Algonquins resume blockade of Ontario uranium site

Protesters from the Ardoch Algonquin and Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nations returned to the prospective uranium mining site near Sharbot Lake, Ontario, Feb. 4 after mediation talks with the provincial government that began last fall broke down. Robert Lovelace, co-chief of the Ardoch First Nation, said the protesters are standing outside the gate to the site to prevent the mining exploration company Frontenac Ventures Corp. will start test drills there, as it is legally entitled to do. “We’re monitoring the site and if Frontenac Ventures attempts to bring a drill onto the site, we’ll blockade that drill,” he said.

The protesters began occupying the site in June 2007, but suspended their occupation in October after reaching an agreement with the provincial government to begin mediation talks. Lovelace announced in January that protesters would reoccupy the site despite a court order forbidding them to do so, unless the province stopped Frontenac Ventures from doing further work there.

Neil Smitheman, a lawyer for the company, said Ontario Provincial Police are monitoring activity around the property but aren’t enforcing the court order. “This is an order of the court and the administration of justice would be brought into disrepute if it’s not followed. You can’t, in a free and democratic society, ignore court orders,” he said.

He protested that police are not enforcing court orders in other disputes with First Nations, in places such as Deseronto and Caledonia. “All we know is we are loath to depend upon the local police for enforcement of the judge’s order,” he said. The company has brought contempt of court charges against several protesters for blocking entry to the site. (CBC, Feb. 7)

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  1. Shabot Obaadjiwan pull out of Sharbot Lake blockade
    From CBC, Feb. 13:

    Two eastern Ontario First Nations communities are no longer united in defying a court order concerning a prospective uranium mining site near Sharbot Lake.

    Chief Doreen Davis and another senior official from the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation told an Ontario court Tuesday that they plan to honour the order, which gives the mining exploration company Frontenac Ventures Corp. unfettered access to the site about 60 kilometres north of Kingston, Ont.

    Both the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation and the neighbouring Ardoch Algonquin First Nation defied that order last fall, and some of the protesters, including Davis and Ardoch leaders, were in court to face charges of contempt of court.

    After the hearing attended by least 70 people, Davis told reporters she and her community struggled over the decision.

    “This is my community’s direction. This came from many meetings over the last couple of weeks,” she said.

    Algonquin protesters resumed blocking access to the site on Feb. 4 after mediation talks with the Ontario government broke down, but Davis said members of her community are not participating.

    “In fact, we have not been at the site,” she said. “We have kept a low observation at the site, which we were allowed to under the injunction.”

    Disappointed by decision: lawyer
    Ardoch leaders have not indicated that they plan to obey the order.

    Their lawyer, Christopher Reid, said he is disappointed by Davis’s decision.

    “But there’s more and more allies popping up for Ardoch every day so they’re confident they’re going to win this fight with or without Shabot’s assistance,” he said.

    Neil Smitheman, a lawyer for Frontenac Ventures, hailed Davis’s decision.

    “We think it’s an excellent opportunity for the healing to commence. The differences that may have existed in the past between the company and the Shabot, we’re hoping that they can be mended and this is the first step,” he said.

    “The issue that has to be dealt with before the court is how to deal with the position the Ardoch seems to be maintaining.”

    The disputed site includes both private property and Crown land that is the subject of ongoing land claim negotiations.

    The Algonquin protesters have argued the site is on their land and they fear that uranium drilling could lead to environmental contamination.

    They occupied the site from late June to mid-October despite injunctions granted in response to requests from the company. The injunctions ordered the Algonquins off the site and gave police the authority to arrest them.

    The occupation ended after the Ontario government agreed to mediation talks, but began again after those talks failed.