Ottawa

Algonquins sue Ont., mining firm over uranium site

Two First Nations communities have launched a $1-billion lawsuit against the province of Ontario and a $10-million countersuit against a mining exploration company that is suing them for blocking access to a potential uranium mining site in eastern Ontario.

Two First Nations communities have launched a $1-billion lawsuit against the province and a $10-million countersuit against a mining exploration company that is suing them for blocking access to a potential uranium mining site in eastern Ontario.

The Ardoch and Shabot Obaadjiwan Algonquin First Nations allege that Ontario breached their aboriginal rights and failed to consult them before granting a company mining rights to land they say belongs to them. The land is locatednear Sharbot Lake, about 60 kilometres north of Kingston.

The countersuit against Frontenac Ventures is intended to send a message to the company that launched its own $77-million lawsuit against the two communities in July, said Doreen Davis, chief of the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation.

'Can't take this lying down'

"All we're doing is defending what we stand for and how hurt we feel," she said Monday. "It's not vindictive or anything. It's just to show them we can't take this lying down."

Meanwhile, Frontenac Ventures was to be in court Tuesday to initiate a contempt of court motion against Ardoch and Shabot Obaadjiwan protesters disobeying an injunction that orders them off a site near Sharbot Lake.

The injunction was served to the protesters on Aug. 31 aftera request from the company, which wants todo test drilling for uranium at the site the protesters are blocking.

Neil Smitheman, a lawyer who represents the company, said the protesters continue to openlydisobeythe order.

"We need to get access to the property, which is what the court said we were allowed to do," he said, "and there are people occupying the property[who] refuse to leave notwithstanding the court order that says you have to leave."

Officers from the Ontario Provincial Police, who have the power to arrest the protesters but have not done so, were being subpoenaed for the motion, Smitheman added. They will be ordered to identify protesters and name other people who have been at the site to support the protesters.

The protesters have been occupying the potential mining site since late June. The land in dispute is mainly Crown land thatis the subject of ongoing land claim talks between the Algonquins and the federal and provincial governments.

The Algonquins say uranium mining could cause environmental damage to the land andthe company should not have been granted rights to the land before the land claims are settled.

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