| Feb 21, 2008

Feature Article - February 21, 2008

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Feature Article - February 21, 2008 Lovelace Sentenced 6 Months for Contempt of Courtby Jeff Green

Left: Bob Lovelace as he enters court for sentencing. Photo by Garth Gullekson

In a Kingston courtroom last week, Superior Court Justice Douglas Cunningham heard Frontenac Ventures’ Lawyer Neal Smitheman propose 27 weeks of jail time and hefty fines for Robert Lovelace and Paula Sherman of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation.

Then he gave Smitheman just about everything he was asking for.

Lovelace and Sherman received six months’ jail time for contempt of court, and were fined $25,000 and $15,000 respectively. In addition, a $10,000 fine was levied against the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation (AAFN).

Supporters who had filled the packed courtroom erupted in shouts and tears as the six-month prison sentence was read out by Cunningham, which led court officers to rise out of their chairs; but after a couple of minutes the noise subsided, and Cunningham continued reading.

He finished reading the sentence, and left. OPP officers then escorted Lovelace and Sherman from the gallery through the courtroom to the rear for processing. As they did so, supporters stood and cheered.

The courtroom quickly cleared, and the 10 or so lawyers who had been representing Frontenac Ventures, the two Algonquin communities, the Ontario Attorney General and the OPP, were in the midst of removing their court gowns and packing up their materials when court reconvened.

Paula Sherman then returned from the processing area behind the court to sit next to AAFN lawyer Chris Reid.

Reid told Justice Cunningham that he had worked out an arrangement with Neal Smitheman. Smitheman said that, “on compassionate grounds”, a beyond last minute agreement had been reached.

Christopher Reid said that Sherman is facing the possibility of losing custody of at least one of her children if she spends six months in jail, and had decided to agree not to breach Cunningham’s order again in exchange for a commuting of the sentence. She is still facing a $15,000 fine, however.

The outcome of the sentencing came after three days of hearings which went just about entirely Frontenac Ventures’ way, but it was 7 months in coming for the company. (see timeline)

Of the eight people whose names were associated with the contempt of court violation, three are not members of an Algonquin community. One of those three, Frank Morrison, had legal representation in court. His lawyer had prepared a motion to dismiss his case, and rather than bog down proceedings by dealing with that motion, it was deferred until March 18, the beginning of the next block of court dates devoted to these matters. The other two people named, David Milne, who was in court and confirmed that he has been on the site in September but did not have a lawyer present, and John Hudson, who was not in court, also were deferred until March.

That left five people, all senior members of the Shabot Obaadjiwaan and Ardoch Algonquins, facing contempt charges. They did not contest the charges.

But as the session was about to be adjourned at the end of the first day, Frontenac Ventures’ lawyer Neal Smitheman asked for a short recess.

The recess dragged on, but at the end of it, Smitheman’s colleague, Tracy Pratt, read out an agreement that had been reached with Chief Doreen Davis and Earl Badour of the Shabot Obaadjiwaan. The two had agreed to comply with the injunction in the future and to counsel others to comply. Their case was also deferred until March 18 on the anticipation that their contempt will be “purged” at that time, and they will not be receiving large fines.

Ardoch’s lawyer Chris Reid later asked that the contempt charge against Ardoch's honorary chief Harold Perry be purged because of Perry's age and state of health, and this was accepted. Perry had to agree to back down from the protest as well.

Robert Lovelace was the only person to take the stand during the sentencing hearing and his testimony lasted more than a day.

Under questioning from Chris Reid, he outlined his reasons for defying the court order, which are tied into his interpretation of his responsibilities under Algonquin law. He said he had no choice but to continue to defy the order.

To turn his back on his responsibilities under Algonquin law “would diminish me as a human being, as an Anishnaabe”, Lovelace told Cunningham.

In his cross examination, Neal Smitheman challenged Bob Lovelace over public safety.

In an open letter to Premier McGuinty that Lovelace released in January, he had warned that the situation at Robertsville could escalate into another tragedy similar to the fatal 1995 shooting of aboriginal protester Dudley George at Ipperwash Provincial Park.

“I put it to you, sir, that you were threatening the Premier of Ontario. It is you who is a threat to public safety,” Smitheman said.

Lovelace said that he was only talking about what might happen, and had never threatened anyone.

Judge Cunningham's decision included a provision that the Ardoch Algonquins statement of defence against the $77 million lawsuit that Frontenac Ventures has filed against them will be struck down as long as Lovelace remains in contempt of his court order.

“This puts us out of the court. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Ardoch Lawyer Chris Reid.

In the wake of the sentence, the OPP announced that anyone who is within 200 metres of the Robertsville gate will be subject to arrest, and as of early this week an OPP car is parked in front of the gate at the Robertsville mine.

The AAFN and the Shabot Obaadjiwaan published press releases in the days following the court hearing (see page 3).

Lovelace’s sentence is also the subject of a condemnation by Amnesty International.

A rally will be held at 11:00 am on Saturday, February 23 in front of the Quinte Detention Centre, (where Lovelace is being held), 89 Richmond Road in Napanee.

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