Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Contempt of court

A judicial pogrom against Native leaders appears to be underway in Ontario. For the second time in two months, jail sentences of six months have been handed down by our justice system, for the "crime" of peacefully protesting against mining operations on Indian traditional lands.

In February, Professor Robert Lovelace, spokesperson for the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, and Chief Paula Sherman, were sentenced by Justice Douglas Cunningham in Kingston for upholding Algonquin law by opposing uranium mining operations on Algonquin land. Sherman offered to obey previous court injunctions against protesting the incursions of Frontenac Ventures Corp., and was spared jail time--as the mother of three young children, she could ill afford to be separated from them. Lovelace is currently serving his sentence in Quinte Correctional Facility. The Ardoch First Nation was fined $10,000 and Sherman, $15,000.

This month, it was the turn of the
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninunwug First Nation, near Big Trout Lake, 600 km. north of Thunder Bay, to get a taste of white man's justice. Justice Patrick Smith sent six band members to jail, including Chief Donny Morris and Deputy Chief Jack MacKay. Two others, Enus McKay and Evelyn Quequish, were given suspended sentences after they agreed to stop protesting.

The judge cited last month's decision as a precedent for the jail terms, and stated that he could not impose fines in any case because the defendants would be unable to pay them. One member "purged his contempt" by agreeing to stop protesting. Indian land is now safe for Platinex Inc. to commence its drilling operations.

The short message is this: if you are Native, forget about protesting peacefully in Ontario. Miners can come on to your land with impunity, and dig it up at their whim. You have no recourse. If you stand up, white judges will lock you down. The justice system stands with the mining companies, and the McGuinty government, including the feckless Aboriginal Affairs minister Michael Bryant, stands with the justice system.

But solidarity is building. Whites joined with Ardoch Algonquin First Nation to protest uranium prospecting around Sharbot Lake. Now
Nishnawbe Aski Nation has broken off bilateral talks with the government of Ontario. And Anishinabek Nation, with its secretariat the Union of Ontario Indians (representing a third of Ontario's Aboriginal population), has thrown its support behind the newest victims of the judicial/mining axis. It's time for the rest of us to show our contempt for a court system that is so clearly biased against Aboriginal people and their traditional rights.

[As an aside: while some go on wringing their hands about the alleged racking and screwing of Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn, and whine about fascism and the like, not a peep has been heard from that quarter about the on-going judicial suppression of Native people in Ontario. Could it be that jailed Native people don't warrant the same concern as a couple of journalists who have been mildly inconvenienced at best? Militant conservative whites, of course, get somewhat different treatment from the establishment when they do their protests in my province.]

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