Algonquin co-chief to stop her uranium protest to avoid jail

An aboriginal leader sentenced to jail for defying two court orders and blocking a uranium mining test site has agreed to stop participating in protests so she can avoid prison.

An aboriginal leader sentenced to time behind bars for defying two court orders and blocking a prospective uranium mining site has agreed to stop participating in protests so she can avoid going to jail.

Ardoch co-chief Paula Sherman, shown in a photo from last September, will avoid jail time but still must pay a $15,000 fine. ((CBC))

Paula Sherman and Robert Lovelace, co-chiefs of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, were sentenced to six months in jail by Justice Douglas Cunningham in a Kingston, Ont., court Friday after being found guilty of contempt of court.

Sherman was also fined $15,000 and Lovelace $25,000.

Both had admitted to their involvement in protests on the property, near Sharbot Lake, Ont., about 60 kilometres north of Kingston. Two court injunctions had given the mining exploration company Frontenac Ventures Corp. access to the site to do test drilling for uranium.

The Algonquin protesters have argued the site is on their land and they fear that uranium drilling could lead to environmental contamination.

The Ardoch leaders' sentences were met by an outcry from dozens of supporters who packed the courtroom throughout the hearings this week.

But shortly after the courtroom emptied, Sherman returned to announce that she would obey the court injunctions in order to avoid serving time, as she is the single mother of three children. That means she must stay away from the site and not participate in any protests there.

The judge agreed, but said Sherman must still pay her fine.

Protesters from both the Shabot Obaadjiwan and Ardoch Algonquin First Nations occupied the disputed site from late June to mid-October last year despite court injunctions granted in response to requests from the company. The injunctions ordered the Algonquins off the site and gave police the authority to arrest them.

The occupation ended after the Ontario government agreed to mediation talks, but began again this month after those talks failed.

Shabot Obaadjiwan Chief Doreen Davis and another senior official from her community told the court earlier during the sentencing hearings that they plan to honour the court orders. At the time, Ardoch leaders gave no indication that they planned to obey the injunctions.