MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada Uranium update

Published by MAC on 2008-02-27

Canada Uranium update

27th February 2008

Ottawa City Council has passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on uranium mining in eastern Ontario.

In a passionate sermon for Lent, the Rev. David Spivey, a United Church Minister, denounced the imprisonment of Bob Lovelace of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation for his role in peaceful protests against Frontenac Ventures' proposed uranium mine on Algonquin land.

Declared David Spivey: "[Lovelace] believes there are greater interests to protect than just our own. And he is right"

Ottawa council calls for uranium moratorium in eastern Ontario

CBC News

27th February 2008

OTTAWA (CBC) - Ottawa city council is urging Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to temporarily ban uranium prospecting, exploration and mining in eastern Ontario and the Ottawa River watershed.

The council voted 18-1 Wednesday in favour of a motion calling on the province to impose the moratorium immediately and to keep it in effect until:

- All environmental and health issues related to uranium mining are "resolved."

- There are settlement plans for all related aboriginal land claims.

The same motion calls on the province to do a public review of its 1990 Mining Act.

The motion had been recommended by the city's community and protective services committee after the city received a petition with 1,000 signatures opposing uranium mining and exploration in eastern Ontario.

It had also received a call for help from the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation near Sharbot Lake, Ont., which has been fighting uranium exploration on land it claims as its own. The site is about 100 kilometres southwest of Ottawa.

Councillors voice concerns

Before passing the motion, many councillors, including Marianne Wilkinson, expressed concern about the potential health risks of uranium mining.

"With a large urban centre, you've got to be very careful with how you're exposing the radioactive materials," she said. "We certainly don't want it getting into the Ottawa River, which is our drinking water supply."

David Salisbury, the city's chief medical officer of health, said a mine in Sharbot Lake could pose a health risk in Ottawa.

"It doesn't take much from a run-off point of view to get into the aquifer and then contaminate that aquifer and make that unusable for human consumption," he said. "Removing heavy metals from human water supplies is very difficult."

The lone councillor who voted against the motion, Gord Hunter, argued that the council was overstepping its jurisdiction, as mineral rights are a provincial responsibility.

He added that he is concerned that the city has only heard from uranium opponents and isn't getting the other side of the story.

He also said he is not sure the risks are as serious as opponents say.

Nuclear power using uranium as fuel is one of the "best proven alternatives" to burning fossil fuels as a source of electricity, Hunter said. The uranium mining industry has also attracted new residents to areas such as Elliott Lake, Ont., and Uranium City, Sask., he said.

A community and protective services committee report on the issue noted that under the Mining Act, licensed prospectors have a statutory right to stake mining claims and conduct assessment work on the given properties even if the surface rights are privately held.

The act also states that the holder of the claim doesn't need to inform the landowner about prospecting activities until just before that activity takes place.


BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Community and Protective Services Committee direct City Council to:

1) Petition the Province of Ontario and Premier Dalton McGuinty to initiate an immediate moratorium on uranium mineral prospecting, exploration and mining in Eastern Ontario and the Ottawa River watershed until such a time that all environmental and health issues related to uranium mining and native land claims are resolved;

2) That City of Ottawa petitions the Province of Ontario to undertake an immediate comprehensive public review of the Mining Act, 1990.

A Law anchored in faith

Sermon preached at the Plevna-Ompah Pastoral Charge on the Second Sunday in Lent 2008 by Rev. David Spivey

Scriptures used: Genesis 12:1-4, Psalm 24, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17, John 3:1-17

Sermon time opened with the reciting of the New Creed

"In light of the events of this past week, I want to point out just how important it is if we choose to repeat this creed to understand what it demands of us, what we are undertaking to do, what could be the implications of doing it. There are those now living with the very painful consequences of being true to their creed, and they are being vilified for it – big time. Next month more will in all likelihood join their ranks.

This will be a political sermon, and I make no apology for that.

What I have witnessed this past week has given a whole new dimension to my Lenten meditations. I believe I have just witnessed Empire and Vested Interest join forces and attempt to crush the spirit of a people – and seeming to succeed. I can't help drawing some parallels as we approach the great anti-climax of Good Friday that never managed to do that – although it tried very hard. One man carried the burden.

On Friday morning this week one man carried the burden, all the way to the prison in Napanee – although I would imagine that Robert Lovelace might be quite embarrassed by the comparison. But it is a vivid image of that same humiliating, cruel process etched into my mind this Lenten season.

Systematically, Chief Doreen Davis and Earl Bedore were effectively silenced – their voices of dissent and protest taken away. Their right to counsel their people on this matter denied.

Systematically, Chief Paula Sherman and ex-Chief Harold Perry were effectively silenced – their voices of dissent and protest taken away. Their right to counsel their people on this matter denied.

On behalf of all of us, Bob Lovelace refused to be silenced.

" It remains to be seen how three others will be treated – one representing a passionate movement working for peace and reconciliation and justice; one who has seen, first-hand, the sad consequences of a penal system that diminishes individuals; and one who could be virtually impossible to silence under any circumstances.

The story of the ever-present Cross in humanity's life came very, very close to me this week, and I am truly distressed and struggling. I keep going back to the Creed we recited together a moment or two ago and which frightens me whenever I read it. So much of what was done this past week seems to me to fly in the face of and show contempt for the principles that are enshrined in that Creed.

Now what an interesting word that is that was chosen to describe the passionate reaction of many people in many places to injustice and unjust rulings and flawed legal systems. "Contempt". What I was sensing from the crowd in the Courtroom on Friday – which finally burst out with its own protest as sentence was passed – was contempt for a system that seems so blatantly to ignore the contradictory nature of some laws, and can brush aside the deep beliefs that go much deeper than any written legal code.

" One of the declared intentions for imposing the heavy penalty on Bob Lovelace in the Judge's sentencing speech was to "send a message" that such violations of the law would not be tolerated. I fear that "the message" that was heard, certainly by many of those observing the proceedings, was "Empire and Corporate Business Interests are not to be toyed with", and if that was a warning to cease and desist in this particular struggle around the proposed uranium mine it sounded more like a dare than an order.

I don't want publicly to draw too many comparisons between those involved in the proceedings this week and other characters in the Holy Week story. But I have to say I am struggling with that, too. The broad strokes of Holy Week seem to superimpose themselves uncannily and uncomfortably on every situation where power and injustice seem to have seeped into the picture. And without detracting one iota from the propriety of the rule of law, I maintain that there is a wide gulf often separating Justice from that Rule of Law. They are not by any means synonymous.

" I'm living right now with shame. My own shame about where I fit, and where I might be inclined, or willing, to fit into all of this. Shame about the ongoing disregard for the depth of passion and wisdom and grace in our Aboriginal neighbours by our "systems". Shame about my convenient acceptance of privilege in a world that is rife with under-privilege or no privilege at all. Shame is not an easy thing to live with or to struggle with and I really don't know where I will come out on that. What I do know is that my faith connects me with the source of life and that it is in that connection that I must seek out my answers.

I want to go back a little to that Creed we recited and make some links between what it says and what we read from the Scriptures this morning and see what kind of clues we can find as we struggle with the pain of what many of us witnessed in court.

Our New Creed begins . . . "We are not alone, we live in God's world"

Psalm 24 begins . . . "The earth is God's and all that is in it; the world and those who live upon it. For God founded it upon the seas, planted it firm over the waters beneath."

" As Bob Lovelace outlined the context for what has been happening, all this became very clear. This earth is not ours, however many little pockets of it we think we own. And if the earth is in danger of being abused or misused, we have a duty to protect it. This isn't just an Aboriginal belief, it is basic to the teachings of all the great religions of the world. It is right there in the first chapter of Genesis – the first book in the Jewish Scripture and the first book in ours – humanity is appointed steward, to protect and nourish the earth. That understanding may have become lost in the labyrinths of our western acquisitive mentality, but not in Aboriginal understandings of how precious the earth is, and how fragile it is, and how vulnerable it is when we meddle too much with its balance.

This was at the heart of the presentation we heard on Wednesday, but it was deemed irrelevant in the context of the charges and so it was set aside. What we were about in court it seems was the issue of possession of the earth and the right to do what we want with that part of it we claim as our own. What the protest has been all about is reflected further down in our Creed where it says, "We are called to . . . live with respect in Creation" and it would seem that numerous area municipalities, as well as the local Algonquin people don't believe that we are doing that and have called for a moratorium on the mining of uranium in this part of Canada. There appears to be a deeper, more fundamental law that we are being called to heed than the written code that gave rise to the hearings and the penalties this week.

" Paul talks about the difference between those two understandings of law in that passage from Romans, and suggests that the law that so often dictates our behaviour is almost always geared in some way to the possibility of punishment, and that however hard we try to set ourselves on the right side of that law we are vulnerable. Then there is the law that relies on trust in a God who guides us, rehabilitates us, forgives us when we go astray, does not list our misdemeanors on a record sheet – in short a law based on a trusting relationship, where disappointment may be very real, but vindictiveness and the notion of an eye for an eye and heavy punitive damages are totally absent. There is the possibility of change, and a guiding spiritual presence that helps that change to happen.

John opens up that teaching in the conversation he records between Jesus and Nicodemus which anchors the whole teaching in the self giving grace of the Creator. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might find its way back to grace. We have almost lost the capacity to re-learn these basic lessons of life when we brush aside the teachings of those who are so much closer to their true spiritual roots than we are, and not only that, but silence them and punish them into the bargain – all for the sake of market and profit.

" My personal journey through Lent is going to force me back onto that track of trust and faith in the God who calls us and promises us his presence on the uncertain trek through life. We don't know for sure where we are called to go – just that we are called to leave a lot of things behind us and discover God's direction for our future. We don't even know what will happen - to us, or for us - along the way, except that God's grace is always there, God's Spirit is always part of our journey and we are called to dare small and great things as partners with God in Creation.

Along the way we will almost certainly encounter things that stand in contempt of God's law and which threaten the well-being of others and which are unjust and unfair and, in the grand tradition of that magnificent band of Old Testament prophets, "out" those things, expose the wretchedness of indifference to the lives of people around us, risk raising our voices in protest against those things that favour some and demean others.

Somebody sits in prison right now because he refused to abandon his conviction that there is a higher law than the one we so often rely on to protect our interests. He believes there are greater interests to protect than just our own. And he's right. "


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