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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Joan Kuyek’s book Unearthing Justice is a light in the darkness

Mining is a profitable, destructive and increasingly secretive industry.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2019 at 6:26 PM

Ralph Jack and Gwyneth Boutilier live on Cumminger Lake, below a proposed Cochrane Hill gold mine site, so they make their feelings about gold mining known on their front lawn. - ANDREW BETHUNE
  • ANDREW BETHUNE
  • Ralph Jack and Gwyneth Boutilier live on Cumminger Lake, below a proposed Cochrane Hill gold mine site, so they make their feelings about gold mining known on their front lawn.

When author and activist Joan Kuyek moved to Sudbury, Ontario, she noticed unusual surroundings. “I couldn’t believe the city when we first came in. I mean, at that point it was black rocks everywhere,” she says by phone from Ottawa. The landscape had been burnt by a hundred years of smelting in North America’s richest mining district.  Sudbury, like many parts of Nova Scotia, was built around mining. “It was an absolutely vibrant and alive place because there were so many young people who had been hired as the mines were expanding,” says Kuyek. “It was very exciting for us, too.” 

She spent 30 years as a community organizer. Over time, she saw the downsides of the industry that employed so many. “It made me have to deal with issues of the environmental destruction of mining, we were immersed in huge labour battles and the women’s movement, because women were treated so unbelievably badly in this resource town…that’s where it started.”

Kuyek dug deeper into the mining industry as founding national coordinator of non-profit industry watchdog MiningWatch Canada. For 10 years she was part of a skeleton staff developing a deep cache.

For the last 10 years, she has been a consultant to communities affected by mining. Now, after a lifetime of learning, Kuyek has decided to write everything she knows about Canadian mining in her new book, Unearthing Justice. “The reason for writing this book is I wanted it to be something useful to people who are dealing with mining issues,” she says. Unearthing Justice contains everything you might want to know about mining, told through the stories of people from BC to Nova Scotia. How a mine opens and closes, the displacement of Indigenous peoples to make way for mines, the flow of money, the legal system’s kid-gloves handling of the industry and ways for people to limit mining damage in their community are all covered. “It’s history. Maybe it was the accumulation of the assaults on the land and people that finally got to me… I just really felt that people needed to learn from each other,” she says.

Kuyek is coming to Nova Scotia for the book’s launch. Before launch activities, she will attend a demonstration at the gold show, paid for by citizens, where investors, industry people and government are welcome. Citizens and media are not.

Kuyek says the gold show is a bad sign. “Nova Scotia promoting it as this big gold show and then closing it to everybody because they’re so scared of their taxpayers doing something about it? That is unique.”

All are welcome at St. Andrew’s United Church (6036 Coburg Road) Saturday October 19 at 1pm for a talk from Kuyek followed by a panel discussion on alternatives to mining. Her tour continues in Tatamagouche Sunday.

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