| Jul 26, 2007

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Feature Article - July 26, 2007

Get off my land

Editorial by Jeff Green

In a telling scene during Fiddler on the Roof, a Cossack Inspector who has taken a liking to Tevye the milkman, comes to tell him that on the following day he will be forced to leave his home, and his village.

As Tevye contemplates his own powerlessness in the face of government forces, he reacts in the only way he knows, “Get off my land,” he says, “This is still my land, get off my land.”

Peter Jorgensen, the part owner and manager of the Robertsville mine, might understand Tevye’s reaction, as might Frank and Gloria Morrison, as do First Nations peoples throughout North America, as does George White of Frontenac Ventures Corporation.


Peter Jorgensen has been told that he faces arrest if he so much as approaches his property; Frank and Gloria Morrison have had their property altered by prospectors; First Nations peoples were herded into reserves or left to drift away from their traditional lands about 200 years ago; and George White cannot access property that he has leased or conduct exploration land on property that he has legally staked, again under threat of arrest.

What we have here is a conjunction of cases where the supposed rights of individuals are coming into conflict with the rights of the collective, and these conflicts are not easily resolved.

Peter Jorgensen is clearly on the losing end thus far. He cannot access a property that he holds a legal deed to.

The Algonquins who are preventing him from accessing the property are not doing so for financial gain. They are asserting their aboriginal rights in the name of the collective good, the preservation of the land against what they perceive as a dire threat of contamination through uranium exploration and mining.

Not only do they have nothing to gain financially from this, they are now facing a $77 million lawsuit for their trouble. But as altruistic as the Algonquins’ goals may be, their assertion of collective rights impinge directly on Peter Jorgensen’s individual rights.

Many members of the Frontenac and Lanark communities fear for their own well being, the well being of their land and their families, if a uranium mine is built. This fear is akin to the fear expressed by the Algonquins, who say that if the land is gone they are gone as a people.

The provincial government is perhaps more concerned that the lights will go out across the province if uranium mining is curtailed. So, whose interests are more important? Thousands of Eastern Ontarians and a tiny native community, or ten million people who expect the power to flow to their own houses?

The government has the right to expropriate the lands of private individuals for airports or roads, so why not for greenhouse-free power?

In the end we are all like Tevye, and Peter Jorgensen. We might own our land today, but that could change.

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