Archive | Canadian Media Resource Articles

First Nations must ‘learn from’ De Beers deal – by Jody Porter (CBC News Thunder Bay – February 13, 2013)

Documents show Attawapiskat gets 0.5% share of annual diamond revenues

Disputes over the value of Attawapiskat’s nearby diamond mine provide a lesson for other First Nations considering mining deals, according to the Assembly of First Nations’ Ontario Regional Chief.

“It’s a learning tool and we have to learn from that,” Stan Beardy said. “But going to the future, I think we need to look at what is fair, what is adequate and what is reasonable.” Members of Attawapiskat First Nation erected another blockade this week on the road to the mine.

According to the First Nation’s trust fund documents, Attawapiskat receives about $2 million annually from De Beers as a royalty. Based on information available on the company’s website, the annual revenue of De Beers’ diamond production at its Victor Mine near Attawapiskat is about $400 million. Continue Reading →

Attawakpiskat’s De Beers protest ill-directed – by Lorne Gunter (Toronto Sun – February 13, 2013)

On Sunday evening, just three days after an earlier blockade had been lifted, a group of about 12 aboriginal protesters from Attawapiskat, Ont., once again closed the winter road to the De Beers diamond mine 90 km west of the First Nations settlement. De Beers counts on the frozen road to resupply fuel, building materials and heavy equipment for the entire year since the ground around the giant excavation is too soft in summer to permit heavy loads.

This second blockade seems to be the doing a single family — the Edwards. And they claim their grievance with De Beers is over lack of compensation from miners for infringing on the family’s long-time traplines.

But if that’s their complaint, their grievance is with their own leaders at Attawapiskat, not with De Beers.

In late 2005, three years before the mine officially opened, De Beers concluded an “impact benefit agreement” (IBA) with Attawapiskat leaders. The IBA was approved in a referendum by 85% of residents.

Since that time, De Beers has paid money into a trust administered by the band council. The company is currently putting in an average of $3 million annually so the band has money to pay claims of lost livelihood and income from mine activity — precisely like the Edwards family. Continue Reading →

[Attawapiskat] Leaders out of their mines – Toronto Sun Editorial (February 8, 2013)

With little else to do in Attawapiskat, and with no leadership worth noting, it is no surprise that a bunch of residents from that frozen ghetto would bite the hand that feeds them with a blockade of the ice road to the De Beers diamond mine.

It is just one more example in a long list of why unmanageable and unsustainable reserves like Attawapiskat should be shut down.

After all, De Beers has only deposited around $300 million into the band council’s coffers over five years – that’s $60 million per annum, or $50,000 per resident per year – so there’s no sense letting that good deed go unpunished, now is there?

So block the road.And who cares if 100 of the 500 employees at that mine are actually Cree workers from Attawapiskat? Let them eat frozen cake. And, most of all, why allow them to be examples to others when the federal government, via the taxpayer, will continue pumping in the cash to all and sundry with disappointing results.

And, while we’re at it, why not give a big raise to whatever lawyer the band hired to make its deal with De Beers? Why? Because De Beers purportedly signed what amounts to a non-disclosure clause with Chief Theresa Spence’s crew to not reveal what any of that $300 million is for, or how it is spent. Continue Reading →

Attawapiskat diamond mine blockade continues, protesters eye De Beers airport – by Jorge Barrera (APTN National News – February 6, 2013)

An Attawapiskat blockade of a winter road leading to a diamond mine operated by De Beers could last until spring and expand to the company’s airport, says Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

Spence said the handful of protestors who launched the blockade on Monday said they won’t end their protest until they get some concrete changes to the impact benefit agreement (IBA) between Attawapiskat and De Beers.

“The people who are blocking have a lot of concerns,” said Spence, who is currently on sick leave and recovering from her six week-long protest fast.

Spence attended a community meeting held Tuesday evening that ran until near midnight. About 60 people attended the meeting which included De Beers officials. Another meeting began Wednesday at about 5 p.m.

Spence said during Tuesday’s meeting one community member discussed giving De Beers 48 hours to vacate the mine before facing a blockade at its airport. The mining company flies out its diamonds via charters with schedules known only to a few key people. Continue Reading →

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.” Continue Reading →

Theresa Spence’s hunger strike obscures the key First Nations issue: resource revenue sharing – by John Ivison (National Post – January 8, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

There is hope for the future of relations between natives and non-natives in Canada. It is embodied in leaders like Glen Nolan, a former Cree chief from Northern Ontario, who is the president of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada.

He doesn’t support the Idle No More movement because he says he’s never been idle. “There are too many examples of [native] individuals and communities who have broken away from the notion that government is there to look out for them,” he said.

Attempting to get at the truth involves abandoning stereotypes and clichés. That is hard when the subject matter conforms to easily attached labels, like Theresa Spence, the chief of another Cree community in Attawapiskat, who points the finger of blame at Ottawa with one hand, while extending the other for more handouts.

It is a welcome reminder when more sober voices like Mr. Nolan point out that many First Nations reject dependency on transfers from the federal government.

Mr. Nolan, now an executive with a junior mining company developing nickel and copper in Ontario’s Ring of Fire, said his time as chief of the Missanabie Cree First Nation north of Wawa was characterized by building strong support networks to encourage education, work and business creation. Continue Reading →

The real story behind Attawapiskat’s problems – by Thomas Walkom (Toronto Star – January 9, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Making sense of Attawapiskat is not easy. The James Bay native community is synonymous with poverty. But it sits next to a diamond mine. Its chief, Theresa Spence, has become famous across Canada because of the hunger strike she is waging on an island in the Ottawa River.

She insists she’ll only consume liquids until Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with her (which he has agreed to do). But what does Spence want from that meeting? This is less clear. She talks vaguely of a new relationship between aboriginal first nations and the federal government.

We now know, thanks to a detailed audit of Attawapiskat’s finances commissioned by Ottawa, that the first nation’s bookkeeping leaves much to be desired.

Auditors from Deloitte and Touche concluded that roughly 80 per cent of the detailed spending transactions they investigated came with little or no paperwork, making it unclear how the monies were spent.

Yet oddly enough, another auditing firm — this one based in Timmins — has regularly been okaying the band’s annual financial statements, all of which are available on the Attawapiskat website. Continue Reading →

Poor managing on reserves hurts the young the most – by Christina Blizzard (Toronto Sun – January 8, 2013)

TORONTO – Just when you thought it was safe to stick your toe back into the murky waters of government accountability, along comes Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, all a-Twitter about the leak of an audit report on Attawapiskat.

“Tough love the rallying cry of the cowards who ‘leak’ these ‘audits’. Too much tough not enough love for our aboriginal bothers and sisters,” Duncan tweeted Monday.

Give me a break. Try too much pot calling the kettle black. As a politician, Duncan was part of a government that regularly leaked documents in order to get out their spin. But when the Tories do it, it’s cowardice? It sure explains why this province is in such dire economic straits.

If he really believes it’s acceptable for the band council in Attawapiskat to spend more than $100 million without adequate documentation, then is it any wonder this province is broke?

A scathing audit report by the accounting firm Deloitte found in random audits of transactions from April 1, 2005, and Nov. 30, 2011, 81% of the files didn’t have adequate documentation. Continue Reading →

Diamond mines in Canada at risk – by Matthew McClearn (Canadian Business Magazine – May 04, 2012)

Founded in 1928, Canadian Business is the longest-publishing business magazine in Canada.

Diamonds are symbols of permanence. Some—thought to have arrived on meteorites—may be 10 billion years old, more ancient than the planet itself. The fortunes of diamond mines, by contrast, can be protean. That’s worrisome for the Northwest Territories, home to Canada’s two largest diamond mines, Ekati and Diavik. Since November, their majority owners (multinational mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, respectively) both have commenced reviews of their diamond operations, effectively putting both mines up for sale. Some analysts speculate these reviews could result in individual mine sales or initial public offerings of entire diamond divisions.
Canada’s diamond industry has also reached a crossroads, for related reasons. It’s been more than two decades since geologists Chuck Fipke and Stewart Blusson discovered diamond-rich kimberlites in the N.W.T., sparking the biggest staking rush in Canadian history. Their Ekati mine, developed in partnership with BHP, opened in 1998. Rio’s Diavik followed in 2003. It’s tough to understate these mines’ impact on an industry characterized for most of the 20th century by monopolistic practices. By the early 2000s, Canada had become the world’s third-largest diamond-producing nation, behind Botswana and Russia. Our mines helped break the famed De Beers cartel.
It couldn’t last forever, though. In 2007, two men pondered the industry’s future. Tom Hoefer, then manager of public affairs at Diavik, warned at a conference that the industry needed to ramp up exploration. Canada’s mines were all old discoveries, and it was taking ever longer to bring new ones into service. Continue Reading →

Attawapiskat: Lots of love, and rocks, for a young generation [PDAC Mining Matters] – by Jim Coyle (Toronto Star – January 30, 2012)

The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

ATTAWAPISKAT, ONT. — At Micheline Okimaw’s White Wolf Inn, the most popular of the two motels in this remote James Bay reserve, visitors to town tend to cross paths. And in recent days, in Okimaw’s cozy confines, folks arrived trying to help the community with both its future and its past.

From the organization Mining Matters, a travelling “school of rock” in the person of Toronto teachers Barbara Green Parker, Janice Williams and Jenni Piette, came a high-energy presentation on earth sciences and how that field could lead to jobs for young people in projects like a nearby diamond mine.

From Angela Lafontaine, a member of the Moose Cree First Nation, survivor of her own difficult past, came help addressing long-standing wounds that have gone unhealed down generations and helped sabotage aboriginal aspirations.

For the Cree of Attawapiskat, each of those aims — hopeful futures, reconciled pain — is as necessary as the other. Continue Reading →

For people of Attawapiskat, hope endures – by Jim Coyle (Toronto Star – January 27, 2012)

The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

ATTAWAPISKAT, ONT.—For more than 20 years, Gilles Bisson has been visiting Attawapiskat, often flying his own small plane up to this remote Cree reserve. As much as any outsider can, he knows all the people, all the issues. Being a smart guy, he also knows how much he doesn’t know.

“Sometimes,” sighs the veteran New Democrat MPP for Timmins-James Bay. “I wonder if I really understand the community any better now than when I started.”

Attawapiskat is basically built on swamp, about 300 kilometres north of Moosonee on the James Bay coast. And the imagery fits. Lately, as the reserve became the new Canadian shorthand for native need, dysfunction and failure, its problems have seemed just as boggy and intractable.

The community is, to be sure, everything it has been portrayed as and more — a world of chronic poverty and dependence, of babies having far too many babies, of cascading generations piling up in shanties, of disheartening self-sabotage, of nepotism and decidedly imperfect governance. Continue Reading →

Attawapiskat chief wants share of revenues from nearby diamond mine – by Bruce Campion-Smith (Toronto Star – January 26, 2012)

The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

OTTAWA—Chief Theresa Spence says she has the answer to turning around her troubled aboriginal community of Attawapiskat — getting a share of the resource revenues flowing from a nearby diamond mine.

Without that, she warns that the troubling living conditions on her northern Ontario community will likely worsen and that lives may even be lost.

“Great riches are being taken from our land for the benefit of a few, including the Government of Canada and Ontario, who receive large royalty payments while we receive so little,” Spence said during a lunch speech Tuesday.

“Our lands have been stripped from us and yet development on our land area in timber, hydro and mining have created unlimited wealth for non-native people and their governments,” she said. Continue Reading →

Strengthening the chain between First Nations and non-aboriginal Canadians – by Catherine Murton Stoehr (Toronto Star – January 26, 2012)

The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Catherine Murton Stoehr is an instructor in the department of history at Nipissing University.

On Tuesday, Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo presented Governor General David Johnston a silver wampum belt symbolizing the relationship between the British people and the First Nations. He stopped short of saying what we all know to be true, that the chain is almost rusted out.

One of the central reasons for this breakdown is that non-aboriginal Canadians see all money and resources given to First Nations people as charity, while people in Atleo’s world see it as rent. If you’re handing out charity, you get to set conditions like submission to unelected managers. But people paying rent don’t get to interfere in their landlords’ business.

When British officials took over the land and destroyed the hunt in northern Ontario, they promised to immediately rebuild aboriginal communities’ infrastructure and then to support that infrastructure forever. In the same way that a lease remains in effect as long as a person rents a house, the treaties remain in effect as long as non-First Nations people live in Canada. Consistently fulfilling the terms of the treaties is the minimum ethical requirement of living on the land of Canada. Continue Reading →

[Resource] Revenue sharing, education key to native self-reliance – John Ivison (National Post – January 26, 2012)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence didn’t imagine she’d ever address the venerable Economic Club of Canada or face a bank of television cameras in the nation’s capital. “When I declared an emergency last September, it wasn’t my intention to cause embarrassment to Canada and I didn’t plan this type of exposure. I just wanted to help my community,” she told a lunchtime crowd.

Whatever her intent, she succeeded in getting millions of dollars of aid shipped into her northern Ontario reserve, in the form of 22 new modular homes, a retrofit of the community’s healing lodge and emergency supplies like water purification systems and health equipment.

But while everyone can agree Attawapiskat was a humanitarian crisis, there are divergent views on how it came about.

Judging by her remarks, Chief Spence is in no doubt – it was all Ottawa’s fault. In a classic case of blame-shift, she said the housing crisis was the result of government funding cuts and broken promises. Continue Reading →

Are the Conservatives making Northern Gateway pipeline hearings irrelevant? – by Tim Harper (Toronto Star – January 18, 2012)

The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

OTTAWA—Provincial premier or pipeline protester, you had a common plight Tuesday. You both found yourself in British Columbia, pushing back against that immovable object, Stephen Harper.

At their waterfront hotel in Victoria, most premiers took turns over two days spitting disdain at Harper’s 10-year, no-strings-attached health-care funding plan presented to their finance ministers — without debate — last month.

Harper was unmoved.

In an interview with CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge, he told the provinces to get on with health-care innovation (they did) and stop obsessing about money. Continue Reading →