TIMMINS, Ont. — Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats are calling for the blockade of De Beers Canada's diamond mine to end.
Both MP Charlie Angus (NDP – Timmins-James Bay) and MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP – Timmins-James Bay) fear the blockade of the winter road to the Victor diamond mine could cost the region hundreds of jobs. They are urging demonstrators to end the protest, which has cut off a supply line crucial to keep the mine going.
“We have hundreds of families across James Bay and the Timmins region who rely on work at the Victor Mine to pay their bills and save for their kid’s college education,” Bisson said.
Six demonstrators have prevented access to the mine site since Feb. 11, despite a court order issued on Feb. 15 to end the blockade. The protesters come from the nearby First Nation community of Attawapiskat. De Beers Canada has an agreement with the First Nation to mine the site.
In Queen’s Park on Thursday, Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said Ontario Provincial Police should enforce the court order.
Hudak said he would “expect the law to be enforced if a judge has an injunction to remove the blockade. It is fair and reasonable to expect law to be followed.
“Let’s talk about Attawapiskat. I’ve been there. It’s almost like visiting a Third World country, abject poverty and now we have people blocking a road preventing (others) from going to work and preventing them from getting a paycheque.”
Angus is concerned the situation is nearing the point where it will simply not be possible to keep the mine going if the road remains closed.
“Everybody on the James Bay Coast knows there is a very short window in order to move supplies on the ice road for the coming season,” Angus said. “We are reaching the tipping point here with the Victor Mine.
Both Angus and Bisson are urging the protesters to respect the court injunction and not put themselves at risk of further legal action.
Judge Robert Riopelle said in Superior Court Wednesday the men who are spearheading the blockade are not fighting for constitutional rights, land claims, treaty issues, or anything that would benefit the community of Attawapiskat.
These are “individuals with private financial interests, holding a large multinational corporation to ransom,” Riopelle said. “It smells of coercion.”
On Friday, court is expected to hear from protesters and possibly Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.