Editorial page
Wednesday April 22,1998

The unpleasant side of the business

The prospect of seeing what the security manager for BHP's Ekati mine calls a "Fort Knox" in Yellowknife probably isn't what most of us had in mind when we embraced the arrival of the diamond industry.

Tight security, however, was inevitable as the sunrise. History is replete with tales of cunning jewel thieves pulling off elaborate heists and less-sophisticated crooks pocketing rough gems from the mines themselves.

BHP has promised to build a diamond valuation complex somewhere in the NWT and it has promised to make sure the building has the latest theft-detection and deterrence hardware, software and employee-screening techniques.

Some may lament BHP's approach, which is motivated by fear and distrust. But Yellowknife and much of the rest of the North long ago evolved beyond a friendly little town where nobody locks their doors. And the price of playing with some the world's most valuable merchandise is a loss of whatever sense of innocence we have left.

Two RCMP officers are looking into what role the national police force will play in keeping the North safe for and from diamonds. No doubt they will play an important role. But do they really need new legislation that grants the RCMP "a bit of latitude with respect to enforcement?"

That sounds suspiciously like bending the rules of law in favor of the police, rather then the public, and we see no reason for it.

Other countries experienced in the ways of the industry may have chosen to accommodate such requests, but none are comparable to Canada. But do we really want to follow in the footsteps of countries like Botswana, Tanzania and Namibia? Their criminal codes may not have been up to the task, but we have more faith in ours.

Security, yes. Paranoia, no.

Partners in profit

It is clear that when you dive into the diamond business, you start swimming with some pretty big fish.

Although the set-up costs are huge, the potential for substantial profit is great and the business attracts players who wield a lot of clout and have deep pockets. In Africa there are entire national economies that are reliant solely on the vagaries of the diamond business.

All this can seem pretty intimidating to the handful of people who call the Northern fringe of the world home.

The big players wouldn't be here if they didn't smell profit. But Northerners have to ensure that they get a piece of the action.

Regarding each other as partners rather than antagonists is the way to go.

Locked in

It's that time again, when Yellowknifers face the headaches that come with the closure of the Mackenzie River ice crossing -- this year's estimate is three weeks before the ferry starts up.

While Yellowknife's largest food store is reporting that no price hikes are anticipated, nor are supplies likely to become scarce, we all know the drill of fighting over the last container of milk and the claustrophobia that comes with knowing there's nowhere to drive to.

Maybe the YK Chamber of Commerce's idea of building a bridge isn't such a bad idea. The problem is that their campaign to sell shares in the bridge has raised only $1,800 to date. At the rate they're going, we'll have flying cars before their fund-raising campaign reaches its goal.