HANDE: Pinehouse – company town, Cameco’s town

HANDE: Pinehouse – company town, Cameco’s town

Postby Oscar » Sat Nov 14, 2015 8:41 pm

Pinehouse – company town, Cameco’s town -
Presentation by D’Arcy Hande © to Quill Plains Chapter, Council of Canadians -
St. Peter’s College, Muenster, SK, 7 November 2015


We’re here today to talk about a relatively isolated northern village in Saskatchewan, one that has over the past 30 years come under the domination of the uranium industry. I want to provide you with an overview of how that situation has developed and then leave it to Fred Pederson and John Smerek to describe what has happened in more detail and explain what the impact on the community has in fact been.

Located about 500 kilometers north of Saskatoon, Pinehouse has not really factored into the history of the province, or even the region, until recent times. It started out as a pin-point on the map with the establishment of a North-West Company fur-trading post on what was then called Snake Lake (now Pinehouse Lake) in 1786.

A major turning point in the development of Pinehouse came with the completion of an all-weather road from the south in 1979 and the further construction of a road up to Cameco’s Key Lake uranium mine, which began operations in 1983. Over that time, the population has slowly grown from about 700 to 1400. It is a young community – more than 70% under the age of 40. With an unemployment rate hovering around 20%, approximately 60 people are employed at the Cameco mines (Key Lake and MacArthur River). 1 Most of the population has First Nations or Métis background; in the 2011 census two-thirds stated Cree is their mother-tongue.2

So how did I, a nondescript retired archivist in Saskatoon, become interested in Pinehouse? I was drawn into the nuclear development debate in 2009 emanating from the provincial government’s Uranium Development Partnership proposal. In 2011, I became involved with a group called HUES3, which comprised anti-nuke activists like Dr. Dale Dewar of Wynyard and Candyce Paul of Patuanak/English River Dene Nation. We were acutely aware of plans to introduce a nuclear waste repository into northern Saskatchewan, and much of our effort went into supporting the Committee for Future Generations, who had organized a march from Pinehouse to Regina in July and August 2011.

Later on, at the end of 2012, we got wind of plans for the uranium mining companies, Cameco and Areva, to sign secret collaboration agreements with English River First Nation and Pinehouse. The first such agreement was in fact rolled out at a hastily organized public meeting at Pinehouse in November 2012, and subsequently several of us from Saskatoon motored up north to see how we could help stop that from happening. Our organizing around this is in itself a long story, but suffice it to say just now that we made life very difficult for the uranium companies and the Pinehouse political leadership in the following months. That was the beginning of my proud association with the Pinehouse “three amigos” – Fred Pederson, John Smerek and Dale Smith.

As one might expect from its history and cultural makeup, Pinehouse is an extremely close – some might say, insular – community. Family connections and lifetime friendships make the villagers supremely interconnected, self-aware and supportive of each other. Personal foibles are all well known, well understood and usually overlooked, if not exactly forgiven. Any of us who grew up in a small town know the dynamic. Add to this a distance of 100 kilometers to the next community down the road, and one can understand how closely-knit Pinehouse has always been.

In Pinehouse there are three primary centres of political and economic leadership – the Village corporation itself, The Village-owned business development corporation Pinehouse Business North (PBN), and the Kineepik (Snake Lake) Métis Local. At the time I first visited Pinehouse there was another short-term political/economic entity at play, the Community Liaison Committee for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). As I got to know the community a bit better, through conversations with Fred, John and Dale, I realized that in fact the leadership in all four of these organizations was much the same. As examples: Mike Natomagan is the mayor of the Village; he is the chair of PBN’s board of directors; he is the president of Kineepik Métis Local. His cousin Vince Natomagan is the executive secretary of Kineepik Métis Local; he was formerly on Village Council, formerly on PBN’s board and is currently employed as the Village’s business development officer; and for a time he was also the chair of NWMO’s Community Liaison Committee. Another principal in the Pinehouse leadership, Greg Ross, is currently on Village Council and formerly mayor and deputy mayor; he was formerly on PBN’s board of directors and its CEO; and he was formerly a member of NWMO’s Community Liaison Committee.

At this point, I should explain a bit about the amorphous status of Kineepik Métis Local No. 9. Although it purports to represent the Métis Nation in Pinehouse, in fact there are serious questions as to whether or not Kineepik is properly registered as Local No. 9 of Métis Nation – Saskatchewan. Any agreement signed with NWMO or the uranium companies has always been done under the guise of Kineepik Métis Local Inc., a separate non-profit corporation registered with the Saskatchewan Government. Most often the status of the Corporation is obfuscated by calling itself Kineepik Métis Local (# 9) Inc., which is not the official designation for either entity, and the confusion in the public’s mind is just as Kineepik’s leadership wants it. The corporation itself has only 28 members.

Membership meetings of card-carrying Métis are rarely called, and officers seem to be selected, rather than elected. Nevertheless, in the Collaboration Agreement between Pinehouse and the uranium mining companies, it is claimed that “Kineepik, and not any other Person, is the proper representative of the Aboriginal Rights of its Members and is entitled to enter into this Agreement on behalf of all of its Members.”3 Clever language that ultimately means little, although the clear implication is that Kineepik can bargain with regard to any and all of the local Métis traditional land use rights – a dangerous (and to date, legally untested) proposition when dealing with an extractive resource industry wanting to stickhandle around aboriginal land claims.

As everyone in the community knows, the relationship between these local organizations, the local leadership, and the uranium/nuclear industry are well established and lucrative. However, the lines of public accountability are extremely blurred and sometimes non-existent. A long and protracted effort to ascertain the facts and assert some level of accountability through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests has achieved mixed results. In my research and writing for BRIARPATCH magazine, I have submitted four separate FOI requests trying to get financial and other information out of the Village Office and Pinehouse Business North records. PBN is a Village-owned corporation and it has been established that it also is subject to FOI legislation, but trying to assert that accountability is difficult. BRIARPATCH filed a court claim against the Village early in 2014 when the Village failed to comply with FOI requirements. That effort devolved into a rather bizarre mediation process which did ultimately uncover some key documents.

Any day now, we anticipate another negative report from the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner on the most recent attempts by the Village and PBN to withhold further public information. Mayor Mike has made public statements claiming that our attempts to uncover such documents are “ridiculous.” In one newspaper interview he joked, “I have trouble finding emails from last week.”4 And in a private conversation that I had with him in July 2013, the mayor told me in his own charming language that my efforts are “a fucking waste of time.”

But let’s briefly review some of our findings based on FOI requests to date:

Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a private entity mandated by the federal government, but owned by uranium and nuclear corporations. In an effort to create local business and employment opportunities at Pinehouse, the Village and Kineepik Métis Local entered into NWMO’s “Learn More” exploratory/lobbying effort aimed at establishing a deep geological repository for high-grade nuclear wastes somewhere in Canada’s hinterland. These toxic wastes would be transported to Pinehouse from eastern Canada over a period of several years. Through FOI, it was established that secret negotiations between NWMO and Pinehouse began in 2010, by which $471,000 was eventually pumped into the community.

The most blatant attempt to influence local public opinion was NWMO’s sponsorship of a Northern Saskatchewan Elders Gathering in June 2011 in which a surreptitious attempt was made to introduce the concept of nuclear waste storage as part of the community’s future visioning process. It was this scheme that led directly to several elders walking out of the Gathering and organizing the Committee for Future Generations and its march to Regina later that summer. NWMO’s contribution towards that Elders Gathering was $40,000.

Through FOI it was also discovered that Vince Natomagan, chair of NWMO’s community liaison committee in Pinehouse, received a salary of roughly $5,000 per month from NWMO. Glen McCallum, a Métis Nation director in northern Saskatchewan, received around $3,000 per month from NWMO. Vince Natomagan initially tried to get the funding from NWMO deposited in, and managed from, the Kineepik Métis Local bank account in La Ronge, but NWMO management declined. That is lucky for us, as there is no FOI regime under which we could have obtained access to documentation in Kineepik’s custody.5

Finally, after much negative publicity, NWMO discontinued its efforts at Pinehouse in November 2013 and decided to focus elsewhere.

I have already made reference to the Pinehouse Collaboration Agreement with Cameco and Areva. Documents received through FOI have shown that Cameco corporation began secretly negotiating with the Village administration and Kineepik Métis Local in August 2011. The primary purpose of the agreement was to obtain community endorsement of future expansion of uranium mining operations south of Key Lake (the Millennium project). A total of $210,000 was paid to the Village to reimburse the cost of negotiations.

In the Letter of Understanding initiating those negotiations it was stipulated that:

While either party is free to confirm to any third party that CA negotiations are taking or have taken place between the parties, Pinehouse and Cameco intend that the terms and conditions of this agreement … are confidential and may not be disclosed by either party … For the purposes of obtaining Community Endorsement … , Negotiation Team members from both the Northern Village of Pinehouse and Kineepik Métis Local may communicate to its respective memberships general information about the CA negotiation process and negotiated outcomes.

The “Community Endorsement” mentioned in this Letter of Understanding was apparently the low-key distribution of a Term Sheet at a public meeting in Pinehouse in mid-November 2012.6 No explanation of the document was provided, but it was intended to form the basis of the impending Collaboration Agreement, which by then included Areva Resources as well. The term sheet raised concerns for a few people in attendance, but the Village leadership assured the audience that there would be ample opportunity for discussion and input before the Agreement was amended and approved at the end of December. That did not happen. Media attention, both locally and nationally, focused on the “gag order” on community residents that was included in the original draft Agreement. Clarifications to the text were made in response to the public outcry, and the deal was signed two weeks earlier than announced, before an effective opposition could be organized.

In Article 5 of the final agreement, Cameco and Areva allow that the people of Pinehouse may publicly express concerns about future expansion of uranium mining, but in essence the “Pinehouse [village administration and Kineepik] intends to fully support the Proposed Projects and acknowledges it will be a breach of this Agreement to oppose the issuance of any Proposed Authorizations or the construction, development or operation of any of [Cameco/Areva’s] Proposed Projects.”

So when Mayor Mike Natomagan, wearing his beaded Métis vest, joined a Cameco delegation to Ottawa in May 2015, touting the economic benefits of the uranium industry in northern Saskatchewan to federal politicians and bureaucrats, we must ask whose interests he was obliged to represent there.7

Since the Collaboration Agreement’s endorsement, roughly $27,2 million dollars has been paid by industry to the community, some of which has been distributed by the locally controlled Pinehouse Community Trust Advisory Panel. As of this summer, the village hockey arena had received $1.35 million of the funds; over $530,000 went to school, pre-school, and post-secondary initiatives; about $160,000 to church and native Elders projects; and $134,000 had been allocated to Kineepik Métis Local Inc. programming. Over 19 million has allegedly gone to “business development” and $6 million to “workforce development.” Despite the largesse, one or two critics have questioned whether or not these initiatives are sustainable given the very low tax levy base upon which the Village must depend (only $143,000 in 2012).8

And then we come to the most difficult nut to crack in the problem of public transparency and accountability, Pinehouse Business North (PBN). Originally established as a village-owned development corporation in the early 1990s, “Pinehouse Business North Development Corporation” was struck off the Saskatchewan corporations register in 1996. In 1998 it was reconstituted as “Pinehouse Business North Development Inc.” Most recently, after a mysterious share-split in 2012, “Pinehouse Business North Limited Partnership” was established, which apparently is now the functional operation. Most of the contracts signed by PBN relate to the uranium/nuclear sector.

Between 2005 and 2012, PBN has brought in over $26 million in revenue, yet it has had a mediocre record with regard to translating that revenue into community dividends. Through FOI requests BRIARPATCH magazine was able to obtain financial statements for just 2007, 2008 and 2012. PBN and the Village claim that no financial statements were created for 2009 to 2011, a period when the corporation grossed over $13 million. According to them, all transactions were handled through a sub-account in the Village office, although that assertion is not borne out by examination of the audited financial statements for the Village. In 2009, the Village had to absorb a $295,000 operational loss incurred by PBN, even though PBN brought in over $3.5 million in revenue that year. We are still trying to substantiate whether this was the same year that PBN’s bank account was frozen by Canada Revenue Agency for its failure to remit $211,000 in arrears for GST (I am guessing, collected through contract obligations).

Quite apart from the obvious mismanagement of Pinehouse Business North, there are widespread suspicions in the community that in fact the top leadership has been raking off the profits and very little has trickled down to the ordinary residents of Pinehouse. Apparently, reorganization occurred in PBN at the end of 2011, and the board of directors (formerly comprising only the Village mayor and a few councilors) was expanded to include outside directors with actual business expertise. Before the restructuring, the Board received $116,461 in remuneration and expenses. Despite the expansion in number of directors, that amount was actually cut in half in 2012. But the Board remuneration and expenses in 2008 was a whopping $211,000, for at most four members from Village Council who served on the board. We don’t know what the PBN board remuneration was in 2009 and 2010, but when one considers that in 2011 the Village Council also paid itself $235,000, we get an idea of the scale of compensation assigned to the community leadership.

In 2011, Mayor Mike Natomagan received $69,000 and Deputy Mayor Greg Ross, $74,000 in remuneration. In 2012, the remuneration was $71,000 and $31,000 respectively. That is in addition to their PBN board stipends. As a comparison, the Mayor of Green Lake (population 418) gets an annual salary of $1300,9 and the Mayor of Meadow Lake (population 7500), just over $22,000.10

We see ample evidence of the Pinehouse leadership’s complete disdain and lack of accountability towards the electorate. Basic information on public affairs is not shared, rather it is intentionally denied to Pinehouse residents or anyone else who cares to ask. Financial statements for Village and PBN are simply not made available. In fact, the audited financial statements for 2013 and 2014 have still not seen the light of day, contrary to legal requirements. Annual ratepayers’ meetings are combined with the annual Christmas party every December. In the midst of this carnival atmosphere, serious questions about public administration jostle for attention with Christmas dinner and announcements for expensive door prizes and giveaways of free frozen turkeys.

One could ask, how in the world does this leadership cabal stay in power!? The last Village election in 2012 saw serious irregularities with the ballot box. Between the advance poll and the regular poll on election day that September, the seal was removed from the ballot box, compromising the integrity of voting results. Reports of impropriety and lack of process were not taken seriously by either the RCMP or the provincial Ministry of Government Relations (who are responsible for oversight of municipal governance). 11 A challenge was never launched because it depended on a civil law suit being filed and expensed by one of the electors.12

In the face of it all, the uranium/nuclear industry quite obviously has a stranglehold on public administration in Pinehouse. Cameco and Areva have obtained, through their collaboration agreement, a guarantee of future mining expansion in proximity to the Village. In addition to that, through community dividends, lucrative deals with Pinehouse Business North, and a largely unaccountable Kineepik Métis Local, the uranium companies have ensured that a friendly leadership regime remains firmly in charge. Until full public disclosure happens at Pinehouse, and until a fair election process ensues, we can only expect more of the same. Perhaps our modest influence from outside the community will move things in that direction. The few brave souls in Pinehouse, who are willing to stand up and ask questions, very much need our moral and tangible support. To that end, I would strongly suggest that, after we hear from Fred and John today, we use this opportunity to discuss ideas about how your chapter of the Council of Canadians can provide that support and make an impact on public policy both provincially and in Pinehouse and other northern communities.

= = = = =

REFERENCES:

1 Nuclear Waste Management Organization, “Draft Community Profile: Northern Village of Pinehouse, Saskatchewan” (Oct. 2013)

[ http://www.nwmo.ca/uploads_managed/Medi ... draft_.pdf ]

2 Statistics Canada Census Profile
[ http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensem ... m=&TABID=1 ]

3 “Collaboration Agreement between the Northern Village of Pinehouse and Kineepik Métis Local Inc. and Cameco Corporation and Areva Resources Canada Inc. Dated December 12, 2012”
[ http://www.pinehouselake.com/wp-content ... eement.pdf ]

4 “Pinehouse heads toward self-determination with guidance of Elders, new role in industry,” Eagle Feather News (July 29, 2014)
[ http://www.eaglefeathernews.com/archive ... detail=635 ]

5 D’Arcy Hande, “How the Nuclear Waste Management Organization targeted Pinehouse,” Briarpatch Magazine (Apr. 12, 2014)
[ https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/nwmo ]

6 “Summary of the Collaboration Agreement Term Sheet made among Cameco Corporation, Areva Resources Canada Inc. and Pinehouse (‘Term Sheet’) October 12, 2012”
[ https://committeeforfuturegenerations.f ... eement.pdf ]

7 Joel Senick, “Cameco, northern Sask. leaders building new partnerships in Ottawa” (Global News, Saskatoon, May 8, 2015)
[ http://globalnews.ca/news/1986336/camec ... in-ottawa/ ]

8 D’Arcy Hande, “The Pinehouse Collaboration Agreement with Uranium Firms.” Briarpatch magazine (June 3, 2015)
[ http://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/ ... -agreement ] AND
D’Arcy Hande, “Courting collaboration,” Briarpatch magazine (Nov. 1, 2013)
[ http://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/ ... laboration ]

9 “Annual Financial Statements and Supporting Schedules for the Northern Village of Green Lake for the year ended December 31, 2014”
[ http://www.nvgreenlake.ca/wp-content/up ... n-Lake.pdf ]

10 “Annual Financial Statements and Supporting Schedules for the City of Meadow Lake for the year ended December 31, 2014”
[ http://www.meadowlake.ca/2008-06/pdf/20 ... ements.pdf ]

11 Sandra Cuffe, “Intimidation, Irregularities Cloud Pinehouse Election,” The Media Co-op (Sept. 18, 2012)
[ http://www.mediacoop.ca/story/intimidat ... tion/12812 ]

12 The Local Government Election Act (Chapter L-30.1 of the Statutes of Saskatchewan, 1982-83)
[ http://www.qp.gov.sk.ca/documents/Engli ... /L30-1.pdf ]
Oscar
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Re: HANDE: Pinehouse – company town, Cameco’s town

Postby Oscar » Sat Nov 14, 2015 8:45 pm

The Community of Pinehouse Lake: Dynamics of Local leadership

Northern Village of Pinehouse: Site of a North-West Company trading post in 1786 (Snake Lake), but no permanent settlement until the 1940s. Post office established in 1949. The first road into the community was constructed in 1977. Population approx. 1400.

Kineepik Métis Local: Ostensibly a local (#9) of the Métis Nation Saskatchewan, but there are doubts about whether or not it is formally registered with MNS. The branch was incorporated under the Saskatchewan Non-profit Corporations Act in 2007. Membership approx. 28.

Pinehouse Business North: Originally established as a village-owned development corporation in the early 1990s, “Pinehouse Business North Development Corporation” was struck off the Saskatchewan corporations register in 1996. In 1998 it was reconstituted as “Pinehouse Business North Development Inc.” After a mysterious share-split in 2012, “Pinehouse Business North Limited Partnership” was established, which apparently is now the functional operation. Most of the contracts signed by PBN relate to the uranium/nuclear sector.

Uranium/Nuclear Industry: Cameco Corporation began uranium mining operations at Key Lake (220 km north) in 1983. In 2010, apparently at Cameco’s urging, the Northern Village of Pinehouse and Kineepik Métis Local invited Nuclear Waste Management Organization to investigate siting a nuclear waste repository in the community. That relationship was suspended in 2013. In 2012, Cameco and Areva signed a Collaboration Agreement with the Northern Village of Pinehouse and Kineepik Metis Local Inc.
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