The Enoch Cree Nation (ECN) has closed Indian Lakes Golf Course and the cultural grounds for safety concerns after discovering live, unstable and highly explosive bombs underneath the land.
Their investigations reveal a different reality than what the Government of Canada has told them for the past 70 years regarding the extent of their munitions testing on ECN’s lands.
The government told ECN that 12,000 smoke bombs (training munitions) were dropped on their land and on Yekau Lake, as part of a practice bombing range for the British Commonwealth Air Training from 1942- 1946.
However, having conducted an independent investigation which is still ongoing, and through recent FOIP requests, the ECN has discovered that the amount of munitions dropped could be as high as 200,000.
Having conducted approximately 100 km of ground-penetrating radar investigations, they’ve found various live and highly explosive bombs and artillery such as a 105 mm artillery shell.
Their data examined the ground as deep as 10 metres (30 feet) and discovered a plethora of unexploded and exploded ordnances.
“We’re just scratching the surface on what really was carried out on those lands,” ENC chief Ron Morin said. “I’m absolutely disgusted and angry, me and my council with these findings. It’s taken us over 70 years.”
With the closure of the Indian Lakes Golf Course, 50 people will lose their jobs and cultural events such as pow wows will be relocated elsewhere.
Reginald Letourneau, president of Anvil GeoSpatial Corporation who has been leading the investigations since November 2013 said the land isn’t safe to live, work, play or worship on.
“The nation has been led to believe for 70 years that this was an aerial practice bombing range. No one ever suggested this was an artillery range,” Letourneau said.
In 2002, an oil and gas company was planning to drill, but the Department of National Defense (DND) advised them not to do so if they don’t have a full-time explosive ordnance device technician onsite. The company cancelled their project.
DND previously conducted aerial mapping and ground exploration. The government promised the report would be released in 2008, but it took an additional six years for the ENC to receive the final report.
Documents, which the ENC received this month under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act revealed that artillery rounds were also located outside the designated Yekau Lake British Commonwealth Practice Bombing Range.
“Never have we ever received the full undisclosed, and the full truth of what they’ve uncovered on our lands,” Morin said.
The chief and council are now asking the federal government to provide the “full and complete truth” of the activities that took place, including disclosure on the number and type of munitions used.
They’re requesting the land to be returned to its original state and to be compensated for the loss of the land, lake and activities.
Morin said they’re also concerned that the water quality might pose a health risk for residents in the area. They’re trying to work with the City of Edmonton and Parkland County to obtain safe water until they have strong evidence that there are no contaminants from the munitions seeping into the ground level water.
Munitions are still present in the Yekau Lake. Members of the ECN used to gather around the lake for wild game.
“I’m sure the government of Canada and the department of national defense knew full well what they were doing when they chose Enoch’s site,” Morin said.
From 1942-1964 DND used two sections (1,280 acres) of Enoch Cree Nation’s land as part of an agreement with the Department of Indian Affairs at the time and without the consent of the nation’s chief or council.
Letourneau will be continuing investigations until August 2014.
Published in the Devon Dispatch on April 17, 2014.