Jeff Green | Mar 27, 2008
Editorial - March 27, 2008
Back toHomeEditorial - March 27, 2008 Something has changed at RobertsvilleEditorial by Jeff Green
In February, Neal Smitheman, the lawyer for the uranium exploration company Frontenac Ventures Corporation, asked Justice Cunningham to sentence Bob Lovelace to 27 weeks of jail time for contempt of court. Lovelace had defied Cunningham’s order to stay away from the Robertsville mine and to grant Frontenac Ventures unfettered access.
Normally on a first charge for contempt of court, a simple fine is a common result, so why 27 weeks?
Smitheman asked for the exceptional sentence because the test drilling program that Frontenac Ventures is undertaking at the site is scheduled to take 27 weeks to complete.
Bob Lovelace had said he would contravene the judge’s order again if released, and would continue to attempt to stop Frontenac Ventures from drilling. In addition - and this was also pointed out by Neal Smitheman – until that point the OPP had declined to intervene at the Robertsville site. Smitheman was so enraged by this that he asked Judge Cunningham to put the Ontario Attorney General, the Ministry that oversees the OPP, on notice about the OPP’s refusal to enforce his injunction.
As Smitheman’s argument went, the only way to ensure that the drilling program could proceed without incident was to lock Lovelace up until it is completed. This would keep Lovelace away and deter anyone else from blocking the site.
A week ago Sunday, however, that all changed.
A few people gathered on public property near the Robertsville site on March 16. The Frontenac Ventures crews were not working. Reportedly, the people did not approach the driveway to the mine site and expressed no intention of blocking anyone from entering the site. However, one of them did apparently plant a sign in the snow at the side of the roadway. They were subsequently all summoned to court by the OPP to face contempt charges.
Frontenac Ventures Corporation did not even know the incident had taken place, and it is rather doubtful that the charges have much merit. The original injunction order, which Justice Cunningham endorsed on September 27, only talks about stopping people from impeding Frontenac Ventures’ employees within 200 metres of the mine entrance; it does not contemplate an out and out ban on members of the public daring to dally within 200 metres of the entrance. And even if the order can be interpreted to imply that no one may linger or loiter within the 200 metres, that interpretation could surely be challenged in an appeal court.
Nonetheless, the point is that the OPP took it upon themselves to charge these people.
This effectively removes the threat that Bob Lovelace can stop the drilling. If he were to be released from prison today and he then rushed off to Robertsville, the OPP would arrest him immediately. There can no longer be any doubt about that.
Bob Lovelace cannot stop the drilling. On that level Frontenac Ventures has won a victory.
It would actually be in the company’s interest to ask Judge Cunningham for Lovelace’s release when court resumes on June 2, although it is hard to imagine George White instructing his lawyer to make such a request.
All that is accomplished by keeping him in jail is that it will be that much harder for him to pay the $25,000 fine he owes, because while in jail he is not earning any money.
Oh yes, and he gets to be a martyr to the cause.