Lovelace ruling unjust

Justice Douglas Cunningham sentenced Queen’s professor Bob Lovelace to six months in prison in a Feb. 15 ruling, instructing him to pay a $25,000 fine after finding him guilty of contempt of court. The charges stem from Lovelace’s failure to obey a court injunction ordering him to cease protesting Frontenac Ventures’ uranium exploration. The proposed site, near Sharbot Lake, is claimed by the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation.

Lovelace is a former chief of the Ardoch Algonquin.

Lovelace’s lawyer has said they will appeal the court decision.

Lovelace has said he feels torn between Canadian law and Algonquin law and it’s unfortunate that his conviction to both has now landed him behind bars. Protracted land disputes between the federal and provincial government and aboriginal peoples are nothing new; this poorly handled situation is yet another blemish on that track record.

Cunningham’s guilty of serious overkill in his judgment. Although Lovelace did refuse to obey the injunction, both the land’s ownership and the laws governing its use remain contested between the Ardoch Algonquin and the Ontario government. This issue isn’t nearly as cut and dry as Cunningham seems to think.

His decision to then hand Lovelace the harshest possible sentence for his crime was an unwarranted attempt to set a legal precedent. Cunningham’s sentence is hasty and unjust and seems to be motivated by a desire to teach Lovelace and other would-be protestors a lesson through intimidation.

This situation indicates a skewed system—Lovelace’s contempt of court charge doesn’t touch the issue of uranium exploration and aboriginal landclaims at the heart of the dispute.

Queen’s stance on this is commendable—Principal Karen Hitchcock has expressed her support for Lovelace’s freedom of expression in a statement on the University’s website and Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said Lovelace will have his job waiting when he’s able to return. Good on Queen’s for not leaving Lovelace high and dry.

If anything good comes of this legal mess, it’s the publicity it has garnered for the Ardoch Algonquin’s cause. Uranium drilling is environmentally devastating. The judiciary’s attempt to silence these protests, and the government’s failure to act, does little to help a toxic situation.

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