| Dec 04, 2008

Dec 4/08 - Shabot Obaadjiwan Agree to Drilling

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Feature Article - December 4, 2008 Shabot Obaadjiwan comes to accommodation agreement with Frontenac VenturesBy Jeff Green

It took almost six months of negotiations, but the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation, along with their Algonquin Land Claim partners, have inked an agreement with the Government of Ontario and Frontenac Ventures Corporation.

The agreement includes the abandonment of 17 mining claims by Frontenac Ventures, 11 on unpatented (Crown) land and 6 on privately owned land. In return the province has agreed to reinstate 22 lapsed claims to the company. It also provides for a steering committee, with aboriginal representatives, which will monitor the company’s drilling program.

The agreement deals with issues stemming from a court injunction by Ontario Justice Cunningham. In September of 2007 Cunningham ordered all protestors off the exploration property of Frontenac Ventures and granted the company leave to drill uranium test holes.

In February of 2008, Shabot Obaadjiwan Chief Doreen Davis, and War Chief Earl Badour, under threat of serving time in jail, entered into an undertaking to adhere to Justice Cunningham's order. Bob Lovelace, of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, refused to enter into such an undertaking and he was sentenced to six months jail time (he was released after 3 months after winning an appeal).

“By entering into this agreement, we have been able to remove sensitive lands from the mining claim, and we will be able to monitor the drilling program and ensure the holes are properly filled,” said Chief Doreen Davis of the agreement. “Until now, the company was able to drill without any monitoring by us. This agreement deals only with the program that had been ordered by Cunningham's injunction.”

In conjunction with the Accommodation Agreement, the Province of Ontario has agreed to pay $109,000 to Frontenac Ventures Corporation, which had been awarded to the company by Justice Cunningham to cover their legal costs in pursuing court injunctions. Until Ontario agreed to pay, the Shabot Obaadjiwan and Ardoch Algonquin First Nations (AAFN) were on the hook for the money.

The Ardoch Algonquins did not participate in the consultation process that led to the agreement.

Bob Lovelace, the spokesperson for the Ardoch Algonquins, received a letter from Doug Carr, the Assistant Deputy Minister, Negotiations and Reconciliation Division, of the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, just as the agreement was to be announced.

The letter informed Lovelace of the agreement, and said “Ontario believes it has offered the AAFN reasonable opportunities to engage in a meaningful process of consultation including the most recent process ... unfortunately the AAFN chose not to participate in this process.”

Lovelace told the News that in early October there was indeed a meeting in Toronto between the Ardoch Algonquins and the two ministries involved. The AAFN then sent a letter to the province inviting everyone who attended the first meeting to come to the Ardoch area, “walk the land, have a meal, and continue talking. There has been no response until a week ago.”

AAFN has responded to the Accommodation Agreement in a statement that was released on Tuesday, December 2. In it they said the agreement with the Shabot Obbadjiwaan came about because of coercion on the part of the government. “Shabot acquiesced because they feared a renewal of prosecutions and because they faced court costs of $109,000. In addition, Frontenac Ventures continued a lawsuit of $77 million against them”.

The release concludes by stating that the AAFN “will continue to oppose exploration for uranium and hold Ontario to their legal responsibility to consult and accommodate in an honest and equitable way.”

One of the advantages to the accommodation agreement, according to Doreen Davis, is that it is tied to a commitment that all future mining activities, including staking activities, within the Algonquin Land Claim, will be filtered through the land claim process.

“Nothing like this will happen again in our territory,” Davis said, “and those claims that have been withdrawn will remain that way until the land claim is settled.”

Concerned Citizens Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU) whose members joined with both the Shabot Obaadjiwan and the Ardoch Algonquins in the occupation of the Robertsville mine, has also responded to the Accommodation Agreement.

“These negotiations were conducted behind closed doors with no involvement whatsoever by property owners, businesses or any of the 23 municipal governments in southern Ontario that have petitioned the Province for a moratorium against uranium exploration and drilling. We believe that this shows that the McGuinty government does not take seriously the concerns of 2 million residents represented by these Councils, which include Ottawa, Kingston, Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes and many other smaller townships and counties in eastern Ontario,” CCAMU said in a release.

CCAMU reiterated its call for “a moratorium on exploration of uranium in Eastern Ontario.”

First Nations, industry and Ontario government build stronger relationships in eastern Ontario.Press release by Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs

The Shabot Obaadjiwan and Snimikobi Algonquin communities, together with the Algonquins of Ontario, Frontenac Ventures Corporation and the Ontario government, have successfully consulted on the company’s proposed uranium exploration plans in Frontenac County, north of Kingston.

All participants in the consultations agreed on specific measures to protect health, safety, the environment and respect and protect Aboriginal values and interests. A steering committee with Algonquin and Frontenac Ventures Corporation representation will visit proposed drilling sites and engage in ongoing discussion throughout the exploration program.

As well, the company volunteered to remove some of the lands at issue from its exploration plans. Ontario has withdrawn those lands from further mineral staking.

"This is an example of how by working together in a spirit of cooperation and respect, we can find creative solutions in the face of challenging situations," said Brad Duguid, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

"I'm pleased all parties were able to find a workable solution that balances the interests of the Algonquin communities and industry while protecting the environment," said Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Mines.

“I’m glad to see that a peaceful solution could be reached and that all the parties will be working together to protect the environment and the interests of the Algonquins,” said Chief Randy Malcolm, Snimikobi Algonquin Community.

“As a result of sharing knowledge, meaningful collaboration, dialogue and understanding between Aboriginal people, government and industry, we have Aboriginal values, environmental concerns, health and safety issues, best practices and a host of other matters as part of a consultation and accommodation process that balances the interests of all parties,” said Chief Doreen Davis, Shabot Obaadjiwan Algonquin Community.

“The consultation process has been a valuable learning experience for all parties. Frontenac embraces the opportunity to pursue the first phase of its exploration program with the benefit of a productive and respectful relationship with the Algonquins,” said George White, President of Frontenac Ventures Corporation

(Please see And So it Goes a letter in response by Bob Lovelace.)

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