MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada: uranium strikes

Published by MAC on 2008-09-16

Harper says he'll open up Canadian firms to foreigners


12th September 2008

OTTAWA - Stephen Harper took his campaign to Halifax on Friday, promising to make it easier for foreign investors in Canada - and hoping for no more blunders by his Conservative war room.

The prime minister made six promises aimed at attracting foreign investment, including more than tripling the threshold for foreign investment reviews to $1 billion.

The Tories would increase the allowed level of foreign investment in airlines to 49 per cent from the current 25, and allow foreign companies to own Canadian uranium mines.

Harper also promised to create a new national security test to safeguard against a foreign company, for instance, buying a computer-chip product with military applications.

He said while his party believes in free trade, the government will step in when it feels the national interest is at stake.

"This government believes in free trade and open investment. But we also know how and when to stand up for our national interests."

Harper is trying to overcome a rough first week that has seen a flip-flop and at least two gaffes by his officials.

On Thursday, Harper moved swiftly to suspend party communications director Ryan Sparrow over a partisan swipe at a dead soldier's dad. Sparrow was disciplined for implying that Jim Davis's criticism of Harper's Afghanistan policy was politically motivated.

On Tuesday, Harper was forced to apologize for a sophomoric Tory website ad showing a bird pooping on Liberal Leader Stephane Dion.

And the prime minister had to backtrack Wednesday amid public outrage after threatening to boycott the leaders debate if Green Leader Elizabeth May was allowed to participate.

As Harper tried to get back on message in Halifax, NDP Leader Jack Layton was in St. John's, N.L., trying to win over voters.

He promised to get tough on fees and fuel pricing - including gasoline, which soared by up to 13 cents a litre overnight in the face of a massive hurricane threat to wells off Texas.

Layton took aim at what he called the "unacceptable and outrageous" practices of many banks, oil companies, telecom and credit-card firms.

"Every day, Canadians are paying millions of dollars due to price-gouging and hidden fees of all kinds," he said. "It's wrong and it's got to stop."

Layton said the party would cap credit-card interest rates by amending the bank act to limit them to five per cent over prime.

He would also crack down on payday loan companies, restricting their exorbitant interest rates - and ban ATM fees.

"You shouldn't have to pay to access your own money," Layton said.

Dion took his campaign to British Columbia where his Liberal party trails both the Tories and the NDP.

MNR drops charges against Gemmill's, Frontenac Ventures

Jeff Green, Frontenac News

4th September 2008

Anti-uranium activists who attended at the Sharbot Lake Provincial Offences Court last Thursday, August 28, were surprised to find the case they wanted to monitor was over before it started.

Charges stemming from activities of Gemmill's Construction and Frontenac Ventures on Crown Land near the Robertsville mine were withdrawn, and the case was over before it had started.

"This is the way things work," said Ardoch Algonquin acting chief Mireille LaPointe when she found out about the decision, "They can do what they want on the land and the government lets them get away with it."

Members of the Ardoch Algonquin and the Shabot Obaadjiwaan First Nations blockaded the Robertsville mine for four months last year, claiming that the Frontenac Ventures' exploration project was taking place on unceded Algonquin territory. It was during the occupation that they discovered that some of the road work that had already been done adjacent to the site seemed to them to be in contravention of Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) regulations.

They were able to convince the MNR to press charges but an MNR representative told the court that, in looking more closely at the case, they could see that a conviction was unlikely, and the charges were withdrawn.

Frontenac Ventures President George White was pleased with the decision. "The charges were trumped up to begin with," he told the News, "and when we pointed out to them that we have cooperated with the MNR and with the Ministry of the Environment from the start, they knew this was going nowhere."

White added that Frontenac Ventures is completing geological work on the site and is also in the midst of negotiations aimed at signing a memorandum of understanding with the Shabot Obadjiwaan and Snimikobi First Nations regarding the company's test drilling program, which is set to commence soon.

The Ardoch Algonquins are not party to these negotiations, but have been involved in direct talks with the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs. However, those talks have now apparently broken off, reportedly because among other things, the government did not agree to consult with the Ardoch Algonquins prior to allowing Frontenac Ventures to begin their drilling program.

In the meantime Robert Potts, the chief negotiator for the Algonquin Land Claim, is trying to clarify who counts as an Algonquin representative and who doesn't.

In a letter sent to municipal councils Potts wrote, in part, "From time to time you may receive communications from persons claiming or implying that they are representatives of Algonquin communities ... ".

He then identified a list of 16 individuals, whom he described as "Algonquin Nation Representatives from whom I am taking direction."

The list includes Shabot Obaadjiwaan Chief Doreen Davis, and Randy Malcolm of the Snimikobi, also known as the Beaver Creek first Nation, listed under the heading "Ardoch".

Uranium Ban Hunger Striker Brings Message To Fredericton

Chris Fox, Canada Press

4th September 2008

FREDERICTON, NB (CP) -- Donna Dillman once went more than two months without eating and she often thinks about doing it again.

She said little has changed since she launched her hunger strike almost two years ago to protest a proposed uranium mine near Sharbot Lake, Ont., north of Kingston.

"Uranium is one of the most toxic things known to man and we need a planet-wide moratorium on it. ... That hasn't happened yet," she said.

"There is no excuse for it either. I used to think that uranium mining is about big money, but it's not. It's about nuclear weapons and as long as you are buying into it, you are buying into the processing that enables bombs."

Uranium mining is allowed in New Brunswick, but legislation introduced in July prohibits it from being done in watersheds, cities, villages, or within 300 metres of any residential or institutional building.

Some New Brunswickers have become increasingly concerned about uranium prospecting on their properties in recent years.

Dillman said those restrictions aren't enough.

"The distance requirement is meaningless because with wind you may as well do the mining under the house," she said.

Dillman, who lived in a tent on the side of a highway outside of Ottawa for most of her hunger strike, said a moratorium similar to ones already in place in British Columbia and Nova Scotia is the only solution.

And she said she wouldn't hesitate about going on a hunger strike again to make it happen.

"Some people think what I did was a little drastic, but I just couldn't imagine having my grandkids in 20 years become sick from this or give birth to a stillborn child or deformed child because of it," she said.

"We are coming to the point that we are all going to need to do something to stop this. If it became useful to do what I did again, I would."

Tracy Glynn, one of the organizers of Wednesday's event, said Dillman's experiences are invaluable.

"What Donna did was incredibly brave and selfless. She really provides an example for everyone here," Glynn said.

"What she has done is not typical of the type of the activism we usually see in Canada and she just really gave a clear message that uranium mining is not acceptable."

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