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Considering a diamond? If you want to buy a Canadian diamond, don't just consider where it was mined, also ask where it was cut and polished, says Stephen Ben-Oliel president of Sirius Diamonds. - NNSL file photo

Diamond definition is too vague, says company president

Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 17/03) - The president of Sirius Diamonds is looking for a tighter definition in what constitutes a Canadian diamond.

The Competition Bureau of Industry Canada has declared that a diamond is "Canadian" or "Canadian made" as long as it is mined in Canada.

Sirius president Stephen Ben-Oliel wants to see the definition tightened up to include: mined, cut and polished in Canada.

Currently, a Canadian-mined diamond cut and polished in Third World countries re-enters the market as a Canadian diamond.

This definition is "putting a lid" on the growth of the diamond cutting and polishing industry in Yellowknife, said Ben-Oliel.

Ben-Oliel says it is unfair that he has to compete with cutting and polishing shops in Third World countries whose finished diamonds carry the same "Canadian made" designation.

"There are $40 billion in proven diamond reserves in Canada. Should it all leave without any additional value being added?" Ben-Oliel asked.

Jay Jackson, a spokesperson for the Competition Bureau, says the issue surrounding the definition for what constitutes a Canadian diamond has been around since 1998.

"We did an extensive consultation with all stakeholders and their views were adopted," said Jackson.

Serge Pelletier, marketing and sales manager with BHP Billiton, agreed with Jackson.

"When the definition of Canadian diamonds was taking place Industry Canada asked everybody to give their opinion and there were over 300 responses. The vast majority were in favour, which is what good democracy and freedom of speech are all about," said Pelletier.

"When the legislation was put in place it went to the highest levels of government. They weighed the pros and cons and came up with the decision," he said.

Ben-Oliel stated: "Rather than saying democracy rules, we should look at the massive lobby by the diamond mining industry. Could it be because of the $100 million royalty the federal government receives from the industry?"

Jackson responded: "There are many products sold in Canada that are stamped 'Made in Canada'. Under the definition, many are processed or further processed outside Canada."

In the November 2003 edition of Sirius about Diamonds, Ben-Oliel writes: "A cutting operation in Mumbai, Shanghai or other such locale can manufacture a rough diamond under Third World labour conditions, perhaps using child workers or adults paid under $1 per day.

"In these places, it has been found that children as young as five years old are put to work in the trade."

Jackson said his role was simply to ensure truth in advertising.

"It's difficult for us to comment on sweat shops. We don't have that mandate. The industry adheres to a voluntary code of conduct," said Jackson.