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December 14, 2022

Sagkeeng First Nation, CNL and AECL launch collaborative environmental monitoring program

The partnership establishes a collaborative and rights-based environmental monitoring program at the Whiteshell Laboratories site 

Pinawa, MB – December 14, 2022 – The Sagkeeng Anicinabe First Nation (SAFN), Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) are pleased to announce the launch of the independent Sagkeeng environmental monitoring program, which Sagkeeng First Nation has named “Nigan Aki,” meaning “Land First.” The collaborative and rights-based environmental monitoring program will be implemented at the Whiteshell Laboratories site. Developed and administered by the SAFN, with resources and support provided by AECL and CNL, the program was established to empower Sagkeeng’s ability to monitor and steward its territory, and improve understanding of the Whiteshell site and operations, which is located in the Sagkeeng’s unceded traditional territory.

The program is the culmination of years of detailed discussions between Sagkeeng, AECL and CNL regarding the effects of decommissioning activities at the Whiteshell Laboratories on the SAFN, including the Whiteshell Reactor #1 (WR-1) Decommissioning Project. Through these engagements, all parties agreed that it was important to design and implement a collaborative, rights-based, long-term environmental monitoring program.

“AECL and CNL are committed to meaningful engagement with local First Nations and Métis communities, and to identifying mutually beneficial opportunities for collaboration,” said Fred Dermarkar, President and CEO of AECL. “In particular, we recognize that Indigenous knowledge and participation complements and improves the work that we undertake, and helps build First Nation understanding and confidence in site operations.”

“AECL is pleased to have this agreement in place with the Sagkeeng. Working together through the Sagkeeng Nigan Aki Program, we will build community awareness and advance the decommissioning and environmental remediation of the Whiteshell site. We look forward to more collaborations like this in the future,” added Mr. Dermarkar.

A key component of the Nigan Aki Program is the incorporation of Indigenous Knowledge into CNL’s monitoring and adaptive management system, which will provide Sagkeeng with increased understanding and confidence in the monitoring results.

“CNL is very excited to support the Nigan Aki Program, which Sagkeeng will build in accordance with their needs and interests, and which will benefit their community through increased capacity and employment opportunities,” commented Joe McBrearty, CNL’s President and CEO. “More importantly, it is our desire that this program will nurture the SAFN’s trust in the environmental monitoring activities at Whiteshell. Overall, this program complements the required on-site monitoring done by CNL, while incorporating Indigenous knowledge and monitoring of those environmental aspects that are of most importance to Sagkeeng.”

“Sagkeeng is excited to build the Nigan Aki program on a foundation of our Anicinabe knowledge, ensuring that the decommissioning of the reactor at the Whiteshell Laboratories aligns with our traditional values, thereby protecting our community, our lands and waters,” commented Sagkeeng Chief Henderson. “We are grateful that the current owners and operators – AECL and CNL – have directly engaged our community, have listened, and are now taking action to incorporate Anicinabe knowledge into the work at the Whiteshell site. While there is still much to be done, this is an important step and we look forward to CNL and AECL continuing to demonstrate respect for Sagkeeng First Nation citizens and our traditional territory,” the Chief said.

Located in Pinawa, Manitoba, the Whiteshell Laboratories was established in 1963 by AECL as a nuclear research laboratory. In 1988, the Government of Canada announced the closure of the site, and decommissioning and environmental remediation activities have been underway since then, a process which is being accelerated under the management of CNL on behalf of AECL.

About AECL

AECL is a federal Crown corporation with a mandate to drive nuclear opportunities for Canada. Working with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, AECL enables nuclear science and technology and manages the Government of Canada’s radioactive waste responsibilities. For more information on AECL, visit

About CNL 

As Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology laboratory, and working under the direction of 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.

To learn more about CNL, please visit

About Sagkeeng

Sagkeeng is an Anishinaabe Nation based at the mouth of the Winnipeg River on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. Sagkeeng is a signatory to Treaty 1 with the Crown, and its traditional and unsurrendered territory includes lands and waters within the boundaries of Treaties 3 and 5. The people of Sagkeeng have used, occupied and been stewards of its traditional and ancestral territories since time immemorial.


AECL Contact:

Bretton Christensen
Manager, Engagement & Communications
(343) 576-1466 

CNL Contact:

Patrick Quinn
Director, Corporate Communications

Sagkeeng Contact:

Chief Derrick Henderson
[email protected]

Photo caption: Fred Dermarkar, AECL President and CEO; Chief Derrick Henderson, Sagkeeng Anicinabe First Nation; and Joe McBrearty, CNL President and CEO, celebrate the launch of ‘Nigan Aki,’ an independent Sagkeeng environmental monitoring program that will be implemented at the Whiteshell Laboratories site.

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