| Feb 21, 2008

Feature Article - February 21, 2008

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Editorial - February 21, 2008 Time to move on from drill holesEditorial by Jeff Green

After three days of hearings in the Kingston court last week, I was left with two major impressions.

One of them came from Bob Lovelace.

Bob Lovelace was undaunted, and undiminished, when he spent in excess of a day explaining how, as a matter of conscience, he could not comply with a court injunction requiring him to stand by as Frontenac Ventures Corporation completes an exploratory drilling program on what he considers to be Algonquin lands.

His ultimate defence was that he had an overwhelming responsibility to the land itself, and that put him into conflict with Canadian law, a conflict that in his words, “does not mean that I hold Canadian law in contempt; I respect Canadian law, but I cannot abide by it in this case.”

It was a powerful testament to his own political convictions, and to the convictions of all of the people who have participated in the actions at the Robertsville mine over the past 7 1/2 months.

The other major impression was a sense of inevitability to the proceedings. On the matter before the court, all of the defence’s submissions were beside the point. The question of whether the Government of Ontario should have consulted the Algonquins before accepting the mining claims was easily brushed aside by well-funded, well-prepared, submissions that focused the judge’s attention on the single question of how his own injunction of September 27 could be enforced. That injunction had granted the company “unfettered access” to their mining claim and the court was asked to send a message to any and all people who intend to stand in the way of that. And that's what the court did.

One of the main tools the Ardoch Alonquins have been using is the press, and this became a weapon in the hands of Frontenac Ventures’ lawyer Neal Smitheman, who made reference to statements Lovelace has made and letters he has written to the premier as evidence of the fact that it is necessary to jail him until the drilling program is complete.

Judge Cunningham was not concerned about politics in his decision. He was enforcing his own order, and if his decision revealed a sympathy for Frontenac Ventures’ position and a disdain for the Ardoch Algonquins, it was only in its severity.

Trying to prevent test drilling by Frontenac Ventures Corporation is an end in itself. It has also been the focal point for a complex struggle with the combined goal of promoting the land rights of Algonquin people; seeking a change to the “right of entry” provision in the Ontario Mining Act; and pointing out the potential health and environmental damage that come with uranium mining and the nuclear industry.

These other goals are broader, and require a long-term effort that can only be accomplished on the political level. The protest at Robertsville has been effective, but it has run headlong into the court system and if there is one point of agreement between Bob Lovelace and Frontenac Ventures’ President George White it is about the court system.

Bob Lovelace has said the courts have not been kind to aboriginal peoples. George White said that his company might lose out in the press but it will win in the courts.

Frontenac Ventures’ legal team has been able to use the courts to foment a rift between the Ardoch and Sharbot Lake Algonquins. When court reconvenes on March 18, the company intends to go after the OPP over the way the situation at Robertsville has been handled.

For those people who are interested in pursuing the broader goals, and who are interested in trying to preserve the coalition between Algonquins and so-called settlers that has developed since June 28, the Kingston court is the worst place to be, and if that means shifting the focus away from the Frontenac Ventures’ test drilling program, so be it. - JG

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