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Cree resident demands an immediate stop to burning garbage near her home

Vivianne Sheshamush, who started an online petition, said it made her upset that her children were breathing in fumes while they were sleeping.

Fumes from waste disposal site trigger online petition with more than 1,900 signatures

Vivianne Sheshamush with her husband and children. Sheshamush started an online petition saying it made her upset that her children were breathing in fumes while they were sleeping. (Submitted by Vivianne Sheshamush)

A Cree resident is demanding an immediate stop to burning garbage near her home.

"We were having really hot weather,"  said Vivianne Sheshamush, a Whapmagoostui local from Quebec's northernmost Cree community. 

"Like many people, I opened my windows overnight to help cool off the house. When I woke up the entire house smelled like burning garbage."

Sheshamush, who started an online petition as a mother of two children under the age of five, said it made her upset that her children were breathing in fumes while they were sleeping.

The petition, made in an urgent effort to protect people from inhaling toxic fumes, has gathered more than 1,900 signatures since earlier this month. According to the online petition there is a demand for an immediate stop of burning garbage due to health concerns.

Quebec's twin communities of Whapmagoostui and Kuujjuarapik share a waste disposal site. It's currently located northeast of the Kuujjuarapik airport, less than a kilometre away.

Chief says concerns date back years

Whapmagoostui Chief Louisa Wynne said the waste disposal site was built by the Canadian army back in 1950.

She said the concerns over fumes from the waste disposal site have been there for many years.

Both local Cree and Inuit leaders have come up with short-term solutions when it comes to burning garbage. 

"Prior to burning garbage, the wind direction needs to be considered … and we also have firefighters on stand-by ready to put out the fire if the smoke blows over," Wynne said.

The waste disposal site is less than a kilometre away from some people in the communities. Whapmagoostui Chief Louisa Wynne said the concerns over fumes from the waste site have been there for many years. (Submitted by Candice Wynne)

Wynne said a new waste disposal site that is sustainable requires careful planning, knowing the social and environmental impacts is crucial. The environmental and social impact assessment started last fall and is ongoing.

Collaborating with Inuit leaders of Kuujjuarapik is also important, said Wynne. 

"Work is slated to start next summer," Kuujjuarapik Mayor Anthony Ittoshat said.

Even if work is able to start this summer, it would most likely have been delayed due to COVID-19 because most of Whapmagoostui's capital projects have been suspended until next summer.

Wynne said the new waste disposal site will be four kilometres southeast of the community, and the project is estimated to cost $7 million.

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