8th December 2006
First Nations leader slams Canadian diamonds
http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2006/12/08//news/credit.html CBC News
A First Nations group in Ontario is trying to dissuade Americans from buying Canadian diamonds this holiday season, saying the jewels are mined at the expense of its people.
Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, said De Beers Canada in particular is causing environmental devastation and disrupting his community of 45,000 Cree and Ojibwa in northern Ontario.
"They're not clean diamonds; they're not conflict-free diamonds," Fiddler told CBC News. "People are paying a price for these diamonds and it's our people in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. Our people, our children, are languishing in poverty while these resources are being extracted from their territory."
Fiddler this week had an editorial published in the diamond industry trade publication Rapaport News, in which he outlined his concerns about Canadian diamond exploration and mining. He says several communities have called for a moratorium on mineral exploration on land where the legal title is under dispute.
"The battle over diamonds will be largely fought in the United States, where annual sales of diamond jewelry represent almost half of the $55 billion sold worldwide. The time is now for consumers in the United States to connect the dots and weigh in," Fiddler wrote in his editorial.
"Tell De Beers, other diamond miners and Canada that unless things change, Canadian diamonds are no better than conflict diamonds from Africa."
Linda Dorrington, a spokeswoman for De Beers said the company is making an effort to negotiate with First Nations in Canada but said land rights need to be decided by government. The company has one project underway along with exploration work within Nishnawbe Aski territory.
"We encourage the government and these groups to continue to work together to get these matters settled," she said.
Fiddler said the diamond company should stop work until the government settles the land claims.
The trade in diamonds originating in conflict zones, sometimes called "blood diamonds," has helped pay for wars in Africa that have killed millions in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Congo.
Under heavy criticism from human rights activists, governments, non-governmental organizations and industry enacted the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in 2002, which tracks diamonds from the mine to the store.
Jewelers are bracing for more consumer scrutiny this season with the opening of the new film Blood Diamond set amid the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s. Industry officials have launched a high-profile campaign, saying the Kimberley Process has curbed the "blood diamond" trade.