| Feb 28, 2008

Feature Article - February 28, 2008

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Feature Article - February 28, 2008 Support growing for jailed Ardoch leader.By Jeff GreenPlacard Waving protestors at a rally in Napanee in support of Bob Lovelace. Photo: Meghan Balogh

Bob Lovelace had already been transferred to a prison in Lindsay before a support rally took place for him in front of the Quinte Region Detention Centre in Napanee last Thursday, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the 300-strong crowd, which was intent on sending a message to the Ontario government.

Speakers at the rally included Craig Benjamin of Amnesty International’s Ottawa office.

In a news release published after Lovelace received a 6-month sentence and a $25,000 fine for contempt of court, Benjamin wrote “Indigenous leaders and their supporters are facing stiff punishments for doing what they feel is necessary to protect rights that may one day be upheld in court or in the land claims process. Meanwhile the provincial government is ignoring its own legal obligations without any accountability.”

Lorraine Reckmans, who is the Aboriginal affairs critic for the Green Party of Canada and a member of the Serpent River First Nation, a community that was severely affected by uranium mining at Elliott Lake, sent a letter to the rally. In it she talked about Lovelace’s decision to stand by his own conscience in the face of consequences under Canadian law.

“It is to our detriment that as a country we do not willingly seek out traditional ecological knowledge before deciding on questions of land development. I want to thank you for invoking the concepts of natural law in a very public way,” she wrote.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of Biritish Columbia Chiefs has also written a letter of support.

"It is a brutish and troubling precedent when companies use the courts to jail community members for protecting not only their Aboriginal title and rights but their basic human rights. Furthermore, when a provincial government chooses litigation rather than good-faith negotiations, it sends a clear message that corporate greed trumps human rights,” said Grand Chief Phillip.

Support has also come from Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington MP Scott Reid and MPP Randy Hillier, who submitted a joint statement, which was read out at the rally.

Their letter concludes with the following: “…it is our view that the combination of fines and imprisonment imposed by the judge is grossly disproportionate to Mr. Lovelace’s act of civil disobedience, and therefore violates his right, under section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ‘not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual punishment’.

“The government has failed in its obligation to update the Mining Act to reflect legitimate property-rights concerns, aboriginal concerns, and environmental concerns. Justice Cunningham’s decision compounds these problems, and serves to bring the administration of justice into disrepute. We will continue to voice our opposition until these wrongs are set right.”

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