PLATINEX SUING FIRST NATIONSPublished by MAC on 2006-06-02
PLATINEX SUING FIRST NATIONS
ONTARIO TODAY HR 1 (CBC-R), NATIONAL
Anchor/Reporters: ALAN NEAL, JODY PORTER
2nd June 06
ALAN NEAL, ANNOUNCER: Now of course land disputes involving First Nations are becoming familiar ground for people in Ontario not only the Caledonia situation but in Northern Ontario. There's a case of a First Nation being sued for $10 million by an exploration company. You may remember this company says the protest by the First Nations disrupted its search for platinum and in that case is bringing to light what some people are calling an alarming new development in the way these disputes are handled. The CBC's Jody Porter joins us from our Thunder Bay studio with more details on that alarming development. Hi, Jody.
JODY PORTER, REPORTER: Hey, Alan.
NEAL: So what is this alarming new development?
PORTER: Well it's the use of a former soldier to provide security for a private company doing business on disputed land and to get to why that's alarming some people – put your parka on, Alan, we're going to go back to February.
NEAL: Oh, okay, great thanks.
PORTER: You might remember that's when an exploration company called Platinex was looking for platinum and palladium near Big Trout Lake.
PORTER: But the people of the nearby First Nations that's Kitchenuhmaykoosib issued the company with an eviction notice. The community said the exploration work was a violation of its ban on resource development on their traditional lands.
NEAL: Told them to get out.
Exactly. We now know that after they were served with the eviction notice the company brought in a former British Army officer named Paul Gladstone.
NEAL: How did we find this out?
PORTER: Well it's part of that lawsuit, that $10 billion lawsuit you mentioned in the introduction. Platinex is suing the community over the eviction and Gladstone had to file an [2J[H affidavit as part of those proceedings.
NEAL: Okay, so they brought in a former British army officer. Why is that so alarming?
PORTER: Well it has to do with Paul Gladstone's military background and his experience providing security to mines in South America and the middle East. A spokesperson for Kitchenuhmaykoosib says bec ause of those two factors he has serious concerns about Gladstone's role in this dispute. John Cutfeet says the fact that Platinex brought in an ex- soldier to deal with the conflict makes him think of the way that land disputes are settled in the third world.
JOHN CUTFEET, SPLESMAN, KITCHENUHMAYKOOSIB FIRST NATION:
You've heard of situations in other countries where there's these people ending up starring down the barrels of guns of the military and the police. So this is something at a different scale. That is a concern that they were prepared to send this person, a mercenary if you will, to come and enforce the drug program.
NEAL: Wait a second, Jody, mercenary, it's a fairly loaded word.
PORTER: I thought so too. I've heard it a couple of times working on this story and so I looked it up in the dictionary, it's definition there, "a foreign soldier hired for private gain."
NEAL: So what do we know about Mr. Gladstone?
PORTER: His private securities firm Wonderlic and Gladstone have offices in Canada and the U.S. and that's where I reached him. Gladstone was understandably reluctant to talk about the specifics of this case because it's currently before the court. But he did say he'd be happy to talk to me once the case concludes because he thinks there will be a growing demand for his services as mineral exploration heats up here in Northern Ontario.
NEAL: So much as I understand what his services actually are was he armed when he went to the drilling camp?
PORTER: Well that's something I haven't been able to find out but the lawyers in the court case are planning to ask him that question once they get him in court.
NEAL: So did the company explain why it hired this former soldier in a dispute? So then how does the company explain its hiring of a former soldier in this dispute?
Affidavits filed by the company give the impression that employees were really frightened by the First Nations they encountered, the First Nations people they encountered.
NEAL: Right but does it explain what Gladstone actually did?
PORTER: Well in his account filed with the court he talks about meetings with the OPP. He's very critical of what he [2J[H sees of the OPPs unwillingness to provide the workers with security. He talks about scouting around for different routes for the workers to get away from the drilling site if need be. And he talks about meeting with chief and councilors and various people from the community. And again he talks about being intimidated or frightened and the workers feeling that way too.
I should say, Alan, that the chief of Kitchenuhmaykoosib has a very different version of events. He described it to me as having a relaxed cup of tea over the camp fire at the drilling site with Gladstone and the workers.
NEAL: So slightly different views of what happened.
PORTER: Definitely. So these discrepancies will get hammered out in court but in the meantime because of the lawsuit media questions to Platinex are now going through their lawyer. And here's how Neil Smitheman explains Gladstone's role.
NEIL SMITHEMAN, PLATINEX LAWYER: Well the company felt that it needed someone who had some experience. Could act as a spokesperson for the company. Mr. Gladstone, in particular, had the security expertise as well to assess and manage a potentially - what was perceived as a potentially volatile situation to ensure that it - this is the kind of thing that would not get out of hand.
NEAL: But experience and expertise in what, did they ever explain this?
PORTER: In - well they talked about his experience in managing and assessing security situations. They also talked his experience in dealing with large equipment over long distances with the British military and that was something that was needed here for their drilling equipment.
NEAL: Oh, okay. Is there anything to suggest the First Nations should be concerned about private security hired by Platinex?
PORTER: Well Madelaine Drohan thinks it's the beginning of a disturbing trend. Drohan is a Canadian journalist and the author of "Making A Killing, How And Why Corporations Use Armed Force To Do Business." Her expertise, Alan, is in a third world country where mining companies regularly use hired soldiers to provide security at mine sites. Drohan sees similarities between this situation and what she's seen in other countries and she says she was surprised to hear about what's happening in Canada in Ontario at Kitchenuhmaykoosib.
MADELAINE DROHAN, AUTHOR: When emotions start getting hot and there's a protest over land, you know, things can get out of control very quickly and I would be concerned in this case that you couldn't get the police there fast enough to restore order and that someone might be hurt. But you know someone - the governments involved will really have to step in now and, you know, take a good look to prevent something [2J[H like that happening.
NEAL: So what is the government doing in this case. I mean certainly we've heard about the lack of action or the slow action in the case of Caledonia. What's happening here?
PORTER: Well they're becoming reluctant players in this case in Kitchenuhmaykoosib. You'll recall the government largely stayed out of the dispute as it was unfolding during the winter.
PORTER: But now as part as their defence to the Platinex to the lawsuit Kitchenuhmaykoosib has named the province as a third party in the case. They're arguing that since the province gave Platinex the permit to operate on land claimed by the First Nations it's the province that's to blame for this whole dispute.
So because the government is now involved in the lawsuit the Minister of Northern Development and Mines is among those who are reluctant to talk specifically about the situation. But I asked Rick Bartlucci to explain in general terms what he thinks of the use of former soldiers as private security during land disputes.
RICK BARTLUCCI, ONTARIO MINISTER OF NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT AND MINES: We would hope that through the engagement process along the way that there would be a relationship built up based on respect and trust and as we move forward we would move forward as partners in the development of any particular property. However, I can't micromanage what a particular mining company would choose to do.
NEAL: Huh! So when does all this go to court?
PORTER: The next court date is later this month. That's where things could begin to look a lot like Caledonia, Alan. The - like the developer there Platinex is asking for a court injunction to keep the First Nations protestors far away from its drilling camp so it can continue its work. So I'll let you know how that court date works out.
NEAL: Right, or if the court injunction is in fact any more effective than the judge put out in Caledonia as well. Jody, it's interesting, thanks very much.
PORTER: No problem.
NEAL: Jody Porter is with the CBC Radio in Thunder Bay.