Just over a week ago, a mining company from the territories participated in an opening ceremony in Saskatchewan, where the rare earth elements extracted up here will be processed.
So much for the argument that mining will bring more jobs to the North.
There were at least two glaring anomalies about this ceremony. One was that Dene drummers performed, which seemed to border on exploitation during this time of unpacking colonization and so close to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It was a big business ceremony organized by private companies with some provincial and federal funding.
Benefits from the extraction of these minerals in the North will primarily go elsewhere.
We love the drummers and lord knows, they restore our souls when we have been away from the North for too long. The drumming reminds us of the heartbeat of Mother Earth, who is fighting so hard to survive during these uncertain times.
No doubt the drummers gave their generous consent to participating and were likely well compensated. But did they fully understand what they were consenting to or supporting? Why were they pulled into this at all?
Deconstructing colonization means putting an end to using First Nations people for publicity appeal. That was just wrong.
All of this happened at the very time hurricane Fiona was whipping through Atlantic Canada claiming at least two lives and wiping away entire neighbourhoods. We spent long hours trying to connect with loved ones there making sure everyone was OK. Some of the homes destroyed had been passed on through generations and others belonged to families who had worked hard to own homes at all. Gone — with one torrential hurricane that forecasters say will no longer be a once-a-century occurrence but something we can expect every few years.
Climate change is taking a heavy and heavier toll.
Critics of the Saskatchewan plant complained that over-zealous environmental restrictions in the North prevented processing from happening here, which is why the so-called rare earth elements are being shipped south. However, others keeping a watchful eye on mining developments in the North and their environmental impacts applauded the oversight bodies for their careful review.
Thank goodness someone is watching out for us. The bottom line with big business is always financial returns…in other words, they are not.
There is no doubt that mining will have to continue at some capacity as we transition to a green economy but it can no longer be the main source of income. It’s killing us. Any mining that is done now should only be done to help us move toward a new way of being.
We are well aware that the bulk of government expenditures now will have to go toward rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by climate change activity caused by the way we’ve lived.
On the weekend, the North was hit with almost hurricane-strength winds, putting people and animals at risk. Some of us living remotely saw mature trees lifted from rock surfaces and toppled, giving us an insight into what those in the East experienced last week. These storms are not freaks of nature anymore — it is the new norm.
The reluctance of oversight bodies here to approve mining developments quickly is to be applauded despite what critics say. We should be glad someone is watching out for us when clearly, big business has repeatedly shown it is not.
As for the Dene Drummers, keep singing about the heartbeat of the land, the path of healing and the end of colonization. Heal us. Heal the planet. Give us hope. And be weary of those who would use you for their own ends.
Let big business do their own (and we hope, right) thing.