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De Beers, the diamond mine located near Attawapiskat, believed it was being “held hostage” by a blockade

Author: 
Compiled by Debora Steel
Volume: 
30
Issue: 
12
Year: 
2013

De Beers, the diamond mine located near Attawapiskat, believed it was being “held hostage” by a blockade of the winter road leading to the Victor mine by First Nation members, to “exert pressure” on the company “to succumb to their demands of, among other things, compensation, employment and housing,” said court documents filed in Superior Court in February. The company filed a “notice of motion” seeking an injunction against six protesters that were blocking the road, and $130 million in damages. “De Beers Canada depends on the use of the winter road for the majority of annual re-supply of the Victor mine. This annual supply is necessary to keep the mine operating and to keep the mine’s staff employed.” De Beers pays $11 million to construct and maintain the 400 kilometre road. A Timmins Superior Court judge declared the blockade an act of extortion. He said it was self-interest, not any interest that would benefit the community that closed the road. These are “individuals with private financial interests, holding a large multinational corporation to ransom,” said Judge Robert Riopelle. “It smells of coercion.” He said there was sufficient basis for police to lay criminal charges, but despite the ruling, the OPP did not rush to remove protesters, which irritated De Beers lawyer Neal Smitheman. “What is the message being sent to the world” when “five or six disgruntled ex-employees ... can shut down a business of 500 people at a cost of millions? That there is no law in Northern Ontario? ... This is Attawapiskat. It’s not Kandahar,” he said. On Feb. 23, Sheriff Rebecca Iahtail in Timmins said “the blockade has been lifted.” The protestors voluntarily complied with the court order so no formal police action was deemed necessary.

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