Round Table on Ethics

In November 2002, Parliament passed the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA). It required the major owners of used nuclear fuel in Canada to establish the NWMO. The initial phase of our mandate was to study approaches for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel, and to recommend a preferred approach to the Government of Canada. The historical information about one part of that process is preserved here in line with our commitment to transparency.


    The Round Table on Ethics is composed of individuals expert in the field of ethics in a variety of disciplines. The Round Table’s role is to assist the NWMO in the development and application of the analytical framework which will be used to assess the management approaches. The Round Table on Ethics will help the NWMO make explicit, and ensure, the systematic integration of ethical considerations in the development and application of the framework.

    The Round Table will meet several times over the study period in order to provide advice and feedback to the NWMO throughout the study process. Members of the Round Table have been appointed by, and report to, the president of the NWMO. Round Table comments to the NWMO will be summarized and published here for your review and consideration.

    Ethical and Social Framework Suggested by the Round Table

    After ten years of study and public hearings on the concept of deep geological disposal of used nuclear fuel (1989 - 1998), an Environmental Assessment Panel chaired by Blair Seaborn (the "Seaborn Panel") concluded in their 1998 report that the concept did not have sufficient public support to allow the government to proceed. The Panel identified the absence of any ethical and social framework within which to assess options as an important issue.

    From its inception, the NWMO has committed itself to adhering to the highest ethical standards both in its procedures and in its assessment of management options. To guide it in this matter, the NWMO created a Round Table on Ethics in 2003. Its members are Georges Erasmus, one of the most reflective and experienced aboriginal leaders in Canada, David MacDonald, senior United Church minister and former federal cabinet minister, Andrew Brook, a philosopher with over 30 years of experience in the ethics of nuclear waste management, and three of Canada's most senior ethicists, Wesley Cragg, Arthur Schafer, and Margaret Somerville.

    As part of its mandate, the Round Table has identified what the relevant ethical standards are, in its judgment, and organized them into the Ethical and Social Framework called for by the Seaborn report. Rather than issue what could appear to be dogmatic statements, the Framework expresses the ethical standards concerned as a series of questions for the NWMO to ask itself. The Framework was first published by the NWMO in April, 2004. It is a living document. The Round Table revisits it regularly and comments are always welcome.


    Members of the Round Table on Ethics

    The Round Table on Ethics is composed of individuals expert in the field of ethics in a variety of disciplines.

    Andrew Brook
    Andrew Brook is Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Chair of the Cognitive Science Management Committee at Carleton University in Ottawa. The Cognitive Science Management Committee administers a four-year undergraduate degree in Cognitive Science and Canada’s first free-standing, fully integrated Ph.D. in Cognitive Science. He is a graduate of the Universities of Alberta and Oxford (D.Phil. in Philosophy, 1973) and is President of the Canadian Philosophical Association. His research interests include: the project of interdisciplinary cognitive research; Kant; consciousness; psychological and psychoanalytic explanation; environmental ethics; nuclear waste management and ethics.

    Wesley Cragg
    Wesley Cragg is the George R. Gardiner Professor of Business Ethics and Director of Business Ethics Program at the Schulich School of Business at York University. He is Chair and President, Transparency International, Canada. Areas of expertise include: business ethics; professional ethics; ethics and work; law and ethics; moral, social, political and legal theory. Current research projects include: Voluntary Codes and the Regulation of International business; Ethics and the Academy; Values, The Environment, and the Use of Natural Resources.

    Georges Erasmus
    Georges Erasmus has made a lifelong contribution to the welfare and community of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. From 1976 to 1983 he served as the president of the Indian Brotherhood of Northwest Territories/Dene Nation. He was subsequently elected as the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 1985 and then re-elected for a second term in 1988. Mr. Erasmus was the co-chair of the groundbreaking 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. He is also the co-author of Drumbeat: Anger and Renewal in Indian Country. Georges Erasmus currently leads the Aboriginal Healing Foundation as President and Chairman. He resides in Yellowknife, N.W.T.

    David MacDonald
    Ordained as a minister of the United Church of Canada, David MacDonald’s long service to Canada has included: election to the House of Commons for the riding of Egmont, Prince Edward Island in 1965 and re-elected in the five subsequent elections (1968, 1972, 1974, 1979, 1988); former Cabinet Minister; appointment as Fellow in Residence of the Institute for Research on Public Policy in 1980; President of The Futures Secretariat, an independent agency tasked to make Canadians more aware of the Third World in 1981; Canadian Emergency Co-ordinator/African Famine in 1984; and most recently, United Church advisor on residential schools reconciliation and agreement.

    Arthur Schafer
    Arthur Schafer is the Director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, at the University of Manitoba. He is also a Full Professor in the Department of Philosophy and an Ethics Consultant at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. For ten years he was Head of the Section of Bio-Medical Ethics in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Manitoba. He has recently served as Visiting Scholar Green College, Oxford. Arthur Schafer has published widely in the fields of moral, social, and political philosophy. He is author of The Buck Stops Here: Reflections on moral responsibility, democratic accountability and military values, and co-editor of Ethics and Animal Experimentation. He has made several hundred conference presentations in Canada and abroad, has written dozens of newspaper articles for major Canadian newspapers, and has been a frequent guest on major radio stations and television networks.

    Margaret Somerville
    Margaret Somerville holds professorships in both the Faculty of Law - where she holds the Samuel Gale Chair - and the Faculty of Medicine and was founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. She has been active in the worldwide development of bioethics and in the study of the wider legal and ethical aspects of medicine and science. Professor Somerville is widely published, has been an invited speaker at numerous international conferences on ethical and legal aspects of science and society, and is a regular contributor to all forms of media. Areas of expertise include: medical law and ethics, comparative medical law, torts, criminal law.

    Explore the Study

    After a comprehensive three-year study, engaging specialists and citizens from all walks of life, the NWMO recommended Adaptive Phased Management for the long-term care of Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

    All the specialists and dialogue reports and the analysis supporting the NWMO recommendation are available here for review.

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