Mining and racism – by Roger J. King (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – November 14, 2012)

The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

Re OPA Wants to Clear the Air — CJ, Nov. 9:

With all due respect I must disagree with Gary Clarke who claims there is no racism in the Ontario Prospectors Association. I was a member of the Northwestern Ontario Prospectors Association for many years in the late ’90s, an umbrella member of the OPA. Being light skinned, many of the prospectors did not know I was an Indian from Gull Bay.

I attended the monthly meetings where I witnessed a number of stereotypical racial comments. I did not have the fortitude to stand to speak up for myself then. No one in the executive in those meetings got up to intervene on those comments, including Mr. Clark who was present at many of them.

By no means am I painting all those prospectors present as racist. It appeared this was part of the group dynamics as the 30-or-so members conducted business.

I recalled incidents of race relations I grew up with. After I graduated high school I went to university in eastern Ontario where there was very little discrimination against Indians. I thought perhaps in Northern Ontario, especially in the smaller communities, there may have been more clashes between the races which perpetuated these negative feelings. I suspect these negative experiences were passed down from generation to generation as stereotypes.

As prospectors, many of these individuals ventured onto traditional First Nation lands to seek mineral deposits. However, First Nations have been complaining that their way of life was being adversely affected by these activities. Protocols were adopted to facilitate change in dealing with First Nations. This must have angered some individuals who believe they belonged to a superior race and now had to get permission from the First Nations whom they had considered inferior.

So perhaps Mr. Clarke should clear the air by acknowledging that there is racism towards Indians in the mining sector. Then begin some constructive means of addressing it. To deny there is racism will only once again sweep the issue under the rug to resurface again in the future.

We only want to be treated as other human beings who want to meet our basic needs. Perhaps some First Nations may wish to partake in economic activities in our traditional lands.

Roger J. King
Gull Bay