Aboriginal Justice: Prayer as Insistent as the Rain

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by
Joel Klassen

Amid pouring rain one day, and in brilliant sun the
next, dozens of people gathered at the proposed Robertsville uranium
mine site in Algonquin territory the weekend of 25-26 October to pray
for the land. The Ardoch Algonquin First Nation had called for the
universal days of prayer from people of all faith traditions, to
express once again their opposition to mining exploration by
Frontenac Ventures Corporation (FVC) on their lands located 100 km
north of Kingston, Ontario.

Ardoch Algonquin leader Mitch Shewell led a talking
circle and Quakers, a United Church of Canada minister and CPT
members led other prayer and quiet times. Others’ prayers arose
from throughout the continent and around the world.

“Our world is facing massive destruction,”
Co-chief Mireille Lapointe said. “People across the world are
working in small groups like ours to prevent and to heal the damage.
I recently heard it said that we are reaching a critical mass of
people who are acting to stop the destruction-that we are on the
verge of turning in a new direction. I believe that.”

Retired Ardoch chief Bob Lovelace had asked FVC
President George White to open the gate to the mine site so that the
prayers could be held on the land where the drilling is proposed.
White refused, so the group gathered on the road across from the
gate. Other than a few pickup trucks, ostensibly belonging to FVC,
parked behind the gate for a time, and some dirt recently piled in
front to prevent motorized access, the group saw no sign of activity
inside the site. Locals surmise that Frontenac Ventures pulled all
their employees out for the winter some time ago.

A large fire fueled by wood supplied by supportive
neighbours warmed those gathered during Saturday’s almost constant,
sometimes heavy rainfall. Plastic tarps afforded some protection,
and people buoyed their spirits with soup and drinks heated on camp
stoves.

“I noticed that the energy shifted from one side of
the road to the other,” said CPT Aboriginal Justice Team member
Christine Downing, “from the defensiveness of Frontenac Ventures
and their piled up gravel to the gentle strength of the prayers as
insistent as the rain.”

CPT had joined a day of prayer and fasting at the
same site in early September after higher Canadian authorities
thwarted an attempt by Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources to
file charges against Frontenac.

The Ardoch Algonquin, with broad support, continue to
reject mining exploration on the territory under their rightful care.
Talks with the Ontario government broke down in August when the
government refused to accept as a possible outcome that no
exploratory drilling will occur.

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