Cree Youth Walk 850 km To Protest Against Uranium Mining In Quebec

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The Mistissini reserve, some 60 km north of Chibougameau, Thursday June 8, 2006, is seen from the air. | CP

About 20 young Cree people have walked nearly 850 kilometres to Montreal’s South Shore from their village in northern Quebec, protesting against uranium exploration in the province.

The youth left Mistissini, Que., northeast of Chibougamau in the James Bay region three weeks ago. On the way, they stopped in Quebec City to share their message.

They arrived in Longueuil, just across the bridge from Montreal, Saturday.

Their final destination is downtown Montreal, where they will deliver that message to the province’s environmental protection agency, known as the BAPE, when it holds the last of a series of public hearings on uranium exploration tomorrow.

The Cree young people have endured frigid temperatures and wintry conditions, walking an average of a marathon a day.

"We've lost a couple of toenails on this journey,” said Joshua Iserhoff, chair of the Cree Nation Youth Council.

But according to Iserhoff, it’s been worth it.

He said uranium exploration near his community could cause irreparable damage to the watershed.

"If we were to contaminate one of the largest freshwater lakes in Quebec, that would be one of the most devastating things we could ever allow to happen,” said Iserhoff.

Uranium extraction has been on the table in Mistissini since 2006.

A Boucherville-based company, Strateco Resources, has invested $120 million into developing a uranium mine in Mistissini in the last ten years.

In 2013, the then-Parti Québecois government banned uranium exploration mining in Quebec, putting the project on hold.

Last week, Strateco Resources filed a $190 million lawsuit against the province, asking for compensation for the investments made before the province blocked it last year.

Now the province is holding public hearings on uranium mining.

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