May 17, 2008

ACTIVISM: Some Ontario First Nations updates

“Protecting Our Mother”


May 26 2008

I called Robert Lovelace's lawyer today. I also am going to write him and Paula letters over the weekend.

[I am still scared to go to the demos .. although one I was just LATE.]


Algonquin Political Prisoner Begins Hunger Strike

This just in:

Ardoch Algonquin First Nation
May 15, 2008 - For Immediate Release

Jailed Algonquin Leader Begins Hunger Strike
Second Algonquin Chief Going to Jail - McGuinty Government Does Nothing

On February 15, 2008 Ardoch Algonquin First Nation (AAFN) Spokesperson Robert Lovelace was sentenced in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Kingston to 6 months in maximum security, plus crippling fines, for peacefully protesting uranium mining in the Ardoch homeland. Chief Paula Sherman was fined $15,000 and given until today to pay the fine, failing which she will be jailed.

On March 17, a Superior Court judge in Thunder Bay sentenced six leaders of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) to six months after they were found in contempt of court in dispute which is virtually identical to that of the Ardoch Algonquins.

The jailing of respected, law-abiding community leaders has had a devastating impact on our communities, particularly on the families of those incarcerated. The indifference shown by the McGuinty government towards the rights of First Nation communities and the imposition of long jail terms and crippling fines in the name of "the rule of law" has further eroded respect for both the legal system and the government of Ontario in the eyes of First Nations people in this province.

The cases of the KI Six and Robert Lovelace are strikingly similar. In both cases Ontario gave approvals to mining companies to conduct aggressive mineral exploration on land claimed by First Nations as their own. In both cases this approval was given without any consultation with affected communities, forcing the First Nations to take action to end the illegal exploration when the government refused to act. In both cases the mining company sought and obtained court injunctions to end the peaceful protests of the First Nations, while lawyers representing Ontario supported the mining industry's legal manoeuvres at every stage.

For the first month of Bob Lovelace's incarceration, the government of Ontario said nothing, remaining indifferent to this travesty. Since the jailing of the KI Six, and public outcry which followed, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Michael Bryant, has told the media that he has "bent over backwards" to try to resolve the disputes which led to the incarceration of seven First Nations leaders from our two communities. He also claims that he wishes to see the incarcerated communities leaders freed from jail.

We want to set the record straight.

In fact, there has been no response from Minister Bryant to any of our proposals for peacefully resolving the dispute. Minister Bryant's staff also has not responded to several calls and emails seeking a response to our proposals. To put it bluntly, Michael Bryant is a liar.

Bob Lovelace is now entering his fourth month in jail while the KI Six are about to begin their third month of incarceration. They are prisoners of conscience, jailed by the government of Ontario to send a message that the interests of the mining industry will trump Aboriginal rights and the environment of Ontario.

Lovelace, who turned 60 in jail, announced that he will begin a hunger strike tomorrow to press the government to respond to Ardoch's request for good faith negotiations. "I do not want my children and grandchildren to have to go through what we are going through" he said. "Starting tomorrow I will consume only water in the hopes that our cry for justice will be heard by Mr. McGuinty and Mr. Bryant."

Chief Paula Sherman said: "I will soon be going to jail because I cannot and will not pay this unjust fine. I am a single mother with three dependents whose only crime is the defense of our land. Like Bob Lovelace and the KI 6, I would rather go to jail than take food out of my children's mouths or let our land be destroyed ."

Acting Co-Chief Mireille Lapointe added "We are sickened by the hypocrisy of the McGuinty government. While honest, conscientious community leaders languish in their jails for peacefully protecting our land from uranium mining, all these politicians care about is their public image. They are lying when they say they are trying to resolve these disputes. They have done nothing at all and continue to show total indifference. They do not even respond to our letters, calls and emails asking for negotiations, meanwhile claiming they care about us and our land".

Ardoch and KI remain committed to resolving these disputes peacefully, through negotiations which lead to responsible, cooperative land use planning. We call on all citizens of Ontario to support the unconditional release of our leaders and negotiators by joining us at Queen's Park on May 26 at the Gathering of Mother Earth's Protectors.

For more information contact Paula Sherman: (613) 329-3707
Or Chris Reid, lawyer: (416) 629-3117

* Support the Mohawks of Tyendinnaga, still fighting theft of and unsustainable development of native land and violently attacked by OPP. Sign the petition to demand all charges against Shawn Brant (who non-violently blocked the 401 to call attention to this injustice) be dropped. Join the Shawn Brant facebook group, or sign petition at

The youth of Grassy Narrows are walking to Queen's Park to bring the message of autonomy from Ontario's Northwest.

By Jon Thompson

Originally published in the Daily Miner and News
Wednesday April 30, 2008

The tire tracks from the ice roads have melted on Grassy Narrows lake, nearly the furthest point from Queen’s Park in Ontario that is still connected by roads. Seeing the rising action of resistance and arrests on the province’s First Nations and too little action on settling land claims and adhering to what she sees as the rights of the Nishinawbe people, Chrissy Swain is going for a walk.

Her community’s environmental steward, Judy DeSilva, designed a youth staff whose purpose has become a highway pilgrimage called “Protecting Our Mother”. The group of ten left this morning from the eastward exit to Kenora and will march all the way into the heart of Toronto to meet a demonstration on May 26.

The van full of young people and their supporters along the way will walk or run but the staff will be a constant beacon, wielding the message that the future of First Nations land in Ontario’s North belongs to the next generation.

Grassy Narrows First Nation is the site of the longest standing blockade in North America, holding logging companies from harvesting the Whiskeyjack Forest. Swain says that as the chief and council are in negotiations for development, the community is split and at different stages of interest as it moves forward.

She has performed consultation exercises with the youth at school where development options were weighed with the responsibility of that decision affecting future generations.

When faced with the enduring context of the choice, she says, the youth tend to conclude that the best course of action is holding back from development until they can understand what that will mean for a people striving to heal their community.

“The way I see things and the way they see things, we have to look way ahead into the future,” she explains. “That’s how serious this is. What we decide today is going to impact what happens to my great grandchildren. Any decisions made on my behalf also affect my great grandchildren.”

She compares that sentiment as an echo of the call from the jailed leadership of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation (KI), that the decision to partake in development (in that case, a nearby platinum mine) may take generations. To Swain, the arrests of those wanting to stop the logging on Grassy Narrows last summer is linked to the plight of the KI leaders, those standing up to uranium mining on Ardoc, the reclamation to hold back further development on Six Nations, and the case of Sean Brandt on Tyendinaga.

“Anywhere we’re trying to make a stand to protect our land, our resources and our rights, we get criminalized. That’s the first thing the youth want to learn is their rights. There are a lot of people in the older generation who don’t know their rights, who don’t know the difference between our treaty and the Indian Act. They think our rights are disappearing. There’s so much fear put into the older people from the residential schools that we have to live that way or else they’re going to throw us in jail … and that’s exactly what’s going on.”

Swain is empowered by the legend of seven prophecies that have come to pass since settlers came to this land. Among them, there was to be blood in the water, the trees would fall, and the seventh was a child with light in his eyes, representing a generation that would “change everything”. Having watched the interest in the youth of her community come alive since they led the construction of the Grassy Narrows blockade, she believes they are bound to create real change.

“Because of everything that has happened behind us, there was massacring of our people, there was the residential schools, everything that has happened behind us is always with us. It has always been passed on to us. That’s what makes it different. It has happened to us and we’re fed up with it. We don’t want it to happen to our kids … That’s what makes us different: we’re not afraid.”

See also:

Canada's prime minister to apologize to Natives (5/16)

Studies show discrimination of Natives in Canada (5/16)

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