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OTTAWA—Chief Theresa Spence says she has the answer to turning around her troubled aboriginal community of Attawapiskat — getting a share of the resource revenues flowing from a nearby diamond mine.
Without that, she warns that the troubling living conditions on her northern Ontario community will likely worsen and that lives may even be lost.
“Great riches are being taken from our land for the benefit of a few, including the Government of Canada and Ontario, who receive large royalty payments while we receive so little,” Spence said during a lunch speech Tuesday.
“Our lands have been stripped from us and yet development on our land area in timber, hydro and mining have created unlimited wealth for non-native people and their governments,” she said.
A day after aboriginal leaders held an historic meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to chart a new course for Canada’s First Nations, fresh warnings Tuesday of lost lives and civil unrest added a reality check to the challenges confronting both sides.
The housing crisis in Attawapiskat hit the headlines after reports that families were living in makeshift tents and sheds without running water, electricity or heat.
The community is 90 kilometres east of the De Beers Victor mine, on the James Bay lowlands. The mine produces about 600,000 carats of diamonds a year.
“We don’t have revenue-sharing with De Beers,” Spence said, saying they get a payment from the company but declined to say how much.
“We’re not out for gaining a handout. We want a base from which to build and move our people forward,” she said.
Spence says she never meant to put Canada in the international spotlight with her decision last September to declare a state of emergency because of the squalid living conditions.
“It was not my intention to cause embarrassment of Canada or to politicians. Nor did I plan to have this type of exposure. I merely wanted to help,” Spence said.
In response, the government stripped her council of its ability to manage the council’s day-to-day affairs and brought in a third party manager.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1121422–attawapiskat-chief-wants-share-of-revenues-from-nearby-diamond-mine