Algonquin: Robertsville, Ontario

On February 3, 2008 and at the request of the Algonquin leadership, CPT reestablished a small violence-reduction team in the vicinity of the proposed uranium mine in Shabot Obaadjiwan and Ardoch Algonquin territory.

In September 2007, the two First Nations originally invited CPT to accompany them in their nonviolent efforts to protect their territory from uranium exploration. At that time, CPT established a small team which was recalled in October 2007 when a mediation process was agreed to between the Algonquins, the Ontario government and the mining company.

The mediation process ended in late January 2008 without resolving the conflict. Ontario's Ministry of Northern Development and Mines' continues to insist that exploratory drilling go on despite the Ministry having earlier given assurances that the question of drilling was subject to negotiation. A court order, suspended during negotiations, called on the First Nations and others not to impede the entrance of any Frontenac Ventures employees to the area under exploration.

In February 2008, Judge Cunningham of the Ontario Superior Court sentenced retired Ardoch Algonquin Chief Bob Lovelace to six months in jail and to heavy fines. Several other Algonquin leaders were either heavily fined or are awaiting sentencing. Three non-Aboriginal persons(including 2 CPTers) are also due to appear in court in March, 2008.

Conflict Background

This conflict has occurred because the Ontario government - without consent from the First Nations communities - granted Frontenac Ventures a license under the Ontario Mining Act to carry out exploratory drilling on sixty square kilometers of unceded Algonquin land. The Algonquins have never surrendered title to lands they have inhabited from time immemorial. The Royal Proclamation Act of 1763 and the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982 enshrine Aboriginal title in Canadian law.

Neither FV nor the Ontario government consulted with the Algonquin people before FV began its uranium exploration program. Canadian court decisions dating back seventeen years have ruled governments must consult Indigenous peoples and accommodate their concerns before undertaking resource exploitation projects on their territories. This duty to consult exists even when title to the land is in dispute.

Canadian courts have also ruled that where the potential harm to Indigenous rights is serious, governments should proceed only with the consent of the affected peoples. An open-pit uranium mine would release toxic radon gas and polonium and leave behind millions of tonnes of radioactive tailings that will permanently pollute groundwater. Even exploratory drilling alone could bring radioactive materials into contact with the water table, leading to its contamination.

CPT maintains that this land-use dispute is rooted in the Canadian government's historic neglect of legitimate Algonquin land and national sovereignty claims, and the unconstitutionality of the Ontario Mining Act. (The 100 year-old Mining Act makes no provision for consulting First Nations communities.)

In addition to maintaining a violence-reduction team in the area, CPT has organized three short-term delegations to the area, attended negotiations and court proceedings, organized a letter-writing campaign to Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino and organized or participated in public witnesses to call for a nonviolent resolution. CPT believes that a nonviolent resolution to this conflict is possible.