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Soft skills, hard rocks

Making diamonds ethical in Canada’s Northwest Territories

Lindsay A. Bell

Keywords: Canada; commodities; diamonds; ethics; Indigenous; mining; unemployment; work

Abstract

In 2007, Canada was the third-largest producer of diamonds in the world. Marketed as ethical alternatives to ”blood diamonds,” Canadian gemstones are said to go beyond basic “conflict-free” designations by providing northern Indigenous peoples with high-wage work and training. This article makes two connected points. First, it describes how the ethics of diamond mining are connected to the uneasy management of people groomed to do extractive work. Second, following the development and delivery of job training programs for Indigenous people over the course of the financial crisis of 2008–2009, this article reveals how mandatory “soft skills” courses attempt to adjust would-be worker speech to meet corporate norms in ways that were essential in maintaining the ethical sign value of subarctic stones.

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