Ottawa

Ont. Algonquins prepared to protest all winter against judge’s order

Two First Nations communities plan to spend the winter blocking access to a potential uranium mining site in eastern Ontario despite a court order to dismantle their protest camp, their lawyers say.

Lawyers at impasse after meeting with judge

Two First Nations communities plan to spend the winter blocking access to a potential uranium mining site in eastern Ontario despite a court order to dismantle their protest camp, their lawyers say.

"They're prepared to be there for as long as it takes," Christopher Reid, lawyer for the Ardoch First Nation, saidon Thursday.

"They've got winter supplies already in," Reid added. "They've got fuel. They're ready to spend the winter there."

Reid made the comments outside a courtroom meeting with the judge who issued the order and the company that wants to drill for uranium on the site.

At the meeting, Ontario Superior Court Justice Gordon Thomson clarified the order he issued last week as a temporary solution to the dispute between the Ardoch and Shabot Obaadjiwan Algonquin First Nations and the mining exploration company, Frontenac Ventures.

The protesters have occupied the site near Sharbot Lake, about 60 kilometres north of Kingston, since June 29, saying they fear uranium mining will damage their ancestral lands.

Frontenac Ventures took them to court in an effort to gain access.

Justice Thomson said the temporary ruling he made didn't order protesters to leave the protest site, as lawyers had believed. He only wants them to remove the buildings and vehicles that make up the camp.

However, he did not specify how much power Ontario provincial police should have in enforcing the order.

Other First Nations support protesters: lawyer

Reid said police action could intensify the dispute, which the protesters want to remain peaceful.

"There are no weapons amongst the protesters. They've made that an absolute rule," he said.

"But if there is an attack on that campsite, they will do what is necessary to defend it. And they have pledges of support from First Nations all over North America. I can't say what form that support will take but there will be no uranium exploration on that territory."

Ontario provincial police told the court Thursdaythat they are reluctant to take any action that might jeopardize their relationship with the Algonquins.

Meanwhile, Neil Smitheman, the lawyer for Frontenac Ventures, said he was disappointed that the issue has not been resolved.

"It's sort of a sad day," he said. "Supposed respect for the rule of law —it's not going to be obeyed is what we've heard today."

The judge said he may still make changes to the order before the conclusion of a full court hearing that begins on Sept. 20.

Those proceedings will examine a request by the company for a judicial order that would give the company full access to the site. The company is also suing the protesters for $77 million in damages.

now