Aboriginal Justice: Prayer as Insistent as the Rain


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.