MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada Uranium update

Published by MAC on 2008-02-15

Canada Uranium update

15th February 2008

Two leaders of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation appeared in an Ontario courtoom last week, accused of violating an injuction prohibiting them from blocking a uranium mining operation. Chief Paula Sherman has agreed to stop participating in protests, to avoid going to jail.

A junior company from Vancouver, BC, Kaminak Gold Corp., has announced striking a deal to explore for uranium, with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., an incorporated organisation representing Inuit in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

Algonquin co-chief to stop her uranium protest to avoid jail

CBC News

15th February 2008

An aboriginal leader sentenced to time behind bars for defying two court orders and blocking a prospective uranium mining site has agreed to stop participating in protests so she can avoid going to jail.

Paula Sherman and Robert Lovelace, co-chiefs of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, were sentenced to six months in jail by Justice Douglas Cunningham in a Kingston, Ont., court Friday after being found guilty of contempt of court. Sherman was also fined $15,000 and Lovelace $25,000.

Both had admitted to their involvement in protests on the property, near Sharbot Lake, Ont., about 60 kilometres north of Kingston. Two court injunctions had given the mining exploration company Frontenac Ventures Corp. access to the site to do test drilling for uranium.

The Algonquin protesters have argued the site is on their land and they fear that uranium drilling could lead to environmental contamination.

The Ardoch leaders' sentences were met by an outcry from dozens of supporters who packed the courtroom throughout the hearings this week.

But shortly after the courtroom emptied, Sherman returned to announce that she would obey the court injunctions in order to avoid serving time, as she is the single mother of three children. That means she must stay away from the site and not participate in any protests there.

The judge agreed, but said Sherman must still pay her fine.

Protesters from both the Shabot Obaadjiwan and Ardoch Algonquin First Nations occupied the disputed site from late June to mid-October last year despite court injunctions granted in response to requests from the company. The injunctions ordered the Algonquins off the site and gave police the authority to arrest them.

The occupation ended after the Ontario government agreed to mediation talks, but began again this month after those talks failed.

Shabot Obaadjiwan Chief Doreen Davis and another senior official from her community told the court earlier during the sentencing hearings that they plan to honour the court orders. At the time, Ardoch leaders gave no indication that they planned to obey the injunctions.


Aboriginal Leaders Face Jail Time for Uranium Protest

Press release

14th February 2008

Two leaders of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation will appear in a Kingston court tomorrow morning to learn whether they will be jailed for refusing to comply with an injunction which prohibits them from blocking a uranium mining company which has plans to explore land which is claimed by the Algonquins as theirs.

The blockade began in June, 2007 when the Algonquins discovered that Frontenac Ventures Corporation had begun removing trees and blasting rock in preparation for an aggressive program of exploration for uranium near Sharbot Lake, located in eastern Ontario’s Ottawa valley. The company has hopes of seeing an open pit uranium mine on the site. The First Nation had not been consulted, or even notified, before Frontenac began the destruction of their territory, with the approval of the Ontario government.

Chief Paula Sherman and former Chief Robert Lovelace were held in contempt of court this week for their refusal to obey the injunction against their community’s protest. Lawyers for Frontenac Ventures have asked Justice Cunningham of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to impose lengthy jail terms and stiff fines. In addition they asked the court to prohibit the Algonquins from pursuing legal action challenging the constitutional validity of Ontario’s Mining Act which does not require consultation with First Nations before mineral exploration proceeds.

Chief Sherman, said “It’s sad that it has come to this. The government of Ontario has refused to consult with our community about uranium exploration on our land, despite several Supreme Court decisions which clearly say that governments must consult us before approving industrial activities on our land. The failure of the province to respect Aboriginal rights protected under the Constitution has led to this mess.”

Robert Lovelace added: “None of us wants to go to jail or pay punitive fines, and I will miss my children terribly if I am incarcerated, but we are bound by Algonquin law which prohibits uranium mining and exploration in our territory. I cannot obey the injunction.”

Last month leaders of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation in northern Ontario were found in contempt of court in a similar case involving mineral exploration on land claimed by First Nations. They will be sentenced in April.

For more information please contact:
Robert Lovelace: (613) 532-2166
Chris Reid (lawyer) (416) 666-2914
Joan Kuyek, National co-ordinator
MiningWatch Canada
tel 613-569-3439

Ardoch Algonquin First Nation

Statement on Uranium Issue

11th February 2008

In early December Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, along with our Neighbours, Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation entered into mediated negotiations with Ontario to resolve the underlying issues that led to direct action at the Robertsville site. While Ardoch cannot speak for Shabot Obaadjiwan, Ardoch Algonquin people entered into the negotiation process with cautious optimism that this process might lead to actual discussions that would address the illegitimacy of the mining claims and land use permits issued by Ontario's Mining and Northern Development and Natural Resources. Ardoch's position has not shifted and we still maintain that Ontario had no legal right to issue land use permits or mineral claims on our community lands within the larger Algonquin homeland since those lands had never been ceded nor sold to the crown.

In retrospect the mediated negotiation process with Ontario was doomed to failure from the start as Ontario had no real intention of addressing the underlying issues which led to FVC's own action to file a claim and stake over 30,000 acres of our community lands. In reality, FVC's mineral claims should not have been processed at all as there was no transfer of title or jurisdiction from Ardoch Algonquin First Nation or even the larger Algonquin Nation, which encompasses billions of acres in what is now Ontario and Quebec. No transfer of title or ownership means the lands in question remain under the jurisdiction of Algonquin people, not the province of Ontario or even Canada. As such Ontario had no legal right to issue mineral claims, and it's this negligence that Ontario refused to deal with or take responsibility for in the negotiation process.

The failure to reach a resolution rests squarely on the shoulders of the province and not with the Algonquin people who participated in the process. While we entered into the negotiations in good faith, with the understanding that our concerns would be addressed and discussed, Ontario entered into it with a predetermined mandate and understanding with Frontenac that they would be allowed to drill, no matter the outcome. This became very obvious to us on the last day of negotiations when MMND representative Cam Clark admitted that Ontario's position was that drilling would have to occur alongside any actual consultation process that was started between the parties. For Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, pre-determined drilling was a non-starter which left us with no choice but to withdraw from the process. As a result of our refusal to continue in a process that has a pre-determined mandate to allow drilling, we are once again being constructed as criminals and villains by Frontenac Ventures and the Ontario court system.

In reality, it is Algonquin people and our homeland that are the actual victims in this process. While FVC may feel inconvenienced as a result of Ontario's negligence, Algonquin people are suffering violations of our human rights that have the potential to deprive us of actual existence as people in the future. While FVC is concerned about profits, we are concerned about our ability to have life as people. While this way of understanding the world is difficult for many to grasp, including FVC and Ontario, it is very clear to us. Our identity as distinct people (as Algonquin people), is embedded in the relationships that we maintain with the Natural World within our homeland. That identity has developed over thousands of years and is the result of a historical process of relating that must be maintained in a balanced way for us to survive into the future as distinct people.

Uranium exploration on our community lands is a violation of our human rights because it will negatively impact our relations within our homeland which we depend on for the continuation of our collective identity. Without those relationships we have no future as people. Given the fact that the "right to life" is upheld in international legislation and within the Constitution Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (all of which Canada holds dear and broadcasts to the world), it distresses us greatly that we seem to be the only human beings whose "rights to life" as people are cast aside and continually violated. How much longer do we and our homeland have to suffer this colonial legacy before Ontario and Canada truly becomes cognisant of the past and the treatment of Indigenous peoples?

While FVC and Ontario continue to construct us as the villains, we are not criminals committing criminal acts; we are people taking a stand to protect and maintain our relationships within our homeland. We are required to do this under our own law which predates the establishment of Ontario or Canada. We are the ones whose human rights are continually being violated and whose relationships with the Natural World are continually being compromised by the actions of government officials who allow companies to exploit those lands and waterscapes for which we have the ultimate responsibility to protect. So while FVC may indeed be inconvenienced by Ontario's negligence, that inconvenience cannot possibly compare to the human rights violations we will suffer as people as a result of uranium exploration and mining within our community lands.

Ardoch Algonquin First Nation has no choice but to continue to prohibit uranium exploration and mining on our community lands which have been staked by FVC. While we will not prevent access to private property, we cannot allow a drill to be brought onto our lands from any adjacent private property and will stop any such drill from having access. This stance will no doubt lead to actions against our leaders including the possibility of arrest, fines of $50,000 in compensation to FVC and $5,000 a day fines for preventing the drill from having access to our lands. These actions against our leaders have been requested in the contempt order filed by FVC which will be heard in Kingston beginning on Tuesday. We are calling on other Indigenous peoples and Canadian citizens to attend the court process to show FVC and Ontario that colonialism against Indigenous peoples must stop and that Canada and Ontario must take responsibility for the past or this issue will continue to skyrocket until someone is hurt or worse.

NTI gets a stake in uranium business: "We need to be partners. We need to be owners."

by John Thompson, Nunatsiaq News

8th February 2008

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is getting into the uranium business.

A junior mining company from Vancouver, Kaminak Gold Corp., announced Jan. 31 that it had struck a deal with NTI to explore for uranium in the Kivalliq region, about 200 km inland from Whale Cove.

The deal, or memorandum of understanding, is unusual for a few reasons.

It's the first time NTI has given permission for a company to hunt for the radioactive material on Inuit-owned land.

More importantly, the deal would give NTI partial ownership of the spin-off company created by Kaminak to search for uranium.

James Eetoolook, first vice-president of NTI, says his organization plans to cash in on mining every way it can in order to help lift Inuit out of poverty.

"We need to see our people be part of the process. We don't want to sit back and see big companies run the whole show," he said.

"We need to be partners. We need to be owners."

Eetoolook stresses the deal is in the early stages. But, if it goes well, he said he hopes to see other similar agreements in the future.

"I'm pretty sure there will be more. I'd like to see more. We'd like to be part of the development of Nunavut."

Beneficiaries who oppose uranium mining won't be happy with the deal, Eetoolook acknowledged.

But he said "the world is changing, and people are changing as well. We see opportunities. We see benefits."

NTI's uranium policy, approved this autumn, supports uranium mining, as long as it doesn't harm Inuit, wildlife or the environment.

The policy overturned a longstanding ban on mining uranium that was introduced after Baker Lake residents overwhelmingly voted against the development of the Kiggavik uranium mine in 1990.

But since then, as Eetoolook said, much has changed. The price of uranium has soared. Countries such as China are hungry for the material to fuel their nuclear power plants. And some now see nuclear power as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to burning fossil fuels.

Yet uranium remains controversial, largely because it can be used to build nuclear bombs, and the radioactive waste produced by nuclear power plants must be carefully stored for thousands of years.

Under the deal with Kaminak, NTI would get one million shares of the new company, which has not yet been named. It's unclear how big a piece of the company this will be, as the total number of shares has not yet been announced.

NTI would also get an annual payment of $50,000 in royalties, as the owner of subsurface rights to the land.

And, once a feasibility study is complete, NTI would have the choice of either taking a 25 per cent interest in the company, or 7.5 per cent of net profits.

As well, if the company produces 12 million pounds of uranium, it must pay NTI $1 million.

The deal gives Kaminak the right to explore 18,000 acres. When added to surrounding properties that Kaminak controls, the company now has rights to explore 250,000 acres. It calls the whole area Angilak, which is Inuktitut for "biggest."

The property includes the high-grade Lac Cinquante deposit, which Kaminak believes holds 11.6 million pound of uranium.


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