Guided by Science. Grounded in knowledge. Committed to partnership - Annual Report 2021
Guided by Science. Grounded in knowledge. Committed to partnership - Annual Report 2021

As we look towards significant milestones like site selection and beyond, the work we do with communities in and around potential siting areas has never been more important.

The sites under consideration are both located in Ontario – the Wabigoon-Ignace area in the northwest and the SON-South Bruce area in the south. Through ongoing work in these areas, we are continuing to support communities and create meaningful connections through our engagement work as they develop their understanding of Canada’s plan.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to factor into our engagement planning. In 2021, we worked with communities to reschedule delayed activities and found ways they could safely engage with us as we work towards selecting a site for Canada’s plan. This included getting our Mobile Learn More Centre on tour again, our rolling exhibit designed to travel across the country to share Canada’s plan. We made nearly 50 stops in communities to share information, answer questions, and hear the public’s comments and concerns.

A person standing and presenting in front of a display panel

The NWMO Mobile Learn More Centre made nearly 50 stops in 2021 in communities to share information, answer questions, and hear the public’s comments and concerns.

As Canada’s plan is a multi-generational project, we continue to invest in youth education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning. In 2021, we provided funds to community organizations in support of health and social support services, as well as broader community well-being initiatives.

Year-over-year, our work has gained greater attention from the public. In 2021, we continued to provide fact-based information to Canadians and Indigenous peoples in different ways (e.g., information sessions, media, social media, and our website) to create awareness and deepen understanding of the project.

Municipal engagement activities

A person in a yellow airplane

NWMO President and CEO Laurie Swami joined Ignace Mayor Penny Lucas for a flight into White Otter Castle, an iconic northern Ontario landmark.

In 2021, more members of our team were able to visit potential siting areas safely than had been possible in 2020 at the height of public health restrictions related to the pandemic. We found safe ways of meeting in person with residents of communities in the siting areas. We also found a variety of ways to engage with people virtually, as in-person engagement was not always possible. As we draw closer to the site selection milestone, the NWMO continues to prioritize working with community residents and leaders.

Our work to engage municipal leaders and staff from across Canada extended throughout the year. Our team virtually attended and/or sponsored more than 10 municipal association conferences throughout Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. This was an opportunity to ensure that the NWMO and materials about our project were in front of elected leaders across the country, to provide them with the right information they needed to answer questions about the project from their constituents. For example, one of the plenary sessions of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario featured a five-minute video where our President and CEO spoke about why Canada’s plan is of interest to Ontario’s municipalities.

Throughout the fall of 2021, we delivered briefings on Adaptive Phased Management (APM) to regional stakeholders around the siting areas, including a visit of the Mobile Learn More Centre to Thunder Bay in October, to help the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association become more familiar with the project.

In 2021, our President and CEO Laurie Swami visited the Township of Ignace, Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation and South Bruce as part of her commitment to having ongoing conversations with communities participating in the site selection process. She also met with Saugeen Ojibway Nation leadership in the fall. Additionally, business and municipal leaders from the Wabigoon-Ignace area met with the NWMO at the Ignace Learn More Centre to discuss the project and learn from each other.

In both potential siting areas, we engage through local community liaison committees. These committees provide input as we work collaboratively, create partnerships and share information. On top of our community liaison committee engagements, 2021 saw community surveys commissioned in the Township of Ignace and the Municipality of South Bruce. You can review the Ignace survey ( and the South Bruce survey ( The results of these independent community surveys show high levels of community awareness about the NWMO and our work.

Our approach to defining willingness has always been community-driven. In the Township of Ignace, willingness will be determined by a Council resolution, which will be informed by public input. In the Municipality of South Bruce, the Council has endorsed a process to determine willingness through a byelection after a draft hosting agreement has been negotiated.

Engaging First Nation and Métis communities

In 2021, the NWMO continued building sustainable relationships with First Nation and Métis peoples in and around the potential siting areas, while maintaining ongoing engagement with national, provincial and treaty Indigenous organizations in Ontario and New Brunswick.

The NWMO also provided information on the project through engagement activities with Elders, youth and community members, as well as Chiefs, Councils, Presidents and other leaders. Technical specialists also shared insight into their fields of expertise.

Early in 2021, the NWMO’s engagement staff continued to reach out to Indigenous communities through their community liaisons to discuss their situation with respect to the pandemic. Once pandemic restrictions were lifted and communities were comfortable allowing visitors to present, the NWMO resumed in-person engagement.

During the summer of 2021, the Mobile Learn More Centre visited eight individual First Nations, three communities at Lac Seul First Nation, Grand Council Treaty #3 and four Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) communities in northwestern Ontario.

Throughout 2021, the NWMO visited communities in northwestern Ontario on a regular basis to host engagement activities, including a job fair in Seine River First Nation and an open house in Lac Seul First Nation. There were also engagement sessions with off-reserve members of Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation in Atikokan, Dryden, Thunder Bay and Winnipeg.

In southern Ontario, the NWMO’s Indigenous engagement staff travelled to the communities each week for three days, doing engagement and drop-in sessions. Additionally, the Mobile Learn More Centre was present twice in Saugeen Ojibway Nation communities and twice at an Indigenous vendors market. In August, the unit toured the MNO Community Councils in Region 7 for four days.

The NWMO also found new ways to engage Métis communities during periods where pandemic restrictions were in place, including a range of activities online with the MNO. This included environmental workshops and transportation engagement sessions, as well as in-depth dialogue on the importance of water. All engagement sessions have seen an increase in participation from years past, with over 400 Métis citizens attending various events.

In August, MNO leadership joined the NWMO during our grand reopening of our Ignace office, and in collaboration with MNO staff, we mapped out water sampling locations for a Métis-specific monitoring program conducted by the Métis for the Métis in the SON-South Bruce area.

Throughout 2021, we also worked with local councils and governments on Reconciliation learning initiatives and will continue this work in 2022.

Engaging youth

A person in front of a display model

The newly renovated NWMO Ignace Learn More Centre features new displays, including a large 3D model of a deep geological repository.

With the knowledge that Canada’s plan is a multi-generational infrastructure project that will impact today’s youth and their children, the NWMO prioritizes investing in Canada’s future. We are committed to helping future generations of scientists, engineers, journeypersons and nuclear industry employees grow and thrive.

The goal of creating meaningful connections with all kinds of communities drove our youth engagement in 2021. We continued to focus this year on improving young people’s capacity for STEM skills, increasing awareness and understanding of APM, and building capacity to make future decisions. As with other groups, our engagement team adapted to support virtual engagement programming, as well as in-person initiatives with young people.

Education is at the heart of our youth engagement initiatives. The refresh of the Ignace Learn More Centre was completed in 2021, allowing our field engagement team to reach more members of the community in a more inclusive, interactive environment. The NWMO also supported the summer tour of the Mobile Learn More Centre that brought interactive experiences into communities, providing us with many opportunities to engage young people.

We also helped teachers and administrators bring more STEM education into the classroom. Since 2016, we have implemented a funding program called Early Investments in Education and Skills (EIES). Among other investments, the EIES program can help teachers and school administrators purchase and implement technology to teach everything from coding to robotics.

Digital engagement

The NWMO’s digital and social media initiatives supported the site selection process by sharing online content with local and regional audiences as part of our efforts to build trust and confidence. We also reached national audiences, raising awareness around the project by promoting online content across the country.

In 2021, we focused on engaging online audiences around the progress of our work. We widely shared content demonstrating the science behind APM, notably showcasing the borehole drilling in the Wabigoon-Ignace area ( and the SON-South Bruce area ( We were also able to follow our Mobile Learn More Centre tour of Ontario ( through our social channels, as it travelled to dozens of stops.

To further advance our journey towards Reconciliation, a dedicated web page ( was created on the NWMO website to share key milestones, information and multimedia content on the steps and actions we are taking as part of our commitment to Reconciliation.

Our successful digital campaigns and positive online presence made 2021 a year of online growth for the NWMO. Audiences for our online platforms grew by an average of 30 per cent over 2020. Alongside the growth in our online communities came heightened traffic to, with 46 per cent more page views compared to 2020. This means our information is achieving greater reach year-over-year.

A screenshot of a web page on Reconciliation

Visit the NWMO’s Reconciliation web page ( to learn more about the steps and actions we are taking as part of our commitment to Reconciliation.

Giving back through sponsorships and donations

A group of people holding a large format cheque

The NWMO is proud to support local and regional well-being initiatives in siting areas. Pictured from left are Mary Smith, Property Manager at the Women’s House Serving Bruce and Grey, and Morgan Murray and Jonathan Zettel from the NWMO.

The NWMO’s sponsorships and donations program demonstrates our commitment to being a good corporate neighbour. As in years past, sponsorships in 2021 supported local and regional well-being initiatives in siting areas, and as communities continued to navigate the pandemic, the impact of our dollars was significant.

Our support for sponsorship partners also continued as they evolved and shifted their programs to better meet needs – such as virtual programming – during the pandemic. Some of our sponsorship activities are intended to support long-term community development and wellness, while others promote education, quality of life and environmental stewardship.

Highlights of our 2021 sponsorships and donations include:

  • Support for programs that bring STEM education to young people, including initiatives led by Shad Canada, Scientists in School, Science North and the Nuclear Innovation Institute;
  • Graduation awards and bursary programs that support skills capacity, professional development and career growth, including the Ignace School Graduation Awards and the South Bruce Student Bursary Program;
  • Environmental initiatives such as establishing a water protection sponsorship with Saugeen Ojibway Nation and a partnership with the Toronto Zoo to support its work studying bat populations in Ontario; and
  • Programs that enhance community well-being, including Wes for Youth Online that provides virtual counselling to Ontario youth, and the Upsala Recreation and Community Sports Centre that is establishing new programs to meet the community’s needs during the pandemic.

Strengthening relationships with governments

In 2021, our staff engaged with representatives of federal and provincial governments to provide information about Canada’s plan and our progress on implementing it. We remain connected on topics of shared interest such as fieldwork activities, siting process updates and land access. The NWMO’s staff work with lead ministries within the federal and provincial governments as our primary points of contact and are working to expand relationships across all relevant government departments.

We also briefed federal and provincial elected representatives, including key ministers, parliamentary assistants, portfolio critics, and representatives of ridings involved in the siting process. In 2021, as part of our commitment to transparency, the NWMO registered as a lobbyist under Canada’s Lobbying Act.