Groups share $570K to begin Imperial waste facility assessment

Last modified: September 6, 2022 at 7:15am

Eleven groups, most of them Indigenous, will share a $566,000 pot to fund their initial participation in an assessment of how Imperial Oil plans to leave waste in Norman Wells.

Imperial’s plan to build a waste management facility at its Norman Wells site was in June referred for environmental assessment by the Sahtu Secretariat, in part on grounds of “colonialism by any other name.”

The Sahtu Secretariat objected to an Imperial Oil statement in which the company, asked why waste couldn’t be shipped south, asserted that waste in Norman Wells needed a “made-in-the-North solution … rather than expecting the south to accept the North’s waste.”


The secretariat, also known as SSI, wrote in response: “SSI considers this statement to be a most egregious one, bordering on colonialism.” The secretariat pointed out that Imperial Oil and the Canadian government have earned hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from the North.

The group also has concerns about the environment impact of a new facility and the company’s plan to let artificial islands in the Mackenzie River erode once operations end at the Imperial site.

Imperial Oil is gradually winding down its activities in Norman Wells. Approval to create a waste management facility, first formally requested by Imperial in 2020, would result in a form of landfill to hold some of the materials produced as the site is stripped down and demolished.

But Norman Wells already has significant problems coping with waste, as the CBC reported in August.

“They came down and extracted all our oil, took all our money out of our region, and then they kind-of say: ‘Well, that’s your problem now.’ You know, I don’t think that’s right,” Sahtu Secretariat chair Charles McNeely was quoted as saying by the broadcaster.


“We want to make sure everything’s being shipped out, otherwise we’ll have mountains of contaminants in Norman Wells.”

Funding is for initial phase

On May 31, the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board wrote to Imperial Oil to confirm an environmental assessment – the most thorough regulatory examination of a project available in the NWT – will now be carried out.

In an August 29 letter, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada confirmed the federal government will provide 11 groups with funding to take part in the scoping phase of that assessment, an initial stage in which the content and extent of an assessment is determined.

The federal government ordinarily issues funding to help interested parties participate in such proceedings. The money comes from an initiative called the Northern Participant Funding Program.


Janice Traynor, an environmental assessment specialist at the department, did however state in the letter that not enough funding was available to give every group the sum they had requested.

Funding will be distributed as follows:

  • Sahtu Secretariat – $85,483
  • Yamoga Lands Corporation – $76,160
  • Norman Wells Land Corporation – $75,568
  • Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Government – $75,311
  • K’ahsho Development Foundation – $73,611
  • Délı̨nę Renewable Resources Council – $63,753
  • Gwich’in Tribal Council – $33,972
  • Norman Wells Renewable Resource Council – $33,904
  • Sahtu Renewable Resources Board – $20,104
  • Dalcor Innoventures Ltd – $15,000
  • Tulı́t’a Dene Band – $13,240

The environmental assessment process is in the middle of a two-month adjournment granted to Imperial to allow it more time to gather information requested.

In an earlier written statement, Imperial spokesperson Lisa Schmidt stated: “The waste management facility will assist Imperial to support progressive reclamation activities in the short term and facilitate closure in the long term.

“Imperial has engaged with regulators, governments, Indigenous communities and the public on its waste management facility plans for several years prior to submission.

“Imperial remains committed to continuing this engagement and to full participation through the process. We look forward to engaging on the topics of importance to the communities.”