Jeff Green | Jun 05, 2008
Jun 5/08 - Robertsville Protestors Free
Back toHomeFeature Article - June 5, 2008 Robertsville protesters all free, but what next?By Jeff Green
Bob Lovelace, Paula Sherman and Harold Perry at the Kingston Courthouse.
In a Kingston courtroom on Monday, Frontenac Ventures lead counsel Neal Smitheman confirmed to Justice Cunningham what he had already communicated to the lawyers for Bob Lovelace and six other so-called “settlers” who had been summoned to court: the company will not be proceeding with contempt of court charges against any of them at this time.
In the Lovelace case, the matter which was scheduled to proceed on Monday was the “second contempt”, which stemmed from events that took place in mid-February at the Robertsville mine site.
These events took place just days before Lovelace was sentenced to six months in jail unless he would agree to comply with an injunction barring him from the Rovertsville mine.
Lovelace was imprisoned on February 22 and was released on May 28, after a court of appeal panel in Toronto commuted his sentence to time served.
Fines of $25,000 against Lovelace, as well as $15,000 against Ardoch Algonquin Chief Paula Sherman and $10,000 against the Ardoch Algonquion First Nation were stayed at that time.
The reasons for the appeal court panel’s decisions are not expected for some time.
“We are not proceeding with contempt #2” Neal Smitheman told the court.
As to the so-called “settler arrests”, Smitheman said “The police issued promises to appear, returnable on March 18, which were then returnable to today’s date. Our position is there is no motion from Frontenac with respect to them.”
Eileene Kinley, Oskar Graf, Beth Robertson, Sheila MacDonald, and Don Haman received the summons after an incident at the side of Hwy. 509, across from the mine site, on March 16, and Sulyn Cedar received a summons for that incident and for two subsequent incidents.
With those two statements, Smitheman signaled that five days of scheduled court time could easily be compacted into an hour or so, and that, as he said outside the court, “We’re not in the business of prosecution, we’re in the business of drilling holes.”
Although Frontenac Ventures decided not to proceed with the contempt matters, the company asked and received from Justice Cunningham a continuation of the “Jane and John Doe” warrants which apply to anyone who interferes with the company’s activities at the site until the court is set to reconvene at the end of July.
When contacted on Wednesday, George White, the President of Frontenac Ventures Corporation, said the company is planning to carry out the “40-week schedule that was approved by Cunningham last year, and that includes a selective drilling program. We are keeping all our options open about the timing of the drilling,” he said.
Frontenac Ventures has staked a contiguous 30,000 acre parcel of land in Central and North Frontenac that is accessed by a road that runs off of the Robertsville mine site.
A team of bush workers and geologists, numbering about 20, have been working at the site for several weeks, and OPP officers have been stationed across from the entrance most of the time.
The OPP presence has become more extensive over the past two weeks.
George White said he “views the actions of last Wednesday [the release of Bob Lovelace by an appeal court in Toronto] as political, but we will have to wait for the reasons to be released to know why they did it.”
He suggested that Frontenac Ventures may launch its own appeal once the reasons are released.
“We have a number of people who are showing open defiance of the law,” he said, “and they are meeting their objectives if the appeal court ruling is allowed to stand.”
White said that Frontenc Ventures has had little contact with the government of Ontario in the past months. “We had a meeting set up for a couple of weeks ago, but it never happened,” he said.
He also said that Frontenac Ventures has not received any offer from the government to back down from its mining claims. “They couldn’t afford our price,” he said.
Upon his release from prison, Bob Lovelace, who is a retired chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and lives in South Frontenac, restated his commitment to “block, in a peaceful manner, any attempt by Frontenac Ventures to bring a drill onto Algonquin territory. Under Algonquin law, there is a moratorium against uranium exploration in Algonquin territory.”
The Ardoch Algonquins occupied the mine site on June 29 of last year. They said that the mining claims that were granted to Frontenac Ventures by the government of Ontario were illegal because the land in question is Ardoch’s historic territory which has never been ceded to the Crown
They were joined in their occupation by the Shabot Obaadjiwaan First Nation, which is based in Sharbot Lake. The two First Nations include members who are located throughout the region.
Since mid-February, the two communities have been pursuing independent strategies in the anti-uranium exploration fight.
Stephen Reynolds, the Shabot Obaadjiwaan lawyer, filed a motion in court on Monday week asking for “declaratory relief”. “We will be asking the court to declare that the Crown has an obligation to consult with us before granting exploration permits,” Reynolds told the Frontenac News.
Justice Cunningham said he was not likely to invest himself in the case because Kingston is not his normal jurisdiction.
Reynolds said he is content with another judge hearing the case.
He then asked that Cunningham agree to a stay in his court injunction until the motion is heard, but then Frontenac Ventures Lawyer Neal Smitheman literally jumped to his feet and said, “That would be extremely prejudicial to Frontenac Ventures’ interests.”
Judge Cunningham agreed with Smitheman and said the order will remain in place.
“Just thought I’d ask,” Reynolds said.
The Shabot Obaadjiwaan met with Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant in May, and had contact with legal counsel from both the Ministry of Mines and Northern Development, and Aboriginal Affairs since then, including a meeting after the court hearing ended on Monday afternoon.
“The meetings are still preliminary,” Reynolds said.
Within hours of the confirmation that the Ardoch Algonquin leadership is not facing fines or jail time at this point, “non-native” supporters of the Ardoch Algonquins sent out an email announcement of plans for a gathering on June 15 at the Robertsville mine gate for a “peaceful, non-intrusive, afternoon solidarity event,” between 1 and 5 pm.
As to Ardoch’s immediate plans, they will be discussed at a Family Heads meeting in Maberly on Sunday afternoon between 1 and 3 pm. An open meeting will follow between 3 and 5.