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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)

 

'Everyone thought we were stupid'

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by Fred Lum.
The Globe and Mail, December 14, 2001

Part 2 of 7: Getting the nickel out


Salluit Such disharmony is not what the company wants to hear. It has spared no expense to keep its employees happy and productive, regardless of race.

With as much as 17.5 million tonnes (19.3 million tons) of ore under the ground, the site - located about 100 kilometres inland from the Hudson Strait - is considered one of the world's richest nickel bodies. To get the metal out within 20 years as planned, the mine (named after nearby Raglan Lake) began production in mid-1998 and now operates around the clock, 365 days a year, with fresh food and fresh workers flown in weekly from Rouyn, in southern Quebec, and the 14 Inuit villages along the coast.


There is a fitness centre, indoor track, basketball court and two bowling lanes, along with pool tables and big-screen TVs aplenty. The Jacuzzi and a tanning salon were added to win even more favour.

From the surrounding tundra, the vast complex looks like a moon station. On the outside, the mine appears very bleak, as giant rock crushers and smoke-spewing loaders grind their way into the tunnels that lead 150 metres below ground.

Inside, however, the operation is all about comfort. The company hired the former Club Med manager to ensure that workers, regardless of race, are happy and rested. There is a fitness centre, indoor track, basketball court and two bowling lanes, along with pool tables and big-screen TVs aplenty. The Jacuzzi and a tanning salon were added to win even more favour.

And then there's the kitchen, which puts out 1,050 meals a day, from French toast and bacon in the morning to an evening dessert tray with chocolate mousse, blueberry pie, fresh fruit and cookies. On a work site with no easy way out, good food may be the best disaster-prevention strategy of all.

The luxury belies a deep discomfort among many of the Inuit. Not only do they feel like a minority on their own land, they feel the majority is all too often trying to push them out. The Québécois sit at their own tables in the dining room, watch French-language television and speak their language on the job.

Being miners, they also revel in gruff humour that mocks cultural differences, especially when a rookie is involved. The Inuit may not bear the brunt more than anyone else, but they aren't used to it. So they don't chuckle at the memory of being required to guide vehicles through snowstorms or having the heat in their rooms cranked down because they're "used to it."
THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 7):


Photo Essay
Heavy Mettle


1. 'When we first started, we were nothing'
Life at the Raglan mine

2. Getting the nickel out
Fresh food, workers flown in weekly to remote mine

3. 'I feel like a white man hunting for ore'
The racial divide at Raglan

4. Time becomes an issue
'The family is more important than the job'

5. Increasing Raglan's Inuit workforce
'I don't think we're joining the mainstream of society as well as we should'

6. Knowing how to adapt
Preparing for the next generation at the coastal village of Salluit

7. Inuit savvy makes them a business partner
'The Inuit adapt admirably to the site, but I contend the site is not very good at adapting to the Inuit way'


 
 

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