Attawapiskat members blockade Debeers – by Lenny Carpenter (Wawatay News – February 6, 2013)

A small group of Attawapiskat community members have blockaded a road leading from the Debeers Canada diamond mine site to the community, citing issues with the community’s agreement with the diamond company.

Attawapiskat’s Impact Benefit Agreement (IBA) coordinator Danny Metatawabin said the blockaders’ issues pertain to either employment rates among community members at the site or the use of their traditional territory. The blockade began on Feb. 4.

“It started with four individuals,” Metatawabin said, adding that more community members have since joined. “When I went there this morning, there were not even 20.” Metatawabin said the chief and council do not support the blockade, saying the IBA the community signed with Debeers is a “done deal.”

“The current IBA is a done deal, an endorsed document, which states everything is approved and ratified,” he said. “Including allowing Debeers to set up the Victor Mine, the winter road, and ensure that fuel trucks are transported to the site for fuel purposes.”

However, he said the leadership is not taking action against the members who have blockaded the road. A meeting with the leadership and community members is expected to take place in the evening on Feb. 6 while Chief Theresa Spence called for a band council meeting on Feb. 7 regarding the matter.

As the IBA coordinator, Metatawabin said he acts as a “middleman” between the First Nation and Debeers, ensuring that both sides are following the agreement.

He said for the last six months, the chief and council have been working with Debeers to address issues related to the memberships’ concerns.

“We do have a renewed relationships working group represented by some council members and Debeers officials,” he said. “So we’re very close to resolving those issues that suddenly surfaced coming from the blockade.”