| Jul 12, 2007


Feature Article - March 8, 2007

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Feature Article - July 12, 2007

Rally and march demonstrate support for Algonquin occupation

byJeff Green

After being contacted through electronic means such as e-mail and Facebook, and an old-fashioned telephone tree, more than 300 people made their way to the corner of Hwys. 509 and 7 on the afternoon of July 8 for a march along Highway 7.

The diverse crowd, which included politicians, landowners, members of the local non-status Algonquin communities, supporters from other First Nations, and other anti-mining activists, gathered together to send an anti-uranium exploration message to the collected representatives of regional and province-wide media outlets.

A relaxed parade down Highway 7 was led by two aboriginal warriors carrying the unity flag, and two mothers strolling and carrying their babies. They were followed by members of the Ardoch and Shabot Obaadjiwaan Algonquins holding up an Ardoch Algonquin banner. Behind them marched Honorary Chief Harold Perry of Ardoch, arm in arm with Co-Chief Paula Sherman and Shabot Obaadjiwaan Chief Doreen Davis.

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A sea of aboriginal and non-aboriginal supporters followed. It was a show of solidarity between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities such as has not been seen locally in many years - in fact, since the now-legendary wild rice wars.

Harold Perry spoke for the Algonquin peoples at the end of the march, saying that the occupation of the Robertsville mine by Algonquins, which was then ten days old, “will not end until a moratorium on uranium exploration on our traditional territory is declared by the federal and provincial governments.”

The OPP operated a roadblock to divert traffic around the short stretch of road. Eastbound traffic was re-routed at Mountain Grove, to Parham via the Long Lake Road, then north on Road 38 to Sharbot Lake. Westbound traffic followed the route in reverse.

The rally took place after a week of Algonquin occupation of the Robertsville mine, where Frontenac Ventures Corporation has leased space for a “base camp” for uranium exploration on 30,000 contiguous acres that they have staked over the past 2 years. Frontenac Ventures have staked claims in North and Central Frontenac, from Bolton Lake in Central Frontenac (north of Bell Line Road) to just south of Antoine Lake in North Frontenac (north of Hwy. 509 – east of Snow Road)

Although there has been talk of opposition to the political action being taken to stop uranium exploration, none of it surfaced on this day. Politicians in the crowd included Mayor Gutowski and Councilor Guntensperger from Central Frontenac, as well as provincial NDP candidate Ross Sutherland and several members of the Green Party riding association executive. There were no members of North Frontenac Council in attendance.

After last Sunday’s march, a rally was held at the Robertsville mine site, which has become a settled camp over the past ten days, complete with kitchen and sleeping facilities.

Speakers at the rally included Lorraine Rekmans of the Serpent River First Nation that is located near the Elliot Lake uranium mines. She talked about the impacts of the mine on her community, which have been devastating.

On Friday, July 6, two days before the march in Sharbot Lake, representatives from Frontenac Ventures, accompanied by an OPP liaison officer, arrived at the gate to the mine and asked the Algonquins to vacate the premises. They were informed by the Algonquins that the mine site is located on un-ceded Algonquin Territory, and they will not be leaving.

Peter Jorgensen, the part owner and manager of the Robertsville mine, made a similar request one week earlier, with the same result.

Frontenac Ventures Corporation has not been available for comment this week, but Peter Jorgensen told the News that he has been informally told not to approach his property by members of the Ontario Provincial Police, although that request has never been given to him in writing.

He said he would be consulting his lawyer before deciding what to do next. The possibility of either Peter Jorgensen or Frontenac Ventures seeking a court injunction over the matter has been widely anticipated, although how such an injunction would be enforced remains an open question.

The march in Sharbot Lake marks an organizational turning point for the political action that has sprung up in opposition to uranium exploration in North and Central Frontenac. In the ten days following the arrival of Sharbot Lake and Ardoch Algonquins at Robertsville, non-aboriginal supporters, neighbours and activists have been organising to provide physical support to the people on site over the long term, in the form of food and other supplies.

As well, a co-ordinated political stance, in concert with the joint position being taken by the leadership of Ardoch and Sharbot Lake, is being developed.

As the occupation enters its third week, the Algonquin leadership’s attention is being turned from the increasingly unlikely prospect of a confrontation at the Robertsville mine gate, to the possibility of an attempt by Frontenac Ventures to access their claim territory through an alternate route, and to other industrial activities that have been undertaken in the vicinity over the past 25 years.

A second march and rally is planned for tomorrow night, Friday, June 13, at the junction of Hwys. 509 and 7, at 7 pm, and it will likely have the same impact on traffic as last Sunday’s march. The march will be preceded by a rally at the Robertsville mine, starting at 5 pm.

A benefit concert, to raise funds to provide supplies for the Shabot Obaadjiwaan and Ardoch Algonquins is planned for July 25 in Sharbot Lake. Details will be worked out over the next few days.

As well, the Bedford Mining Alert will be holding an early “all candidates meeting” for the upcoming Provincial election on mining issues on July 21 at the Bedford Hall at 10:00 am.

(Editor’s note: We are attempting to gather together information about the risks and benefits that accompany uranium mining in the current era for a future edition of the News. Events at Robertsville are constantly developing, and as information becomes available, we will be posting it at Newsweb.ca)

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