| Sep 13, 2007


Editorial - September 13, 2007

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Editorial comment - September 13, 2007

Hurry Up & Waitby Jeff Green

It has now been 10 days since an injunction was served to the occupiers inside and outside of the Robertsville mine site, and the OPP has thus far refrained from enforcing the order. Officially, they say they are “continuing to negotiate”.

From the point of view of the owners of the property, and their lessee, Frontenac Ventures Corporation, the occupation was clearly illegal when it began on June 28. Indeed, the two Algonquin communities have been waiting for the police to try and remove them from the very beginning.

Nothing has changed since then, with the exception of some courtroom manoeuvring and significant media coverage.

From the start the issue has been both legal and political. The occupation, which now involves aboriginal and non-aboriginal anti-uranium activists, has always included a component of civil disobedience.

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All of those involved in the action are perfectly aware that they risk arrest. Indeed, the consequences of arrest could have serious implications for many of the protesters, particularly the three chiefs. Randy Cota, co-chief of the Ardoch Algonquins, is an OPP officer. He accepted a transfer to Orillia recently, and once the injunction was served he has been facing the loss of his job if he enters the mine property. His co-chief, Paula Sherman, is an assistant Professor at Trent University, and faces the possibility losing her position if she is convicted of an offense. Doreen Davis, of the Shabot Obaadjiwaan, is also a member of the negotiating team for the Algonquin Land claim, and she faces her own dilemmas trying to maintain those two roles while leading her community in this occupation.

Nonetheless the occupiers have said they will not leave. Frontenac Ventures lawyer Neal Smitheman and the Kingston Whig Standard newspaper have called this situation “anarchy”, and last week the Provincial Conservative leader John Tory weighed in, saying, among other things, “We can't have even legitimate complaints settled by people taking the law into their own hands.”

These are the strongest opinions that have been expressed publicly, and none of them has gone so far as to say the OPP should risk violence to end the occupation.

Given that there is a broad consensus on that point, what next?

David Ramsay and Rick Bartollucci, the two senior provincial ministers involved, have said they are willing to meet the anti-uranium activists, as soon as this week. There is a slight possibility that the province could craft a decision over a moratorium on mining permits in the traditional territories claimed by Sharbot Lake and Ardoch on the grounds that the communities were not consulted before permits were issued.

However, this would set the kinds of precedents that legal and political advisors to the premier will be strongly advising against.

For one thing, the provincial economy is dependent on mining. As well, the government has recently made a further commitment to nuclear power. The government will also be wary of the fact that under the Indian Act the two communities demanding the moratorium are non-status Algonquin communities, and the demands they are making have not been strongly endorsed by either the Pikwakanagan First Nation, who are the only status Algonquin community in Ontario, or the Algonquin Nation Representatives.

It is highly unlikely the Liberal Party election team will want to deal with this during the current election campaign.

Hearings are scheduled to start in Kingston Superior Court over an interlocutory injunction on September 20, but given the political reality, the practical implications of those hearings might be minimal.

JG

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