| Jun 05, 2008

Editorial - June 5, 2008

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Editorial - June 5, 2008 Ministry Silence Still DeafensEditorial by Jeff Green

Exactly 11 months ago I wrote an editorial called “The silence of the ministry” about what was then a three-week old occupation of the Robertsville mine site by Algonquin protestors.

The gist of the editorial was that all of the combatants in the dispute: Frontenac Ventures Corporation, the owner of the mine Peter Jorgensen, the OPP, the Ardoch and Shabot Obaadjiwaan First Nations, the people that have since become known as the settlers, and the disgruntled neighbours who wanted the protesters to just go away, were all doing what they considered to be the right thing.

Way in the background, staying as far from the fray as possible, was the government of Ontario in all its bureaucratic complexity. The fact that the Robertsville dispute encompasses mining, land use, aboriginal, energy and legal policies means that five or six government ministries and the premier’s office have a stake in what ultimately happens.

Back on July 5, 2007, I ended my editorial by saying “Only the province can end this situation, and although they only have bad options from their perspective, they should choose the most palatable one and get on with it.

Nobody wants to wait a year for this to end.”

It’s almost a year later now, and a lot has happened, but the situation is far from resolved.

Relations between the Ardoch and Shabot Obadjiwaan First Nations, which were at a historic high point at the beginning of the occupation, have become non-existent. Neither side knows, or seems to care, what the other one is doing.

Ardoch continues to talk about defiance, continues to insist they are not bound by court orders. This raises fears in government circles that although they are never armed and have shown themselves to be committed to non-violence, they are unyielding.

At the same time, the Shabot Obaadjiwaan are seen by the government as a group that they can negotiate with. It’s possible that, even though they are not talking, the defiance of Ardoch serves to strengthen the Shabot Obaadjiwaan negotiating position.

Frontenac Ventures Corporation, armed with a court order, are waiting for the opportune moment to bring a drill onto the site and bring out the core samples they need to analyse in order to flog the mining property on the open market.

Or are they? Is this tenuous resource, which never was sufficient to develop in the past and is now mired in headlines about aboriginal protests, worth anything? Or would it be better for Frontenac Ventures to continually say they will be drilling at any time, all the while hoping for a buyout from Ontario?

At this time, the government negotiating position has been that they will consider the Algonquin claim that exploration should be halted until consultation takes place, but only after limited drilling takes place.

Both Algonquin communities have thus far been adamant that no drilling can take place.

Eleven months into this dispute, the question of the drill remains central.

The work plan that Frontenac Ventures submitted to the courts last fall calls for drilling to be completed by September.

We should know by then where this thing is going.

If Ontario has developed a plan to deal with this, they have done a good job of keeping it to themselves.

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