Stat ement on Uranium MiningPublished by MAC on 2007-06-23
Stat ement on Uranium Mining
Ardoch Algonquin First Nation
23th June 2007
Over the past year, Frontenac Ventures Corporation has appropriated Algonquin traditional lands near Ardoch, Ontario and begun the process of filing claims through the Northern Mining and Development for a geographic area that covers approximately 60 kilometres in Northern Frontenac County. FVC disclosed in a press release on May 30, 2007 that it has at its disposal a $3.5 million dollar budget to complete this project, including the implementation of a diamond drilling program at the site. Undoubtedly, some of the funds from this expected budget will come from Silvio Ventures Inc, who entered into a binding letter agreement with FVC on May 23, 2007. At the end of the proposed merger, a new company will emerge by the name of Amalco who will lead the Frontenac project as a subsidiary of Silvio. The mineral to be mined at this proposed site is uranium.
The plan to develop this site as a uranium mine, however, was done without the authority of Ardoch Algonquin First Nation. Furthermore, we were not consulted at all with respect to this plan as is our right as an Algonquin community who still holds Aboriginal title and rights to much of the land in question. As a corporation interested in our lands, FVC, did not follow an honourable path in their actions toward us, instead they choose to follow a historical path that has led to conflicts and blockades with other Indigenous peoples across Canada. Likewise, Ontario and Canada as the children of our British relatives have failed in their Constitutional duty to protect our lands and resources, a responsibility handed down to them through the Proclamation of the King in 1763.
This duty remains a morally and legally binding duty according to the Supreme Court of Canada who ruled in 2005 in the Haida Nation and Taku River cases that "the Crown has a duty, whenever it seeks to take action that stands to affect Aboriginal interests in a substantial way. What's more, the responsibility of the Crown with respect to its duties to Aboriginal peoples passed down in the Haida and Taku cases, was expanded further in March of 2005 in the Musqueam and Blaney cases. The judgements in these cases reveal that "the duty of government to consult and in appropriate cases to accommodate "is part of a process of fair dealing and reconciliation" with affected Aboriginal peoples where Aboriginal rights or title are in play.
The controlling question in cases such as this one is what is required on the part of the Crown (as well as its agents, and ministries) to maintain the honour of the Crown and to achieve reconciliation between the Crown and Aboriginal peoples as is required under Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982? Aboriginal title and rights are still in existence in the Kiji Sìbì (Ottawa Valley), including what became Northern Frontenac County. These lands were never ceded or surrendered to the Crown. As the Algonquin community holding title and rights within the lands in question, and as an Aboriginal community whose rights are embedded, recognized and guaranteed in the Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982, we understand that both the Province of Ontario and the federal government have Constitutional duties and obligations to protect our lands from the detrimental activities associated with uranium mining. What's more, Frontenac Ventures Corporation should not have been granted claims or staking rights on our traditional lands without prior notification by the Ministry of Mining and Northern Development, and they should not have been allowed to purchase our lands without our consent, as we are the only autonomous authority within those lands.
As indicated in the cases presented above, the courts are prepared to determine whether or not appropriate consultation and accommodation has occurred. Indeed, they are prepared to suspend court actions, licences, and order-in-council authorizing Crown activity. As a First Nation responsible for the health and vitality of those lands, we will not allow our lands to be appropriated in this way without our participation, agreement, and consent for the activities that are proposed for that site. We therefore demand that the Ministry of Mining and Northern Development and the Province of Ontario clear up this issue and facilitate the shutting down of all mining exploration, staking, and drilling by FVC now occurring, or planning to occur on our lands. We also demand that the Ministry of Mining and Northern Development and the Province of Ontario facilitate the removal of all FVC equipment and personal belongings from our lands by June 29 2007.
This decision is based upon the fact that our Aboriginal title and rights have been violated by FVC and the Ministry of Mining and Northern Development, as well as the realization that uranium mining will destroy the ecological balance and sustainability of the Natural World and will have particular impacts on local water tables which will in turn contaminate waterways throughout the Kiji Sìbì. At the end of this process people living within Northern Frontenac County could very well be left with no other option but to purchase water (as is the case in Kitigan Zibi) as all wells will be contaminated from the tailings left behind from the mining process. Tailings can never be disposed of and will pollute the area for many unforeseen generations.
As Algonquin people, we also know that uranium mining will lead directly to our social, spiritual, and cultural demise as our collective identity as people requires a continual relationship with the land in which we interact and carry out our cultural and spiritual activities and ceremonies on a daily basis. If the land is contaminated and altered as a result of the proposed mine, the animals and beings that we depend on for our survival will also disappear, leaving us with no possibility for survival. Vacating the area is not an option for us as this land is our home and has been the home of our people for hundreds of years. As Algonquin people there is no other place that we can go and be ourselves except for this place which is our homeland. We do not have the option that FVC has to pack up and leave once their destruction of our lands is complete.
We are not the only victims who will suffer this fate, many private land owners in the vicinity of our lands have also had their lands staked as potential sites for drilling. The same fate will await them if the project is not stopped. Our concern with those lands goes deeper than just the fate of the present inhabitants; however, because we believe that although our neighbours purchased their lands in good faith, the original title for those lands was not acquired legally by the British or Canada upon Confederation. While we have no plans to recover those lands through legal action, we do hold the government responsible for their loss and intend to seek restitution in the future. Since those lands were acquired illegally, and without the consent of Algonquin people, we reserve our Aboriginal interest in those lands and do not want uranium mining to occur on those lands either. This is particularly the case since the present inhabitants of those lands have no power to stop it unless they hold the mineral rights in their deeds.
As Aboriginal people, our relationships with all of the lands in question are complicated which is why it is not possible for us to make memorandums of understanding or co-agreements with citizens or environmental groups. With respect to our lands, the issue is one of autonomy and sovereignty which requires us to pursue options outside the parameters available to citizens or environmental groups. This fact does not prevent us, however, from meeting or working in unison with citizens or environmental groups to stop the mining from taking place. It just requires an understanding by everyone involved that our responsibilities as Algonquin people require a different approach than can be utilized within such groups. That being said, there is a lot that we can do together as human beings to stop this mining from occurring.
We call on other Aboriginal communities, concerned Canadian citizens, and environmental groups to get involved in this issue. There has never been a safe uranium mine anywhere in the world, in spite of FVC declarations that uranium mining is completely safe and harmless to the environment.