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Northern Ont. community votes in favour hosting nuclear waste site

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After a consultation process that began in 2010, residents in the Township of Ignace have voted in favour of hosting of a $22 billion nuclear waste site.

In an in-person and online vote held in April, 77.3 per cent of residents voted in favour of continuing with the process, with 20.8 per cent voting no.

There were 1,065 people eligible to vote, of whom 640 cast ballots. Yes votes totalled 495, while 133 voted no and 12 people abstained.

The results were announced at a council meeting streamed live Wednesday afternoon, with 100 people watching via Zoom.

Roger Dufault, co-chair of the ad-hoc committee charged with making recommendations on the proposal, said the process was extensive and unbiased.

“The findings are representative of how the community feels,” Dufault said.

He said the committee “concluded community had a chance to be fully engaged in the consultation process.”

Dufault said it an incredible amount of work, “but we were happy to do it.”

After a consultation process that began in 2010, residents in the Township of Ignace have voted in favour of hosting of a $22 billion nuclear waste site. (File)

“It is clear from the results the majority are willing to proceed,” he said.

Ignace Mayor Kimberly Baigrie became emotional after the results were announced.

“We started our journey more than 14 years ago,” Baigrie said.

“We put our hand up (and said) we were interested in hearing and learning more about this opportunity for our community. And boy did we learn more.”

She said it wasn’t a decision “council could make alone” and they knew they needed to consult with everyone.

 “I’m very proud of this community,” she said.

“I’m very proud the voice of this community came together.”

Process began in 2010

The nationwide process began in 2010 when 22 communities came forward expressing interest in hosting Canada's deep geological repository. The Ignace-Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation is one of the final two sites being considered.

Ignace has a population of around 1,200 and is located on Highway 17 between Thunder Bay and the Manitoba border in northwestern Ontario.

The plan would see nuclear waste buried in deep granite rock in the Canadian Shield.

"Canada's plan will only move forward at a site with informed and willing hosts," the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) said about the process.

"That means the people living there need to understand what it means to host a project like this and support having it located in the area."

Ignace created a special committee to review, analyze and make recommendations to the township on whether to host the site. The recommendation to move forward was approved unanimously Wednesday. One councillor was travelling and unable to attend.

At a news conference following the meeting, Baigrie rejected a suggestion that the consultation process wasn’t fair.

“I would never say it was one–sided,” she said, adding that they want to “have open dialogue” with people who opposed the decision.

“We engaged all of our community members.”

While Ignace has voted in favour, nearby Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation must also support the process for the plan to move ahead.

That decision is expected in October.

Correction

The is story has been corrected to clarify the role of the ad-hoc committee,

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