The Trent University Faculty Association has publicly declared its support for Prof. Paula Sherman and donated $1,000 to her defence fund.
Sherman, co-chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and Trent professor, and Robert Lovelace, a spokesman for Ardoch, aboriginal affairs counsellor at Fleming College and professor at Queen’s University, were both sentenced to six months in jail for contempt of court last month in Superior Court of Justice.
Sherman took a $15,000 penalty instead of going to jail so she could stay with her children.
Ardoch community members have been angered by mining exploration on their land, which was done without consultation by the provincial government or the mining company, according to their lawyer.
The faculty association formally condemned the court decision Monday.
In a release, it stated that “the treatment of its member violates her right to public protest as a citizen and obstructs her academic freedom which includes the right to criticize without the threat of reprisal or discrimination.”
The faculty association also contributed $1,000 to Sherman’s defence fund.
"It's important for us to come forward to support our faculty particularly when they're carrying out their duties that could be interpreted as an extension of what they do as faculty members," faculty association president Susan Wurtele told The Examiner.
The university has also organized a "teach in" for next week, she said. Led by Sherman, it will be an opportunity to update faculty about the situation, so they can better explain it to their students, Wurtele said.
Chris Reid, who represents Sherman and Lovelace, said the faculty association’s support isn’t surprising. Lovelace is also being supported by faculty at Queen’s University, he said.
“The faculty association is a union of sorts and unions have very often been targets of injunctions and contempt of court motions.... They fully understand an order like this and how it’s used to, in some cases, to suppress dissent and muzzle free speech,” he said.
Reid said there are number of fundraising campaigns organized for Sherman and Lovelace.
So far his office has received $2,500 in trust, he said.
The money is primarily going to families who have been fined for protesting, Reid said.
Reid also said an announcement will be made next week regarding an appeal.
“There is an ambivalence about the Ardoch Algonquins.... It’s not a simple issue of whether to appeal or not because they don’t even feel they should be in the Ontario Court system,” he said.
A rally in support of Sherman and Lovelace, scheduled for tomorrow, is expected to draw hundreds of people.
Organized by the Ontario Public Interest Research Group Peterborough, the rally starts at noon in Confederation Square. It will go through downtown, with a stop at MPP Jeff Leal’s office.
Wurtele said she and other Trent faculty members plan on attending.
For more information about the rally contact email@example.com.
Sherman could not be reached for comment yesterday.