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June 09, 2023

Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, AECL and CNL sign historic long-term relationship agreement

Following consultation and engagement with AOPFN since 2020, organizations sign long-term agreement with Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation that addresses environmental interests and establishes new AOPFN Neya Wabun (Guardian Program)

Chalk River, ON – June 09, 2023 – Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), and the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation (AOPFN) are pleased to announce that they have signed a historic long-term relationship agreement (LTRA) that formalizes relations between two of Canada’s leading nuclear organizations and this Algonquin First Nation. The agreement will establish a working group to serve as the basis for ongoing collaborations, and create a Neya Wabun (Guardian) Program that will establish a regular AOPFN monitoring presence at designated AECL sites, among other environmental, cultural and economic protection and promotion activities and programs.
The LTRA is the culmination of intensive efforts, negotiations and engagement to establish a productive relationship between the owner and operator of Canada’s national nuclear laboratories and the AOPFN, built on mutual respect and understanding, and cultivated through ongoing opportunities for dialogue and participation. It also resolves and addresses key areas of concern identified by the AOPFN, including environmental protection, radioactive waste management, cultural protection and promotion, and, the pursuit of collaborative economic and business opportunities.

“Pikwakanagan now has a significant say in their operations, incorporating traditional knowledge and values while protecting Algonquin Rights and the environment. Responsible and modernized management of existing onsite radioactive waste will be ensured, and importation of low-level radioactive waste will be limited. Given the reality of operations at CNL/AECL, this agreement is the best path forward as we seek to protect mother earth and ensure the safety of future generations.” Chief Greg Sarazin

“This is a historic milestone in our relationship with the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan,” remarked Fred Dermarkar, President and CEO of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. “Reconciliation is a journey – and the long-term relationship agreement between AOPFN, AECL and CNL is an important step in healing as well as building trust, founded on transparency and mutual respect. We look forward to working collaboratively together in the future.”

“I want to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan for putting their trust in CNL by entering into this long-term relationship agreement,” commented Joe McBrearty, CNL President and CEO. “At CNL, we believe that the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge into our projects and across all of our operations will help to improve the way we do our work, and to build understanding between CNL staff and Indigenous People. That is at the heart of this agreement and CNL’s Reconciliation Action Plan, and I am incredibly excited to be working together with AECL and the AOPFN towards a shared vision for the sites that we manage.”

Under terms of the agreement, an LTRA working group featuring representation from all three parties will be stood up to facilitate ongoing engagements and collaboration between the organizations. This is in addition to the creation of what will be known as the ‘Neya Wabun Guardian Program,’ which will establish a regular presence of AOPFN Guardians at CNL operations and AECL sites within the territory. The Neya Wabun program will provide AOPFN with the opportunity to monitor, and enable corresponding reporting back to the AOPFN. Through these ongoing engagements AECL and CNL hope to continue to maintain trust with AOPFN.

Another key focus of the LTRA is one of CNL’s major environmental remediation projects, the Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) project, which would establish a modern engineered disposal facility for low-level radioactive waste at the Chalk River Laboratories campus designed to replace temporary storage, and dispose of legacy contaminated soils and aging infrastructure. The proposed project is currently under review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and is subject to federal assessment, a process which has been underway since 2017, under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Since 2020, AECL and CNL have participated in extensive engagements with the AOPFN. As a direct result of this process, CNL has made improvements to the project to address concerns raised through these engagements. With those changes in place and other AOPFN conditions and commitments met by CNL, the organizations have reached agreement on the NSDF project, and the AOPFN will provide its consent to CNL and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to move forward with the construction of the proposed facility.


The AOPFN are Algonquin peoples of the Ottawa River (Kichi-Sìbì) Valley. Algonquin people have lived in the Ottawa River Valley for at least 10,000 years before Europeans arrived in North America.

The AOPFN has never ceded any traditional Algonquin territory in Treaty with the Crown. AOPFN members have, since time immemorial, exercised their rights to hunt, trap, fish, gather, and perform other activities integral to their culture and way of life throughout the unceded traditional territory, including in the area where CRL is now situated. Members of the AOPFN have long exercised governance and stewardship activities in Algonquin territory.

The AOPFN continues to exercise Algonquin aboriginal title and aboriginal rights to and in all parts of AOPFN unceded traditional territory, including lands under water. The AOPFN has an obligation to its members to plan for the future and to ensure self-determination, self-reliance, and self-governance. The AOPFN is committed to respecting and protecting their unceded traditional territory and the rights and interests of their members.
AOPFN relies on the health of the environment for survival and therefore the health of the lands and waters is essential to the continued existence of the AOPFN people. AOPFN must be recognized as a rightful, respected, and principled steward of the environment.

About AECL

AECL is a federal Crown corporation with a mandate to drive nuclear opportunities for Canada. AECL enables nuclear science and technology, owns the Chalk River Laboratories and other sites, and manages the Government of Canada’s radioactive waste responsibilities. It oversees and evaluates CNL’s work through contracts.
In business since 1952, AECL designed and developed the fleet of CANDU nuclear reactors that serve Canada and five other countries. It also delivered more than one billion isotopes worldwide to detect and treat cancer. Today it delivers value for Canadians through supporting 14 federal departments and agencies, as well as the global nuclear industry.
For more information on AECL, visit

About CNL

As Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology laboratory, and working under the direction of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), CNL is a world leader in the development of innovative nuclear science and technology products and services. Guided by an ambitious corporate strategy known as Vision 2030, CNL fulfills three strategic priorities of national importance – restoring and protecting the environment, advancing clean energy technologies, and contributing to the health of Canadians.
By leveraging the assets owned by AECL, CNL also serves as the nexus between government, the nuclear industry, the broader private sector and the academic community. CNL works in collaboration with these sectors to advance innovative Canadian products and services towards real-world use, including carbon-free energy, cancer treatments and other therapies, non-proliferation technologies and waste management solutions.

For more information on CNL, visit

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AOPFN Contact:
PJ Leroux
Communication Specialist, AOPFN
[email protected]

AECL Contact:
Jason Cameron
Vice President, Indigenous and Stakeholder Relations
[email protected]

CNL Contact:
Patrick Quinn
Senior Director, Corporate Communications
[email protected]

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