| May 15, 2008

May 15/08 - Aboriginal Affairs Visits Shabot Obaadjiwan

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Feature Article - May 15, 2008 Minister of Aboriginal Affairs visits Shabot Obaadjiwan First NationBy Jeff Green

Michael Bryant, Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, was in Sharbot Lake on May 8 to hold talks with the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation. The main subject of the discussions was the uranium exploration at Robertsville, Ontario, a few minutes north of Sharbot Lake on Highway 509.

The minister and two aides met first with the Shabot Obaadjiwaan leadership: Chief Doreen Davis, Luanda Badour and Earl Badour, and then joined the Shabot Obaadjiwaan Justice Circle for further conversations and a meal. Algonquin Elder William Commanda also attended the meeting.

The meeting took place in advance of a June 2 court date, which is slated to see the resumption of proceedings that were initiated late last July by Frontenac Ventures Corporation after an occupation of the Robertsville mine had been established by the Ardoch Algonquin and Shabot Obaadjiwaan First Nations. Frontenac Ventures is suing the two First Nations for $77 million, and the Shabot Obaadjiwaan have filed a cross claim in the case, which names the governments of Ontario and Canada. It is the contention of the Shabot Odaadjiwan that the exploration permit which Frontenac Ventures received from Ontario is not legal because there was no consultation with First Nations prior to its issuance.

The Shabot Obaadjiwan are seekingconsultationwith the province about the uranium explorationandare pressing for a moratorium on uranium mining until at least the resolution of the Algonquin land claim agreement. “We are not interested in negotiating an impact benefit agreement with the mining company,” said Chief Davis.“Wepressed the minister for a negotiated resolution, in keeping with the recommendations of the Linden Commission into the Ipperwash tragedy. The minister indicated he would bespeaking with the premier and the Ministers of Natural Resources, and Northern Development and Mines about his visit, but he did not commit the province to any particular action."

Davis said the “meeting went well”. It was the first direct contact with the minister ten months into the ongoing dispute over uranium exploration on a 30,000 acre swath of land in North and Central Frontenac townships.

Chief Doreen Davis said after the meeting, "The ministerlistened quietly and respectfully to the opinions of theelder, the council and justice circle. He seemed particularly moved when Elder Commanda unveiled the wampum belt he had brought with him." The wampum belt, for which Elder Commanda isresponsible, depictsthree equal-sized figures holding hands in a row, and a cross. It represents an early agreement between the Algonquin, French and English to work together in partnership. The agreement waswitnessed by a representative of the Vatican, as indicated by the cross.

According to Chief Davis it is Ontario's choice how matters unfold from here."We can negotiate or we can litigate; it is Ontario's call. Shabot Obaadjiwan has agreed to respect the rule of law.But we will also use the law to protect our rights. If there is no positive response from the province before June 2, we willbe proceeding with litigation against the Crown for failure to meet its lawful dutyto engage inhonourable consultation."

The chief also spoke about the reasons why the Shabot Obaadjiwan are so passionate about this issue."We rely on these lands for our food, medicine and peace of mind.Our children's future happiness and well-being is dependent on the health of this land.We know that the health and well-being of the settlers also depends on the health of this land.We wish to ensure these lands are used for sustainable purposes.Uranium mining is the exact opposite.

"Not only is this an issue of Aboriginal rights and a breach of the duty to consult by the Crown, but a significant environmental issue for everyone. Weare fighting to protect our Aboriginal rights so that we canprotect the environment and these environmentally sensitive lands".

This week, Kevin Dove, whose title is Manager, Issues Management and Media Relations for the Ministry of Aborginal Affairs, issued the following statement about the meeting: “We believe that good neighbours talk to each other and that is exactly what the province, public and private sector and Aboriginal communities should do. We are committed to meeting our duty to consult with First Nations where activities may impact on Aboriginal or treaty rights. To that end, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs is supporting the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines in its efforts to share information and consult with the Algonquins. The meeting the minister had with Chief Davis was another step in that effort.”

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