10 March 2008
ROBERTSVILLE/ALGONQUIN ACTION ALERT: Ontario: Consult with the Algonquin people; free leader Bob Lovelace
Christian Peacemaker Teams Canada calls on supporters to call or write to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty urging him to:
– fulfill the Ontario government’s duty to consult with Algonquin First Nations over proposed uranium mining on land to which they have made a legal claim; and
– direct the Attorney-General of Ontario to undertake a review of the February 15th sentencing of Algonquin leader Robert Lovelace to six months in jail and a fine.
The Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, together with their sister Shabot Obaadjiwan Algonquin First Nation, engaged in public action starting in June, 2007 to protect their territory from exploratory drilling by Frontenac Ventures Corp., a uranium mining exploration company.
The province of Ontario had authorized the company to stake mining claims without consultation, in fact without even informing the First Nations. Canadian constitutional law shows a clear duty for governments to consult with First Nations before authorizing any resource extraction activity that may affect First Nation’s land or values. The Ardoch and the Shabot have consistently called on the Ontario government, without success, to engage in formal consultations in order to agree on uses of traditional Algonquin territory.
In August and September, Frontenac succeeded in getting Ontario judges to issue injunctions against the two First Nations and their supporters denying Frontenac access to the land. They carried on nevertheless, and several First Nations leaders were cited for contempt of court. The parties agreed to mediated talks in October, but talks broke down in early February before consultations as such began. This was due to the Ontario government’s refusal to entertain a full range of possible outcomes, including a mining moratorium.
Contempt proceedings in mid-February led to Lovelace’s sentence. In testimony Lovelace explained that Algonquin law required him to act to protect Algonquin land, adding that he found himself in a “dilemma” due to the conflicting demands of Ontario and Algonquin law. On February 15, 2008, Judge Douglas Cunningham of the Ontario Superior Court sentenced Lovelace to six months in jail, and fined him $25,000.
Ontario’s legal system is punishing Lovelace because the government refuses to enter into consultation without pre-determined outcomes. A legal system that does not carry within it effective mechanisms for ensuring meaningful consultation with First Nations is unjust and violates Supreme Court rulings regarding the principles of “consultation, accommodation and consent” when dealing with Aboriginal inherent rights.
Dear Premier McGuinty:
I am deeply concerned that an Ontario court has sentenced Bob Lovelace, a highly respected leader in the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, to six months in prison and a $25,000 fine for nonviolently defending his people’s land. Judge Douglas Cunningham of the Ontario Superior Court sentenced Lovelace for contempt of court in relation to actions the Ardoch have taken to prevent access to their traditional territory for exploratory drilling by Frontenac Ventures Corporation. Lovelace has said that the Ardoch are taking these actions solely because the Ontario government is refusing to enter into meaningful consultations over uranium mining on land to which they have a legal claim.
Supreme Court rulings mandate the Ontario government to enter into consultations with First Nations before development on unceded land in their traditional territory can proceed. I urge you to instruct your government to immediately initiate such consultations. This is an opportunity for the federal and provincial governments to build a more honourable relationship with First Nations than they have in the past. Please take full advantage of this historic opportunity.
Further, I urge you to instruct the Attorney General to undertake a review of the sentence handed down by Judge Cunningham. Lovelace is a First Nations person who as a matter of conscience acted in defense of his people’s survival and rights. The use of punitive law in these circumstances is a blot on Ontario’s and Canada’s honour. Free Bob Lovelace.
Premier Dalton McGuinty
Room 281, Queen’s Park
Main Legislative building
Phone: (416) 325-1941
Hon. Chuck Strahl
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
House of Commons
Phone: (toll-free) 1-800-567-9604
Christian Peacemaker Teams Canada
25 Cecil St.
CategoriesIndigenous Peoples Solidarity