Lawrence River and through to the Atlantic Ocean. The Omamiwininiwag (travelers of the river) have stewarded the Kichi Sibi since time immemorial, navigating the river to foster reciprocal relationships with the animals, fish, plants, and non-human lifeforms to survive. 

Water is life. The waters of the Kichi Sibi bring life to all those who live on it. The Kichi Sibi is home to endangered and culturally-significant species like lake sturgeon and eels. Beavers chew down massive deciduous trees for their homes along the Kichi Sibi. Large populations of endangered Hickorynut mussels still live in the river, purifying water for the millions of people who live on its shores. The Kichi Sibi is truly a sacred river.

If poorly classified nuclear waste is stored next to the Kichi Sibi, it would contaminate the river and devastate entire ecosystems both at the site, and downriver. Drinking water for over nine million people downriver from Canadian Nuclear Laboratories would become polluted, including in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. 

CNSC authorizing the further nuclear pollution of the Kichi Sibi — without the free, prior, and informed consent of Kebaowek First Nation — is a clear violation of Indigenous rights. Water is sacred to the Algonquin-Anishinabeg people. Water flows from rivers into our bodies, is given for birth, and provides life for all human and non-human lifeforms. Putting a nuclear waste facility just one kilometre away from the river would not only disrespect Kebaowek and other First Nations: it would violate the right to clean drinking water for millions of people. 

Kebaowek First Nation's concerns are not unfounded. As recently as February 2024, toxic septic effluent was discharged into the Kichi Sibi. How can we trust the CNSC and CNL to protect the health and safety of the watershed when they failed to notify Kebaowek and the public until over a month after the discharge?

The short answer is: we can't. The damage from nuclear waste in the Kichi Sibi would be disastrous and irreversible. Kebaowek is doing everything they can — Indigenous-led environmental assessments, advocacy, and legal action with RAVEN's support — to protect the Kichi Sibi.

"It's not only a First Nation issue. It's a human issue, and we are doing this on behalf of our people and all Canadians who depend on the Ottawa river as their drinking water source."

— Lance Haymond, Chief

Will you join Kebaowek as they ask for their right to say no to the NSDF where it is currently, to protect the Kichi Sibi and all those who call it home?

The Case

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories proposed the Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) for its nuclear waste in 2016, a project which needed to go through the environmental assessment process. With any environmental assessment, affected Indigenous Nations must be consulted by the provincial and/or federal governments to make sure their rights are protected from the environmental, social, and cultural effects of the project. This is known as the Duty to Consult and Accommodate, and it arises from s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Kebaowek has filed a judicial review arguing that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) did not properly consult them for the NSDF project. Although Kebaowek received a precedent-setting extension to their consultation period after emphasizing how much they want their voice to be respected, the CNSC made the unilateral decision to not include the UNDRIP in their consultations. 

UNDRIP calls for governments to respect Indigenous Peoples' free, prior, and informed consent ahead of projects that will alter the course of their lives, livelihoods, and territories. The CNSC stated that it did not have the power to determine how UNDRIP should be applied in Canadian law, and went through the "business-as-usual" model for consultation of ticking off any boxes necessary to push the NSDF project through. 

In advance of the CNSC decision on January 9th, 2024, the federal government passed Bill C-15 in 2021, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (UNDA 2021), following this specific call to action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015. This Act puts the principles of UNDRIP into Canadian law, and under article 29.2 of UNDRIP, it specifies:

Storage or disposal of hazardous materials: States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent. 

Kebaowek believes that, in the spirit of reconciliation and protecting all of human and non-human life from radioactive waste, Canada must implement free, prior, and informed consent into the consultation process because UNDA 2021 puts article 29.2 of UNDRIP into Canadian law.

Kebaowek First Nation contends that the Commission failed to properly uphold its duty to consult, and as such, has failed to uphold the constitutionally protected and inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples. The risk of harm from the proposed NSDF is not only a First Nations issue; it also affects all individuals, animals, plants, and waters in the vicinity. We are doing this on behalf of our People and all Canadians who depend on the Ottawa River as their drinking water source. 

— Lance Haymond, Chief
Link to Source 

A favourable decision for Kebaowek First Nation would be groundbreaking for Indigenous Nations across Canada. It would require the Canadian government to get the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous Nations over toxic waste facilities in the environmental assessment process. It would also require the government to incorporate consent when the Duty to Consult and Accommodate is triggered in the environmental assessment process. This legal case will be one of the leading cases for implementing UNDRIP into Canadian law, protecting Indigenous sovereignty, culture, and territories for generations to come.


Kebaowek First Nation is a part of the larger Algonquin Nation. The Nation is split by the Ottawa/Quebec border. There are approximately 8,000 to 10,000 people in the Algonquin-Anishinabeg Nation. Kebaowek First Nation is on the Quebec side of the border with nearly 900 members.

Kebaowek's reserve lands are on Lake Kipawa, Québec. The Nation represents over 1,100 registered members living on and off reserve, largely in Québec and Ontario.


  • July 10th and 11th, 2024 - Kebaowek First Nation v. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories goes to Federal Court in Ottawa, Ontario.
  • May 2024 - Kebaowek's Application for Support is Accepted by RAVEN (Consultation Case)
  • April 2024 - CNL Reports Non-compliance with Effluent Regulations at Chalk River, Raising Urgent Concerns for the Ottawa River watershed
  • March 2024 - Kebaowek Files Other Judicial Review under Endangered Species Act
  • February 2024 - Indigenous Chiefs, Political Parties, Municipalities, and Environmental Groups Rallied in Front of Parliament in Ottawa
  • February 2024 - Notice of Application for Judicial Review of Consultation is Issued
  • January 2024 - Kebaowek First Nation Urges Environment and Climate Change Canada to Halt Species at Risk Act Permit for NSDF
  • January 2024 - Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador Denounces CNSC Decision, Calls for NSDF Project Cancellation
  • January 2024 - CNSC Approves Construction of NSDF, with Amendments
  • October 2023 - Councillor Justin Roy Presents NSDF Concerns to Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs
  • October 2023 - Bloc Québécois Raises First Nations' Concerns in House of Commons via MP Marilène Gill
  • August 2023 - Final Submissions and Presentations to CNSC, Press Conference held by First Nations beforehand
  • July 2023 - AFN Resolution Calls for Urgent Meeting with CNSC over Consultation Policy, sponsored by Chief Lance Haymond
  • July 2022 - CNSC Extends Consultation Period with Kebaowek and the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg to January 2023
  • February and May 2022 - CNSC Holds Public Hearings
  • May 2021 - CNL Submits Final Environmental Impact Statement
  • November 2019 - CNL submits Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement
  • July 2017 - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) resolution states CNSC and Canadian government failed to consult First Nations on NSDF
  • May 2017 - Consultation Period Opens for First Nations and Public
  • March 2017 - CNL submits Draft Environmental Impact Statement to the CNSC
  • May 2016 - Near Surface Disposal Facility Proposed
  • January 2015 - Atomic Energy of Canada contracts owners of CNL, which is owned by SNC Lavalin Inc and two Texas-based Nuclear Engineering Management Firms, to Construct Disposal Facility for Waste
  • May 2009 - Another Heavy Water Leak
  • December 2008 - Heavy Water Containing Tritium leaked into Kichi Sibi (public was not informed of the leak)
  • May 1958 - Several Uranium Nuclear Fuel Rods Overheat and Break in Core of Nuclear Reactor
  • December 1952 - World's First Nuclear Meltdown at Chalk River Laboratories
  • September 1944 - Chalk River Laboratories is Built for Neutron Research and to Produce Plutonium for U.S. Nuclear Weapons