Saturday August 30, 2008:
On February 15, Judge Cunningham of Ontario's Superior Court sentenced Lovelace to six months in jail for contempt of court and fined him $50,000 for his involvement in the peaceful protest.
Chief Paula Sherman, elected leader of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, a small community about 110 kilometres southwest of Ottawa, where the controversial uranium prospecting is taking place, calls Robert Lovelace "a political prisoner."
"It seems like a very heavy sentence," said Jamie Kneen of Mining Watch Canada, a non-governmental watchdog. "If the court had issued a trespassing charge, there could have been an argument about who was really trespassing."
The territory in question involves mainly Crown land that is subject to ongoing land-claim negotiations between First Nations and the provincial and federal governments.
In September 2007, an Ontario provincial court issued Frontenac Ventures, the mining company, an interlocutory injunction ordering protestors from Ardoch and Sharbot Lake First Nations, along with their non-native allies, to vacate the Robertsville camp. The camp is the only feasible entry point to a 30,000-acre wilderness tract in Frontenac County, where the company has its prospecting license. Lovelace and other activists violated that order.
"The source of this conflict is the Ontario Mining Act, which allows companies to stake land and prospect without consultation with private land owners or other users, including First Nations," said Kneen. Lovelace and other activists argue their constitutional rights were violated by the lack of consultation.
People living on or near the exploration site discovered their land was being taken almost two years ago. There were no community meetings or information sessions about the uranium exploration. "It started on private land when a cottager saw trees being cut and started protesting the development," said Kneen. A few months later it became clear that some of the land being staked was disputed territory.
"Uranium mining has no record other than environmental destruction and negative health issues," said Doreen Davis, chief of the Shabot Lake First Nation. "Uranium can't be stored safely," said Davis, who will be sentenced on March 18 for participating in the blockade. She is under court order not to talk about the dispute with Frontenac....
Because the company obtained a court order against protestors rather than filing trespassing charges, the judge was not required to consider arguments regarding historical precedent or Algonquin legal codes when making the decision. "It's a way of avoiding the core issues," said Kneen.
After a decade of low prices, the spot price of uranium has increased drastically in recent years, from $43 per pound in 2006, to $75 today.
As oil prices rise, countries have re-started old nuclear reactors and countries like South Africa, India and China have ambitious nuclear-power plans on the horizon. UBS, a financial services company, predicts uranium will hit $110 per pound by 2010.
These developments don't sit well with Dr. Mark Winfield, a Canadian nuclear expert. "Existing [uranium] mines in northern Saskatchewan have caused severe contamination through heavy metals like arsenic, and long-lived radionuclides, along with conventional pollutants," said Winfield.
In 2004, Health Canada concluded that effluent from uranium mines meets the definition of a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Canada is the world's largest supplier of uranium and Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to increase exports in his bid to transform the country into an "energy superpower."
"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was very clear that nuclear [energy] can't compete economically," said Winfield. "The potential health and environmental impacts of uranium mining are not worth the risks."
World-famous writer Michael Ondaatje will join Canadian folk-rock artist Bruce Cockburn at a June benefit concert to raise money for jailed Algonquin uranium mine protester Bob Lovelace.
A recipient of the Order of Canada and the illustrious Booker Prize, Ondaatje is perhaps best known as the author of The English Patient. He, Cockburn and several other artists will perform at the Artists for Bob concert at Sydenham Street United Church, 82 Sydenham St., on June 14 at 7 p.m.
The other artists who have agreed to appear include Susan Aglukark, David Francey, Jenny Whiteley, Steven Heighton, Joey Wright, Terry Tufts, Unity and the Algonquin Drummers.
Lovelace, a retired chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and a Queen's University lecturer, has been imprisoned for blocking prospector access to a proposed uranium mine site in North Frontenac. All funds raised through the concert will go to Lovelace through a trust fund.
Popular support for this cause contributed to the decision by 22 Ontario municipalities to vote against uranium mining and a promise by the Ontario government to revise antiquated legislation which currently gives mining companies ‘free entry’ to contested indigenous lands and private property. At stake is indigenous sovereignty, protection of the boreal forests from contamination by toxic mine tailings, and the right of indigenous communities to say no to development which affects them.
Mr. Lovelace will share his reflections on the events of the last year, the meaning that the land has for indigenous peoples, and the challenges that attend to the current age of mass industrial development and destruction of the land.
THANKS SO MUCH to the station management fo accommodating my health issues which allow me to continue to volunteer Saturday mornings and bring you the music that 'moves and sustains me. '
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