Residents, natives protest uranium mine; 300 participate in Sharbot Lake march

Residents, natives protest uranium mine; 300 participate in Sharbot Lake march

Jordan Press
The Kingston Whig-Standard (Ontario, Canada)
Monday, July 09, 2007

A retired minister, John Hudson moved from Kingston to the Sharbot Lake area15 years ago.

He moved for the scenery, the environment and the quiet, but all that could change and yesterday, he was preaching against a plan that would see uranium mined near his home.

Marching along Highway 7, Hudson said he’s worried about the environmental impacts from the proposed operation.

“I’m right down the river and I see enough crap coming down our river,” said Hudson, 70. “The bottom line is I don’t want a uranium mine at my back door.”

And neither did the estimated 300 people who marched along with Hudson, area residents and Sharbot Lake and Ardoch Algonquin First Nations members.

“We were hoping for 100,” said Doreen Davis, chief of the Sharbot Lake Algonquin First Nation. “I am just honoured and humbled that the people are here to support us.

Davis said everyone wants to see a full moratorium on mining the substance and the demonstration was designed to get the attention of upper levels of government.

“And if not, we’ll do this again,” she said. “We’ll continue until somebody listens.”

Yesterday’s march went from the intersection of highways 7 and 509 west to Highway 38. Along the way, the band of demonstrators grew as more people appeared on the road and joined the march.

Waving flags, chanting, singing, drumming and holding signs, the march had a simple message summed up on many of the homemade signs they carried and the T-shirts they wore: “No uranium mining.”

Provincial police closed off that section of the highway and re-routed traffic through the area for the one-hour march that police described as “extremely peaceful.”

Harold Perry, honorary chief of the Sharbot Lake Algonquin First Nation, said there is an obligation to fight the proposed mining operation.

“We can’t afford to have this kind of stuff going on,” he said. “I don’t want my daughter and the next generations to grow up with a thing like that.”

Mining uranium causes long-term environmental and health effects because of its radioactivity, said Joan Kuyek, national co-ordinator for MiningWatch Canada.

“In this case, the local communities are saying they don’t want it, the Algonquins are saying they want it and we support that,” Kuyek said.

A group of Algonquins have been at the entrance to the proposed mining site. The occupation is now into its second week.

Along with Algonquins have come area residents who oppose the project. Some have brought themselves, others food and supplies.

Frontenac Ventures Corporation has staked 400 claims over about 8,000 hectares in North and Central Frontenac. The land is a mix of private and Crown land, the latter being the subject of negotiations between the Algonquins and provincial government.

Frank Morrison is one of those people who found out the company has a stake on his property. He marched yesterday and said residents needed to back the Algonquins because it was the area’s lone hope.

Under provincial law, the land on native reserves isn’t available for mineral collection.

“The land claim is going to save us and if it wasn’t for that, we might as well pack up and go home,” he said.

Just like the march, the number of people taking up the cause is increasing, Morrison said.

“It’s just growing exponentially,” he said. “That’s what happens when people finally find out what’s going on here.”

“This,” he said looking up and down the mass of marchers, “is more symbolic than anything else.”

Hudson said he was concerned about the way the proposal was being handled with people such as Morrison simply being told the company had a right to mine their property.

“It will be interesting to see what the position of our provincial government will be,” he said.

Any hint of problems from mining uranium could cause damage to the area’s economy, said Norman Guntensperger, a councillor from Central Frontenac. Mining uranium could damage the area’s hope to attract more tourists and needed to be stopped, he said.

“We want to get the word out. I see this as the beginning of a long fight,” he said.


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