Diamonds on TV
Belgian current affairs show scouts new kid on the block

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 29/99) - Northern diamonds are bringing big news to the world's diamond capital, according to a Belgian journalist who was recently in Yellowknife.

"Most Belgians don't know and some Canadians don't know you have a diamond mine here," said Belgian TV station VTM journalist Suzy Hendrikx.

Hendrikx is U.S. bureau chief for the station. She was in Yellowknife this week collecting interviews and footage for its current affairs show, Telefacts.

The weekly show is the most popular of its kind in the country, with 600,000-700,000 viewers, said Hendrikx.

"I'm trying to get an idea of what diamonds mean to Yellowknife and the surrounding communities," said Hendrikx.

The piece will feature BHP's Ekati mine and the blooming cutting and polishing industry here.

But those expecting a glowing promotional piece on the Northern diamonds may be disappointed.

Hendrikx was looking for information on the role of aboriginal Northerners in diamond mining and its secondary industry, and the impact the mine has had on the traditional way of life and the painfully slow immigration process expert cutters and polishers, many recruited from Belgium, are encountering.

"It's a major thing, because they want to work here but can't seem to get things on track."

One Belgian employee interviewed at the Sirius diamond cutting and polishing plant had to see his wife leave to go back home because she could not obtain a work permit.

An instructor of an introductory cutting and polishing course here also spoke about the difficulties he's encountered maintaining interest among aboriginal students, said Hendrikx.

Others interviewed for the piece include Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development Minister Stephen Kakfwi, Finance Minister Charles Dent, a representative of the Treaty 11 Dogribs and BHP.

A scheduled trip Tuesday to Ekati was cancelled due to weather, and Hendrikx said she will likely have to rely on footage of the mine provided by BHP. Hendrikx wraps up the interviews and shooting and returns to her home base of New York City Sunday morning.