By BJ Bjornson
Some background information needed for this one. The tiny Northern Ontario Aboriginal community of Attawapiskat has been in the news a lot recently here in Canada due to the fact that years of neglect have finally caused enough of crisis to receive widespread attention, with the Red Cross flying in aid to help the desperately poor people living there.
I�d like to write more about the situation itself, but several others far better informed and eloquent have already been on the case. You can start here, then here, and in fact that whole blog is well-worth the read, and then you can head over to here if you want to get more informed about the whole mess, at least for a start.
My own contribution has to do with an article I came across in the Financial Post, that starts with this:
De Beers Canada and its Victor diamond mine is currently in the media spotlight regarding the poverty in the nearby First Nations community of Attawapiskat. Many are questioning why the community is not significantly benefiting from this diamond mine, located on its traditional territory. The Victor deposit � which is the smallest of Canada�s four diamond mines � just started production in July 2008 and has an expected life of 11 years. The mine employs about 500 people, half of whom are of First Nations background and 100 come from Attawapiskat.
I then read through the article, which swiftly moves to criticism of the Far North Act, which has set aside lands for parks and other, non-destructive mining uses, and then goes on to laud the amount of money being spent in exploration and the fact that some of the newer mines are hiring some small portion of their workforce from the surrounding aboriginal communities. But there appears to be something missing from the whole thing.
Well, actually, there�s a whole lot missing, like the entire history of the mining industry in rural Canada, with its poisoned rivers, fishing lakes turned into toxic tailings ponds, and massive clean-up bills left to the taxpayers after all the valuable minerals had been sucked out of the ground, but no, there�s something more that�s missing from this article that can be basically summed up as:
What�s happening to those people in Attawapiskat is a tragedy, so give us more land to pillage the wealth out of, and then ...
Yeah, it�s the �and then� that seems to be missing. It�s the answer to the question from the article�s opening paragraph. If these mines and their bounty are so valuable and productive to the local aboriginal communities in northern Canada that to deny mining companies the ability to despoil massive tracts of landscape in their hunt for more minerals is the equivalent of being anti-aboriginal, then why, pray tell, is Attawapiskat in such dire straights when they have an existing diamond mine right on their doorstep? Where are those fantastic benefits from the mine going, if not to the people whose land is being mined? Why is the community "not significantly benefitting from this diamond mine"?
The question is asked, but never answered, since of course the answers wouldn't help the mining industry's cause all that much. If the mining industry was such a unmitigated boon for the communities around them, Attawapiskat wouldn�t be in the news at all, and then this jackass couldn�t use their suffering to pretend that if only those dastardly �well-funded and powerful� environmentalists and �Liberal-left� government folks would allow the (apparently weak and poor) mining corporations access to pillage additional massive tracts of rural wilderness, the folks living in third world conditions in the midst of one the richest countries in the world would be all puppies and flowers.
Too bad it�s all a fairly tale.