After spending 104 days in jail on contempt charges, Robert Lovelace is a free man.
On June 2 at Kingston’s Superior Court, Oakville-based mining company Frontenac Ventures Corporation withdrew all charges against the Queen’s professor.
Ardoch Algonquin First Nations lawyer Christopher Reid said he wasn’t surprised.
“For the province and the mining industry it’s been a public relations disaster,” he said. “I expect them not to proceed again because it didn’t work, it didn’t deter protests.”
Reid said the six-month jail sentence Justice Douglas Cunningham handed Lovelace was to deter others from continuing to protest, but it failed.
“The Ardoch Algonquins continued to say they wouldn’t allow drilling. Court order or no court order, they continued,” he said. “[The courts] do it in order to deter people from doing similar things and they weren’t getting that result.”
Lovelace said he was treated well by the other inmates at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, ON.
“They knew why I was in and they respected the stand I had taken,” he said. “Now and then violence does erupt, but there was never a threat to me.”
Lovelace said he still has to obey an injunction issued September 27, 2007 ordering him to stop protesting at the exploration site near Sharbot Lake.
“In the meantime the Ardoch Algonquin community is discussing our alternatives,” he said. “We still would like to enter into consultation with the provincial government on the development, and we still hold that there shouldn’t be any further exploration or drilling.”
Lovelace said the courts have yet to decide if he will still have to pay the $25,000 fine imposed on him in a Feb. 12, 2008 ruling.
“We’re hoping it will be within the next couple of weeks, but it may take longer,” he said.
Lovelace will return to his teaching position at Queen’s in September.
“I will be teaching Introduction to Aboriginal Studies and I plan to pick up where I left off,” he said. “I’m very much looking forward to it.”
Lovelace said he was pleasantly surprised with the amount of support he received from his students.
“When I found out they found out about the issues and jumped in with a great deal of support, I was really taken with that,” he said. “I didn’t expect to have as much notoriety. For me it was just a conscious decision I had to make.”
Lovelace said he doesn’t find it difficult to reconcile Algonquin and Canadian law.
“Laws, whether they’re Algonquin or British Crown, are there to provide peace, order, and good governance,” he said. “What needs to take place is there needs to be an open and equal dialogue. Once that takes place, there won’t be that much of a discrepancy.”
He said his experience has given him a sense of hope that more people will understand the different groups that exist within Canada.
“We accept the French code in Quebec as a legitimate law, we accept the British Crown’s law in much of the rest of Canada and legal decisions have often recognized Aboriginal law as well,” he said. “It’s there in theory, but because of colonialism it has not been allowed to be practiced.”
Lovelace said he thinks the foundation of Canada is a colonial one.
“What’s happened with Aboriginal communities is that we have become cultures of resistance, and Canada has become a culture of dominance,” he said. “We have a long way to go to remedy Complete 30-Hour Seminars that dilemma.”
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