Blockade a ‘symptom’ of ongoing Attawapiskat issues: Wynne – by Antonella Artuso (Toronto Sun – February 6, 2013)

BRADFORD – A blockade set up by Attawapiskat protesters on a winter road to the De Beers mine on the coast of James Bay is a symptom of unmet social needs in First Nations communities, Ontario premier-designate Kathleen Wynne says.

“The economic development that can come from either the mine on the James Bay coast or from the Ring of Fire has to be seen in the context of the relationship between government and the First Nations communities,” Wynne said Wednesday. “There’s a whole range of social issues that are not necessarily directly related to economic development but as a government, and I would suggest the federal government as well… needs to in, my opinion, tackle that whole range of issues if we want to be able to move ahead and have those economic opportunities be fulfilled.”

Wynne said she’s unaware of the actual trigger for the blockade but knows the Attawapiskat community is concerned about a number of issues including lack of housing and the availability of clean water.

“It’s never okay in my opinion to take violent or obstructive action,” Wynne said. “We have to find resolution to those issues at the same time as … allowing economic development to go ahead because in the end, if there is no economic development, then a lot of those issues are not going to be resolved.”

NDP MPP Gilles Bisson, who represents the riding of Timmins-James Bay, said the Ontario Liberal government has failed to come up with a process so that First Nations communities can share in the jobs, business opportunities and revenue produced by major northern mining projects.

Bisson said he believes the De Beers blockade has been set up by members of the Attawapiskat reserve who are protesting their unemployment.

“The issue is that the De Beers mine cannot provide the amount of jobs that are necessary to fill all the unemployment on the James Bay, even though De Beers has done in my estimation a very good job of trying to figure out ways of doing things that are progressive and that help First Nations move along,” Bisson said. “There’s still a lot of unemployed people on the James Bay because that project doesn’t employ everyone. So what you’re seeing is the unemployed saying they want a job.”

There is a possibility that such activity may scare away investors but people have a right to protest, Bisson said.

For the original version or this article, please go to the Toronto Sun website: