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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
Stories
Introduction
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

 

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by Patti Gower
The Globe and Mail, November 6, 2001

Part 7 of 7: 'I know how they feel'


Cape Breton The image of white residents feeling powerless, even dispossessed, is sweetly ironic to the Mi'kmaq of Cape Breton. Last year, after the Sierra Club abandoned them, the concerned citizens of Melford called Dan Christmas to ask for help, unaware that it was the natives who had pressed the environmentalists to back down.

"I know how they feel," Christmas says, "because we've been in that position so many times." But he still said no - the Mi'kmaq had too much at stake.

The success of their work with Georgia-Pacific has encouraged the natives to pursue other deals. The band is looking to open a small casino early next year. It also wants to supply Cape Breton's thriving tourist market with custodial and catering services, and chase contracts to supply the many offshore rigs planned for Nova Scotia. There are thoughts of bidding to clean up the Sydney tar ponds.

Christmas knows a few business deals will not change Membertou's fate. He worries about the environmental effects and social disruption that another gypsum mine may bring to the island. But he also worries about the effect if there were no project.

As he drives around his reserve, he can point to overcrowded houses, broken roads and scores of idle young people to show what the status quo leads to. It's a far cry from the glass towers of Halifax, and Bernd Christmas's deal-making forays to Montreal and Toronto.

But at least the talk of change, and the emergence of new options, is leading to some hope at Membertou, and on Cape Breton's other reserves. Last summer, 25 of the band's 40 youths hired under a government-funded internship program were placed in jobs off the reserve, with companies and government agencies that now see natives as prospective, even necessary, employees.

When Dan Christmas was growing up, no one left the place, not even to shop. "When I was growing up, I thought Membertou was the world," he says, drinking a bottle of Dasani water back at his office.

The gypsum deal has helped the Mi'kmaq of Cape Breton to see themselves differently, he says. They can take on a multinational and talk down environmental groups and, if necessary, put the squeeze on their non-native neighbours.

If nothing else, he says, the new gypsum mine will teach his children that there is another world out there - not always a nice one, but at least one they can do business with.

THE END 
PRINT THIS STORY

THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 7):

Photo Essay
Mining in Membertou


1. 'There was a lot of fear factor in Atlanta'
A lesson in negotiating with the Indians

2. The new spirit: cementing deals
Mi'kmaq's band leader personifies the new image

3. 'Their attitude was perhaps what bugged me the most'
Membertou takes on the corporate world

Reader feedback
Check out what readers had to say about How the Mi'kmaq Profit from Fear
4. 'They don't take direction very well, unfortunately'
Racial comments at the Georgia-Pacific mine

5. The mine's next challenge
Cape Breton's Erin Brockovich brought in

6. A little 'shuttle diplomacy'
Christmas reaches a compromise between Georgia-Pacific and the Sierra Club

7. 'I know how they feel'
The sweet irony of Cape Breton's powerless, dispossessed white residents


 
 

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