Attawapiskat councillor accuses De Beers of trickery as showdown looms on diamond mine ice road – by Jorge Barrera (APTN National News – Feburary 15, 2013)

ATTAWAPISKAT–Moments after Steve Thomas, chief financial officer for De Beers, informed a group of blockaders the company would seek an injunction to have police end the ice road blockade, Attawapiskat band councillor Gerry Nakogee grabbed a microphone and accused the diamond mining giant of tricking the community.

Wielding a ballot from the 2005 community vote on whether to accept an impact benefit (IBA) agreement deal with De Beers, Nakogee faced three company officials sitting at a plastic table with fold-out legs during a meeting Thursday at the Reg Louttit Sporstplex.

The sounds of a hockey practice could be heard through one wall. “You tricked us,” said Nakogee. “You want proof, I got proof. This is the ballot that was used that day…that IBA was no good.” Nakogee’s claim was met by cheers and table thumping from the blockaders who were sitting at a table across from the De Beers officials.

Thomas had said earlier the company officials walked into the meeting believing it would bring an end to the now six-day blockade on an ice road leading to the company’s Victor mine site, about 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat. Now the company had no other choice but to seek a legal end to the disruption, he said.

“Our understanding was that the blockaders would step down when the chief and council asked them,” said Thomas, during the meeting.

Thomas then told the people at the meeting that the company had “information packs for people blockading” so “you can understand what the steps are in the process.”

The people involved in the blockade opened their envelopes only to find a “notice of motion” seeking the injunction and a statement of claim seeking $130 million in damages. They had been served.

De Beers was expected to make their case before a judge in Timmins, Ont., at about 1 p.m. local time Friday.

In total, the ice road has now been blocked twice since Feb. 4.

The ice road only opened on Feb. 1 and the route may only last for three more weeks at the most, according to De Beers’ court filing supporting the request for an injunction.

De Beers says the two blockades have severed the mine’s resupply “umbilical cord” and could threaten to upend operations for the rest of the year.

The blockaders have now set up a canvas tent heated by a wood stove next to the barricades and Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence visited the site Thursday evening and promised the blockaders breakfast for Friday morning.

The two successive blockades have been launched over a litany of reasons, ranging from personal grievances over employment, to the need compensation for lost traplines, the housing needs in the community and environmental concerns. Many of the grievances are rooted in differing interpretations about the IBA and what it was meant to do.

Some residents in Attawapiskat believe the IBA did not reflect what the community wanted or verbal promises they believe De Beers made when the process began to negotiate an agreement. Some of the top priorities listed by the community members during community consultations held in 2004 included housing, better health care services, jobs and improved recreation facilities for the youth.

One of the blockaders, John Edwards joined the line on behalf of his uncle whose trapline runs through the Victor mine site. Edwards’ grandmother is also buried at by the mine site and his uncle, who only speaks Cree, has repeatedly stated his concern over the need for the community to have clean drinking water.

Several people, including Nakogee, have also been invoking the Idle No More movement as one of the motivations behind the blockade.

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