Straight Talk
BRIAN LILLEY - Ontario police inaction results in ‘lawless’ north

DeBeers Attawapiskat diamond mine.

Credits: HANDOUT PHOTO/QMI AGENCY

BRIAN LILLEY | QMI AGENCY

Lawyers for the Ontario Provincial Police will appear in court Friday to provide excuses for their inaction in enforcing a court order near the De Beers diamond mine in Northern Ontario.

There are no excuses, and in my view the police force, including OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis, should be cited for contempt.

This all stems from a half-dozen protesters from the Attawapiskat First Nation who decided to blockade the winter road that services the mine.

The road is used for resupplying the work site with fuel and equipment too heavy to fly in.

"Due to the blockade, we have lost a total of 14 of the available 20 days to deliver the critical freight and fuel to resupply the mine," De Beers said in a statement. "Should we not be able to complete the program as planned, we are concerned for the health and safety of our employees at site and the future of our mine."

That all seems lost on the protesters, who are now supported by their chief, Theresa Spence.

Now before you go thinking this is a protest over treaty rights, it's not. This is a fight over money and who should get what.

Speaking in court Wednesday, Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Riopelle said the men at the blockage are "individuals with private financial interests, holding a large multinational corporation to ransom. It smells of coercion."

Coercion is right.

The men apparently have a beef with De Beers over trap lines they say were affected by the mine and the protest has since grown to include a list of other issues, including job training and housing, according to statements made by those involved.

This is nothing but a shakedown that is being aided and abetted by the police. The protesters are illegally blockading a road in attempt to get more money out of the mining company. That should be enough for their arrest, but the OPP say no.

According to a report by QMI Agency reporter Ron Grech, the OPP's lawyer Chris Diana said the job of the police force was to appear neutral.

Really?

In a dispute between two sides where only one is breaking the law, the job of the police is to appear neutral?

What planet do these folks live on?

When the OPP last came under fire for not enforcing court orders involving Native protesters, Commissioner Lewis took to YouTube with a video to explain that those of us with concerns were just too stupid to understand the complexities involved.

Look, there is no doubt that dealing with issues like this is complex, but at the end of the day the job of the police is to enforce the law. Lewis and his crew are not doing that.

Instead, they are acting like politicians and social workers.

Lewis may think he is helping to dampen tension around this blockade and the one before that, but meanwhile he is stoking resentment among the rest of the population.

Across the country people are noticing the law is not applied equally. That builds racial tensions.

The other problem is one that will hurt Native populations in the long run.

How likely is it that companies looking to invest in mines near Native lands will take a pass in the future? I'd say very likely and that will cost jobs on reserves and mean First Nations will not get to take part in the resource boom.

On Wednesday, the lawyer for De Beers described Northern Ontario as "lawless." He's absolutely right.

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