OPINION: Letting diamond mine go won’t help Attawapiskat’s community crisis – by Ron Grech (Timmins Daily Press – February 7, 2017)


No one begrudges the political administration in Attawapiskat First Nation for placing a high priority on youth suicides in their community. But surely, community leaders can put two and two together and see a connection between limited economic prosperity and an absence of hope among their youth.

During the height of the suicide crisis last year, the lack of adequate mental health services for youth on First Nations in the North was identified as a key problem. Yet, there is only so much enhanced mental health services can offer.

Real hope comes from available opportunities to fulfil life’s goals. Living in an environment of despair, surrounded by drug abuse and unemployment isn’t likely to fuel confidence that the ripening fruits of adulthood are worth waiting for.

We’re not suggesting having an operating diamond mine is the solution to the problem. Obviously, the recent youth suicide crisis occurred despite the presence of De Beers Canada in Attawapiskat.

But doing nothing to stop the departure of an industry that creates jobs, guarantees work for its host residents and injects nearly $3 million a year into a community with an on-reserve population of less than 2,000 people is counterproductive to a community concerned about its youth and their perceptions of the future.

As reported by The Daily Press this week, De Beers has placed its plans for an expansion of the Victor diamond mine on indefinite hold after the mining company failed to get the support for the project it was seeking from the Attawapiskat First Nation.

The Tango Extension, as the project was called, would have allowed the Victor Mine to continue producing diamonds past its expected closure at the end of 2018.

De Beers had been working on the Tango extension for at least the past five years and as timelines became tighter, the company announced it would not move ahead with Tango without community support.

Chief Ignace Gull interpreted that announcement as an ultimatum, and denounced the company putting pressure on a community that was in a fragile state.

“Attawapiskat is in the midst of a suicide crisis, and we need to deal with this first,” Gull said.

How does a show of apathy and doing nothing to stop the community’s largest employer shutting down address suicide?

It doesn’t.

In fact, rather than helping the problem, they may have just poured gasoline on an already raging fire.

For the original source of this column, click here: http://www.timminspress.com/2017/02/07/opinion-letting-mine-go-wont-help-communitys-crisis