Jeff Green | Oct 25, 2007
Feature Article - October 25, 2007 - October 25, 2007 Deal or No Deal: Contempt of Court Proceeding Hang in the BalanceBy Jeff Green
By Saturday night, October 20, the Robertsville mine site had been vacated, and a new camp was being set up on the outside of the gate, leaving the driveway clear. A team of OPP officers arrived, at the request of the Ardoch Algonquins, to photograph and video the site. They left on Sunday, and the gate was locked, effectively preventing entry by Frontenac Ventures until the mediation agreement is finalised.
An agreement that would lead to a 12-week mediation process and would enable Frontenac Ventures Corporation to access their 30,000 acre mining claim through leased lands at the Robertsville mine to do “unobtrusive exploration” was still hung up early this week over how the company’s activities would be monitored during the 12- week period.
In what Frontenac Ventures Corporation President George White has called a “concession made out of courtesy to the Province of Ontario”, Frontenac Ventures Corporation agreed to allow an observer to “provide comfort to the Ardoch Algonquin and Shabot Obaadjiwaan First Nations that the activities conducted by Frontenac Ventures pursuant to the exploration schedule are low impact,” according to a memorandum written by Frontenac Ventures’ lawyer Tracy Pratt.
The company proposed that John McCance, the Verona-based President of the Southern Ontario Prospectors Association be retained as the observer.
The Shabot Obaadjiwaan accepted McCance, but the Ardoch Algonquins wanted to meet with him, and he appeared at an Ardoch Family Heads Council meeting at the Oso Hall in Sharbot Lake this past Sunday. Many non-aboriginal anti-exploration activists had also been invited to the meeting.
McCance joked that he “might just as well have placed a target on my back” as he was peppered with questions from aboriginal and non-aboriginal activists about his understanding of a variety of subjects. He acknowledged that he had no expertise in plant biology or aboriginal cultural matters that might be relevant to the job, saying “there would have to be someone else or several other people with me to understand everything that might be of concern to you.”
After the meeting, Chris Reid, the Ardoch Algonquins’ lawyer, responded to the Frontenac Ventures legal team by email. He said, “My clients have no objection to John McCance being a member of a team of monitors which includes at least one member appointed by the First Nations. With respect to the monitoring team’s terms of reference, it is our view that the First Nations’ monitors should be advised in advance of all FVC activities and should accompany FVC staff or contractors at all time.”
This led to a terse response from Frontenac Ventures’ lead lawyer Neil Smitheman on Monday, which suggested that the company was willing to share information about their activities with an observer, but will not ask for permission from the Algonquins.
When contacted, George White said he was willing to let the deal fall through, and pursue the contempt of court hearings that are still scheduled for mid-November.
Eight individuals: Doreen Davis, Earl Badour, Robert Lovelace, Paula Sherman, Mitch Shewell, Harold Perry, David Milne, and Frank Morrison, have been named in the contempt of court proceedings. Six of them are members of the Shabot Obbadjiwaan and Ardoch Algonguin First Nations. Frontenac Ventures is seeking to have the court levy hefty fines against them, raising the prospect of assets being seized by the courts. In other aboriginal blockades in Ontario, assets cannot be seized because in those cases the assets are located in reserve lands, which cannot be accessed by the courts.
As of this writing, the News has learned that negotiations are continuing among the Ardoch and Frontenac Ventures’ lawyers, aimed at settling on a second observer to work with John McCance, leaving only the matter of what the observer’s job will be as an outstanding issue.
If that can be resolved, the mediation will likely follow.
Legality of staking to be on the mediation table
Late last week, the Province of Ontario agreed to an agenda for mediation that included two key issues for the First Nations. The first is whether “Ontario had the legal right to allow these lands to be staked prior to consulting with the AAFN and Shabot”, and the second is the possibility of withdrawing “unstaked and staked land” in the region of the Frontenac Ventures Mining Claims. The parties to the mediation now include the federal crown, the two Algonquin communities, and the so-called “Algonquins of Ontario”, which is what the courts have dubbed the 13-member team of Algonquin negotiators to the Algonquin Land claim. A mediator must be found who is acceptable to all parties. The mediation would last 12 weeks, after which time Frontenac Ventures plans to begin a test drilling program, a program the Algonquin leadership still vows to prevent.
Among the tents and trailers outside of the gate is a small hut and a tent trailer which is occupied by Donna Dillman, who has now gone 17 days without eating. She has been subsisting on a concoction of maple syrup, lemon and water, and on fruit and vegetable juices. Earlier this week, she sent a letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty asking for an inquiry into uranium mining.
The letter says, in part, “It is my hope that now that your government has a very clear mandate from the electorate, you will step forward and begin an inquiry that will result in a moratorium on uranium exploration and mining, at least, in Eastern Ontario, and hopefully the whole of the province …
“My children and grandchildren should not have to visit their mother at the side of a desolate rural road. At the same time, they should not have to fear for the water they drink and the air that they breathe. I will end this hunger strike when we are assured against the possibility of uranium drilling up-river of Ottawa.”
She has no plans to take solid food, or leave the site.
A contingent of aboriginal and non-aboriginal protestors are committed to maintaining a presence outside the Robertsville mine site during the mediation period.