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Friday, September 21, 2007

Who's Really on Trial Here?

By Bob Holmes
Robertsville, ON
CPT Canada News
September 19, 2007

Harold Perry, honorary chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation (AAFN), was driven to court in Kingston, Ontario by his daughter Mona on September 18, 2007. He expected to be arrested, something he welcomed because it would bring to a head the on-going conflict of the Algonquins with Frontenac Ventures and the provincial government of Ontario. The government is allowing Frontenac to explore for uranium on unceded Algonquin lands without Algonquin permission.

On June 28, 2007, the AAFN, together with the Shabot Obaajiwan First Nation, closed the gate at the entrance of the road being used for uranium exploration. The Algonquins occupied the area inside the gate and, in support, non-aboriginal settlers from the area set up a tent city outside the gate. (Non-aboriginal supporters of the blockade call themselves “settlers” to acknowledge their status as newcomers on the land.)

On August 31, a court injunction obtained by Frontenac Ventures against the gate closing was read in front of the gate, but no one heard it: native drummers and settler singers drowned out the sheriff's voice. Since then, the Alonquins and their supporters have been afraid the police will enforce the injunction in spite of the frequent presence of unarmed, plain-clothed Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) liaison officers pursuing a negotiated settlement to the impasse. The OPP liaison projects are a direct result of the Ipperwash Inquiry into the death of a native person, Dudley George, in another such occupation.

In court, OPP officers named those they had observed inside the gate following the reading of the injunction. Harold was amongst them. Frontenac Ventures subpoenaed one of the liaison officers. When asked to name those he had observed inside the gate, he stated, "My role was one of mediation, not intelligence gathering, and I made no notes of who was or was not inside the gate."

Robert Lovelace, a former AAFN chief, said at the end of hearing, "The fact that a liaison officer can be required to testify in court greatly undermines the credibility of these new OPP initiatives.”

Over the lunch break, Harold and other Algonquins in attendance asked their lawyers to tell the court that they were not disputing their presence inside the gate in order to hasten a court trial where arguments for the justice of their actions could be heard. The issue is about who actually owns the land, not whether they are inside the gate or not.

Christian Peacemaker David Milne added his name to the list and the lawyers for Frontenac Ventures insisted that a settler instrumental in the resistance to uranium mining add his name as well. The judge accepted the request and set September 24 as the day to set date for trial.

But the question is who really is on trial: the Algonquins and their supporters resisting the ravages of uranium mining, or the federal and provincial governments careless enough to issue permits on lands in the midst of treaty claims?

Let us pray that the new judge will preside over a court of justice rather than a court of law, since the laws of Ontario are not in accord with a just stance towards our Aboriginal sisters and brothers.

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