The Canadian Financial Post today posts an article on Ontario’s Far North Act. The author of the article is Stan Sudol who also runs the mining blog Republic of Mining. In his blog he focuses on what is happening in mining in Ontario. That is a subject I seldom deal with, for Ontario is far away and a complex world unto itself. I prefer to write about chance encounters in the street of Vancouver—see the posting just below this one.
Yet I choose to reference this article and quote below a few paragraphs. I do this out of respect for a fellow mining blogger and because the situation he describes is symptomatic of our times: irresponsible and unsustainable economics; the pleasures of the rich trumping all concern for the poor; blindness to the balance of production and consumption; a wooly idealism perspective of “primitive” peoples; and a failure of the dispossessed to stand up, shout, and be counted.
Here are a few paragraphs from Stan’s article–just a few to encourage you to go and read the complete article.
De Beers Canada and its Victor diamond mine is currently in the media spotlight regarding the poverty in the nearby First Nations community of Attawapiskat. Many are questioning why the community is not significantly benefiting from this diamond mine, located on its traditional territory. The Victor deposit — which is the smallest of Canada’s four diamond mines — just started production in July 2008 and has an expected life of 11 years. The mine employs about 500 people, half of whom are of First Nations background and 100 come from Attawapiskat.
With one high-profile exception, the vast majority of aboriginal communities in Northern Ontario welcome the benefits and jobs from mining. In fact, there are almost 200 types of economic partnership agreements between First Nations and senior miners or junior exploration companies across Canada and about 90 of those accords are in the province’s North. At an June, 2011 International Indigenous Summit on Energy and Mining in Niagara Falls, Ont., Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo said, “This is truly an exciting time for indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world.… We see the opportunities in resource development as a key to unlock the full potential of indigenous peoples across the globe in ways that are responsible, sustainable and mutually beneficial to all parties.”
The mining industry is the largest private-sector employer of aboriginal people in the country, making up about 7.5% of the workforce. According to a June, 2011 study from TD Economics, the “aboriginal population has been beneficiaries of the booms in the resource sector since the past decade.”
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy — who represents 49 northern Ontario First Nations — has repeatedly stated that the Far North Act will stop his impoverished membership “from achieving economic independence by preventing development needed to build a viable economic base for NAN communities, while strengthening the Ontario economy.”
If southern Ontario’s political and media elites as well as the general public are truly concerned about the impoverished living conditions, high teenage suicide rates, and hopelessness in the North’s aboriginal communities than the Far North Act must be significantly changed to allow mineral exploration and sustainable mine development to flourish. This is the only way to both alleviate native poverty and give hope to the growing numbers of aboriginal youth.