Chief Donny Morris, Deputy Chief Cecilia Begg, and 4 other KI leaders have been released from jail and have won an appeal of their six month jail sentence. They were jailed for refusing to allow mining exploration on KI homeland by Platinex.
Visit the blog for the Gathering of Mother Earth Protectors in support of the KI6.
See KI archive of releases and letters from the Platinex dispute.
Read a blog about the dispute with Platinex by friends of KI.
Aboriginal protesters released in mining case
Wed May 28 2008
An Ontario Court of Appeal judge released native leader Bob Lovelace and six members of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) today.
"You are a free man, my friend," said Sam McKay, one of the released KI members to Lovelace.
"You too, you are a free man," Lovelace said smiling.
The appeals court reduced the sentence to the 100 days Lovelace, a 60-year-old professor at Queen's University in Kingston, had spent in jail and also scrapped the $25,000 fine.
On Feb. 15, 2008, Lovelace was sentenced to six months for protesting uranium mining on the traditional Ardoch land. On March 17, six leaders of the KI community were sentenced to six months for contempt of court after they violated an injunction and protested against the drilling for platinum on their traditional land north of Thunder Bay.
The Ontario Mining Act, passed in 1873, is based on a free entry system, where anyone who is 18 can get a prospector's licence and stake mineral claims on any land in Ontario. Lovelace said the mining act has no provisions for aboriginal people and the government has to understand the concerns of First Nations people.
"I want Ontario and Canada and other provinces to look at these laws and see how embedded colonialism is in these laws," Lovelace said.
Chris Reid, the lawyer for First Nations, said until the government makes a serious effort about talking to the community, more people will keep going to jail since the native leaders have made it clear they will not let mining companies operate on their land.
"They should sit down and negotiate with the community instead of just treating them as criminals," Reid said.
Lovelace and other leaders have said they are not anti-development and are ready to talk to the mining companies and the government.
Howard Hampton, the leader of Ontario New Democratic Party, said the McGuinty government could have used Section 35 of the Mining Act that allows certain lands to be withdrawn from exploration. He said it's common knowledge that law is outdated, but revising it might take the government three years while the mining goes unabated.
Many people present in the court were cottage owners and retirees living near the proposed mining area. They said they fear the drilling will ultimately lead to uranium and other toxic substances seeping into the water aquifers.
John Kittle, a retiree, living with his wife in Frontenac County, said the McGuinty government should listen to the 1.5 million residents of Eastern Ontario who don't want the exploration and the resulting environment degradation.
George White, the CEO of Frontenac Ventures, the company involved in the uranium exploration, said there are environmentally safe procedures that every mining company around the world has to follow. About 20 geologists are presently working on uranium exploration on the sites that the natives oppose, he said.
Asked whether he would block the mining again, Lovelace said he would continue to protect his land.
"If you don't have the right to say, `No,' you have no right at all."