by Renee Borsberry
Early on the morning of July 21, five CPTers joined a group of Ardoch Algonquin First Nation (AAFN) members and local non-indigenous people (who refer to themselves as settlers) at the Robertsville, ON site where they have been resisting efforts by Frontenac Ventures Corporation to explore for uranium for over a year. The gathering was brief, lasting only about forty-five minutes, but the message was clear: NO MINING ON FIRST NATIONS TERRITORIES WITHOUT CONSENT.
Since spring of 2007, the AAFN along with neighboring Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation and local supporters have resisted the destructive practice of uranium mining on their traditional lands. The Shabot Obaadjiwan community is currently engaged in consultation proceedings with the Ontario government and Frontenac Ventures, hoping to eliminate or reduce mining on their lands.
A May 28 Court of Appeals ruling, which freed AAFN leader Bob Lovelace from jail, stated that this “situation cries out for dedicated negotiation among Ontario, the AAFN and Frontenac with a view to reconciliation of the competing interests.” The court declared that, before the Crown allows private companies access to lands claimed by First Nations, it must fulfill its mandate to consult these Nations and exhaust every effort to resolve the matter.
The decision represents another reaffirmation of First Nations’ sovereignty and asserts that the nineteenth-century Mining Act is inherently problematic and in need of change. First Nations communities are waiting to see if Ontario will finally be faithful to its mandate to consult.