Jailing Aboriginal Leaders to Promote Uranium Mining in Ontario

Ardoch Algonquin First Nation

In a travesty of justice, AAFN Spokesperson Robert Lovelace was sentenced in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Kingston to 6 months incarceration and crippling fines amounting to $50,000 for upholding Algonquin law within our homeland. An additional sanction of $2,000 per day will be imposed for every day that Bob continues to obey our law rather than the court order. In addition, our community was fined $10,000 and Chief Paula Sherman $15,000, and our statement of defence was struck out, which means that we are forbidden from challenging the constitutional validity of Ontario’s Mining Act. The court made it clear that First Nations’ laws do not exist in Canada's legal system and anyone who tries to follow First Nations law will be severely punished.

Shouts of "shame!" erupted in the courtroom as the sentences were read by the judge and Robert was taken into custody. Many were aghast at the harshness of the sentencing imposed for participation in a peaceful protest against uranium exploration which was approved by the province of Ontario without any consultation with our community.

Chief Paula Sherman said: "No consideration was given to the circumstances that led to our actions. The testimony given under oath by Robert Lovelace outlined Algonquin Law and the corresponding responsibilities of Algonquin people with respect to human activity in our territory. It was tossed aside by the judge and deemed to be of no relevance. The message delivered clearly through this court decision is one of domination and oppression; the law will enforce one set of values with respect to human relationships with the land in Ontario and there is no room for Algonquin laws or values."

Ontario and Canada portray themselves as shining examples of democracy and human rights for the world to emulate, all the while creating laws, policies, and value systems that oppress and deny Aboriginal peoples' human right to life as distinct people. Robert testified that Algonquin identity is tied to the relationships that we maintain with the land.

Lovelace is now in jail in Quinte Correctional facility in Napanee. Chief Sherman said: "He is a political prisoner of the Government of Ontario and Ardoch Algonquin First Nation places blame for his incarceration on Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Michael Bryant. We have repeatedly asked for consultations on the mineral claims on our lands within the larger Algonquin homeland. We have offered Ontario a variety of options to enable consultation. Every option was rejected out of hand. Ontario's position has been consistent: Drilling on our land must occur. Our position has equally been consistent: Meaningful consultation must occur before any of our land is damaged or alienated to mining companies."

For more information, contact: Chief Paula Sherman (613) 329-3706 or Chris Reid (lawyer) (416) 629-3117