Last month, the remote Cree community of Attawapiskat was front-page news. The community has been grappling with a devastating suicide crisis -- and more than 100 residents -- as young as 11 and as old as 71 -- have attempted suicide.
This crisis reflects the despair facing the community over dilapidated housing, lack of mental health services and social infrastructure. But it is roots are in colonialism -- and worsened by corporate greed.
Just 90 kilometres from Attawapiskat, the world’s largest diamond company, De Beers, operates the Victor diamond mine. De Beers has extracted more than $2.5 billion in rough diamonds since 2007 -- and in 2014 alone the company earned nearly $1 billion in profits.
Despite record profits, De Beers paid the Ontario government just $226 in royalties in 2014.
Making De Beers pay its fair share of royalties won’t solve all of Attawapiskat’s problems, but it would be a step in the right direction.
Tell Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to revisit the province’s royalty regime and make De Beers pay its fair share in royalties and compensate Attawapiskat fairly.
Last year, a CBC exposé blew the cover on Ontario’s highly secret diamond royalty regime. When it was introduced in 2007, the government promised the money would enrich Ontarians and go to fund social services. With just $226 in the province's coffers for billions in extracted diamonds, it’s clear the government hasn’t been able to do much. And it’s unlikely that a penny has made its way to Attawapiskat.
So much of Canada’s wealth comes from the traditional territories of indigenous peoples, with the profits shipped away to benefit a tiny few. It’s time for the Ontario government to force De Beers and other extractive companies to pay their fair share in royalties, and work with other levels of government to make sure the much needed funds benefit local communities.
Because the reality is that Attawapiskat is not alone -- too many communities are at the same crisis point.
Hundreds of people occupied the offices of Indigenous and Northern Affairs (INAC) across the country last month. And, already, some changes have been promised thanks to the tremendous pressure.
We are in a key moment to pressure the Ontario government to fix its broken royalty regime that only benefits corporations and does nothing for local communities.
Sign the petition to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne: revisit the province’s royalty regime to make De Beers pay its fair share in royalties and make sure Attawapiskat is compensated fairly.
De Beers can legally extract diamonds from the traditional lands of the James Bay Cree because of Treaty 9 signed over 100 years ago. But that same treaty, signed in friendship between First Nations and the Crown, says the Canadian government must provide care and services for the signatory First Nations. It’s time the government upheld its side of the bargain.
We know we can do this. When we found out Nestlé was paying just $2.25 per million litres of BC water, hundreds of thousands of us raised our voices and we made British Columbia revisit its water rates. If we come together now, we can change Ontario’s broken diamond royalty regime to make sure it helps the people it is meant to help.
Premier Wynne: De Beers now needs to pay its fair share in royalties, and Attawapiskat needs to be compensated fairly.
CBC. 13 April 2016.
CBC. 12 May 2015.