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NWMO President and CEO shares experience in aligning Indigenous Knowledge with western science at Federal Parliamentary Committee

NWMO President and CEO shares experience in aligning Indigenous Knowledge with Western Science at Fe

NWMO President and CEO, Laurie Swami, appears before the House of Commons Science and Research Committee’s study on Indigenous Knowledge.

November 27, 2023

Toronto, ON

By the NWMO

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NWMO President and CEO shares experience in aligning Indigenous Knowledge with Western Science at Fe

NWMO President and CEO, Laurie Swami, appears before the House of Commons Science and Research Committee’s study on Indigenous Knowledge.

Today, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) President and CEO, Laurie Swami, appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Science and Research to highlight the NWMO’s leadership and expertise in aligning with Indigenous Knowledge in the organization’s decision-making processes.

Members of Parliament called upon the NWMO to share best practices that will inform how the federal government can better integrate Indigenous Knowledge into its own policymaking process. As one of the first organizations in North America to implement an Indigenous Knowledge Policy, the NWMO is well-positioned to discuss how the organization aligns with Indigenous Knowledge in all aspects of the deep geological repository project.  

“Incorporating Indigenous Knowledge into our work is a humbling learning journey that requires non-Indigenous decision-makers like me to acknowledge that we simply do not know what we do not know,” said Ms. Swami.  

In her remarks, Ms. Swami highlighted three key lessons she has taken from her personal experience.  
 
“First,” she said, “it is essential to gain an understanding of what Indigenous Knowledge is before creating policies that incorporate Indigenous Knowledge. This can only be accomplished through strong, trust-based relationships with Indigenous communities, Elders and Knowledge Holders.”  
 
Second, Ms. Swami said that while the lessons Indigenous Knowledge and western science offer us are complementary, they must be embraced as fundamentally different ways of knowing, seeing and moving through the world. “When we consider decisions that have long-term impacts on the environment or on communities,” she said, “we need to value both of these perspectives equally.”  

Third, Ms. Swami emphasized that respecting Indigenous Knowledge requires an active understanding of systemic barriers that make policy and relationships difficult. She reminded committee members that Indigenous Knowledge is meant to be shared in community and across generations and often does not align with western concepts of intellectual property.  
 
Maintaining a community’s ownership over its own knowledge is essential, Ms. Swami explained, and government should follow in the NWMO’s footsteps by ensuring that the necessary mechanisms are in place to protect it. “If we listen to Indigenous Knowledge Holders and communities, we can overcome barriers by generating policies based on fairness and respect, which ensures that our relationships will last.”

Indigenous Knowledge has played a vital role in informing all aspects of the NWMO’s planning, project development and decision-making processes. As Ms. Swami stated in her testimony, Indigenous Knowledge simply cannot be an afterthought when working on a project as complex and transformative as Canada’s deep geological repository.

The NWMO encourages all Canadians and Indigenous Peoples to learn more about this work here.

 

 

About the NWMO

 

Founded in 2002, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a not-for-profit organization tasked with the safe, long-term management of Canada’s intermediate and high-level radioactive waste, in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come.

 

The NWMO has been guided for more than 20 years by a dedicated team of world-class scientists, engineers and Indigenous Knowledge Holders that are developing innovative and collaborative solutions for nuclear waste management.

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the NWMO

The NWMO is a not-for profit organization established in 2002 by Canada's nuclear electricity producers in accordance with the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA).

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