Ardoch Algonquin First Nation Statement on Uranium Issue

Ardoch Algonquin First Nation

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.