Judge extends order to remove De Beers mine blockade


Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence talks with the media outside of Timmins Superior Court. (RON GRECH/QMI AGENCY files)

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence talks with the media outside of Timmins Superior Court. (RON GRECH/QMI AGENCY files)

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A judge warned the perpetrators behind an illegal blockade that criminal charges will be laid if they persist in preventing access to De Beers Canada’s diamond mine.

“Make no mistake about it, it is going to happen,” Superior Court Judge Robert Riopelle said Friday, directing his remarks to the blockade participants.

On Friday, Riopelle extended his injunction order prohibiting any obstruction of the road indefinitely, at least until such time there is a trial held for De Beers to recover damages arising from the Victor mine blockade. The injunction was initially scheduled to expire Friday at midnight.

During the proceedings, the court learned the blockade had been moved from the South Winter Road onto a frozen river portion, in hopes of circumventing any court order made by Riopelle which identified the location.

Riopelle addressed this move by expanding his order to include any portion along the ice road that would prevent access to the mine.

Barricades from this latest blockade have been up since Feb. 10 and have blocked the supply road crucial to the operation of the mine.

Five individuals have been identified in the judge’s order and could be subject to a lawsuit, if the matter goes that far.

Several of the demonstrators were in court on Friday to offer their side of the story.

They said they had put up the blockade because of a variety of concerns including environmental and water quality issues.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence was among those who addressed the court, though she is not one of the blockade members.

She expressed disappointment that De Beers has resorted to bringing this matter to court instead of sitting down with community members and trying to resolve it that way.

“The dispute resolution is part of the IBA (Impact Benefit Agreement) and they failed to do that, and jumped right to the court. So they skipped a protocol,” she said.

However, outside the court, Tom Ormsby, the mine’s director of external and corporate affairs, said the company has met with the protesters, the chief and council.

“We’ve had those meetings over and over again and we were left with no other alternative,” he said.

Meanwhile, NDP MP Charlie Angus and NDP MPP Gilles Bisson are calling for an end to the blockade to avoid job losses.

“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.


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