GATINEAU, QC (December 7, 2016): Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Ignace Gull and Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler have issued the following statements following legal action by an environmental group over monitoring at the De Beers diamond mine near the remote First Nation community.
“The issues facing our community with respect to our relationship with De Beers, the operation of the Victor Diamond Mine and its impacts in our territory are complex and challenging. I was surprised to learn that this legal action has been taken, and I am concerned that issues of great importance to our community are being addressed in the courts and media without our knowledge, consent or participation. I must clarify that the Wildlands League, their lawyers and spokespeople, do not speak or act on behalf of Attawapiskat First Nation. The protection and stewardship of our traditional territory is our sacred responsibility. We are very concerned with these allegations and, if substantiated, we will do everything we can to ensure that all parties are held accountable. We recognize that there is significant interest in this issue but we are not prepared to make additional comments at this time,” said Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Ignace Gull.
The Wildlands League, a chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, is challenging the diamond mining giant over mercury level reporting at the Victor Diamond Mine near the remote community along the Attawapiskat River on the James Bay coast. Neither Attawapiskat nor Nishnawbe Aski Nation are involved in these legal proceedings.
“Attawapiskat is struggling with a multitude of challenges including youth suicide, and it is unfortunate that they are spectators in a lawsuit that affects their relationship with industry. Chief and Council have a difficult task dealing with a mining giant in their traditional territory, and they lack the capacity to address the challenges this relationship presents. Industry and government have reaped the benefits of this mine yet this community struggles to survive. This raises serious questions. These allegations need to be addressed, but the role of the provincial government and Attawapiskat’s ability to deal with industry must be also questioned,” said NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.
Attawapiskat garnered national attention after issuing a Declaration of Emergency in April 2016 when a dramatic increase in suicide attempts by community members overwhelmed the community’s ability to respond.