Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ardoch Algonquin First Nation Vow to Block Proposed Uranium Mine

First Nations vow to occupy eastern Ont. site to block uranium mining

Friday January 11th, 2008

TORONTO - Aboriginals in eastern Ontario warned Friday that they would ignore a court order and illegally occupy the site of a proposed uranium mine north of Kingston later this month unless the province calls a halt to the project.

The Ardoch Algonquin First Nation said it usually permits mining activities on its lands, but will not tolerate uranium exploration because of its impact on the environment and potential to adversely affect people's health.

"The destruction of the land, the consequence of a uranium mine being built, and the health effects will be devastating on our community," former Ardoch chief Robert Lovelace told a news conference at the legislature.

"We have taken a stand that there will be no uranium mine in that area."

The Ardoch First Nation is fighting Frontenac Ventures Corp., which has staked approximately 400 mineral claims covering more than 8,000 hectares of land, and successfully won a court injunction last October to prevent aboriginals from occupying the site.

Lovelace said he doesn't expect any agreement between the two sides before a court-ordered consultation process ends Jan. 28, so First Nations protesters will attempt to return to the site on that date to prevent any further activities by the mining company.

"We feel that our backs are against the wall," he said. "We do have legal rights, and a legal obligation under our own lands to protect our land and to protect our neighbours."

But the Ardoch First Nation opted out of a larger negotiating process involving other Ontario Algonquins and has no standing to object to the uranium exploration, Frontenac Ventures president and CEO George White said in an interview.

"This renegade group of Ardoch Indians, they want to take things into their own hands," White said. "If in fact Mr. Lovelace plans to reoccupy the property, that would be in direct contravention of a contempt of court order issued previously."

White said the Ardoch First Nation was trying to use public pressure on the government to try and halt the project instead of negotiating a memorandum of understanding with the company.

"By provocation and pressing and pressing and pressing the government, they think this issue may be resolved," he said. "The only way to resolve it is through the courts."

Lovelace released an open letter Friday to Premier Dalton McGuinty which warns the controversy could escalate into another tragedy similar to the fatal 1995 shooting of aboriginal protester Dudley George at Ipperwash Provincial Park.

"It is my hope and my prayer that no individual is harmed in finding a resolution to this situation."

He also accused the Liberals of ignoring the recommendations of the Ipperwash inquiry, saying the government has adopted a position of "civil indifference" towards First Nations despite its promise to use the report to forge a new, better relationship with aboriginal Ontarians.

"It's important for the premier of this province to recognize that the recommendations that were set down by Justice (Sydney) Linden to avoid these very same situations as happened at Ipperwash . . . need to be taken seriously," said Lovelace.

"The government of Ontario has simply decided on a strategy of civil indifference: simply stand back and hope that things don't take place and it's business as usual. Certainly, in our case, it has been business as usual (as it was before) the Ipperwash inquiry."

The Ipperwash inquiry report concluded judicial processes such as injunctions were not appropriate or desirable when dealing with aboriginal rights and should be used only as a last resort, he added.

Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle said the government wants to take a look at the Ardoch First Nation's proposal for a moratorium on exploration in the disputed area, but is still hoping for a negotiated resolution.

"We take very seriously our obligation to consult with aboriginal communities in relation to mining activities," Gravelle said.

"We are still optimistic that we can work our way through this. It's definitely a challenge, I won't argue that."

From Canada East online