When it comes to feeding the hungry workers at the DeBeers Victor Mine located in Attawapiskat territory, Remy Iahtail has a very important role.
Iahtail unloads an average of 14,000 pounds of cargo sent to the mine every day by plane. After unloading the planes, he then stocks coolers and shelves. The Attawapiskat band member describes his job as a stock clerk. Surprisingly, all this intensive labour is done manually, without the use of any heavy equipment.
Employed by a contracting firm, Iahtail typically works two weeks straight, averaging 12 hours per day. His daily routine is eat, work, eat, and sleep. He manages to get in some rest at the end of a hard day’s shift by relaxing in his room. After two weeks at the mine, Iahtail returns to Timmins with time off.
Working in such an intensive manual labour position, it should be noted that Iahtail is a robust, tough 65-year-old man. He has been going on four and a half years at the mine ensuring the goods are unloaded from the plane. He is comfortable and content with the work that he does.
“I am a damn good worker,” he is proud to say. “I put the young guys to shame.”
He said someone took notice of his strong work ethic and recruited him to work at the Victor Mine.
“I was all over – doing line cutting, staking claims, diamond drilling – then they found my name and asked me to come work.”
Despite working in such a remote location, Iahtail has no complaints. If he gets lonely, he can easily make a phone call.
But the most challenging aspect of working a remote job is when a death occurs of a loved one.
“The hardest part is not being able to attend the funeral,” he said, adding it’s a hardship for all the employees working there.
Despite the challenges and the intense labour, Iahtail has no plans of retiring soon.
“I am going to tough it out for another two years.”
I grew up in my home community of Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast and there were a lot of challenges living in the far north.
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