Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut May 16, 2018 - 9:30 am

Federal government scrambles to restore Nunavut wildlife powers

N.W.T. devolution law might have unintentionally erased GN’s authority over muskox, caribou, polar bear

JIM BELL
Wayne Walsh, the director general of northern affairs at the northern strategic policy branch of the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, at a hearing held May 7 by the special Senate committee on the Arctic. He told committee members that the federal government, when it implemented devolution in the Northwest Territories, may have inadvertently erased the Government of Nunavut's power to regulate wildlife in danger of extinction. (SCREEN SHOT)
Wayne Walsh, the director general of northern affairs at the northern strategic policy branch of the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, at a hearing held May 7 by the special Senate committee on the Arctic. He told committee members that the federal government, when it implemented devolution in the Northwest Territories, may have inadvertently erased the Government of Nunavut's power to regulate wildlife in danger of extinction. (SCREEN SHOT)

Whoops! The federal government may have unintentionally erased the Government of Nunavut’s legal authority to regulate the harvest of caribou, muskox and polar bear four years ago, members of the Senate special committee on the Arctic heard last week in Ottawa.

“The situation creates a regulatory gap and uncertainty for the Government of Nunavut in its ability to manage wildlife,” Wayne Walsh, a civil servant with the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, told the Senate committee at a hearing May 7.

Ottawa is now quietly moving to fix the legal glitch, which dates to April 1, 2014, after Parliament passed the Northwest Territories Devolution Act.

Their stop-gap fix is stuffed deep inside a section of Bill C-74, the huge omnibus bill that contains the federal government’s 2018-19 budget.

In it, the federal government proposes to amend the Nunavut Act with words that would restore the Nunavut government’s power to make regulations on the Inuit harvesting of species threatened with extinction.

“Nunavut was overlooked. I believe that’s what happened,” said Sen. Dennis Patterson, chair of the Senate’s Arctic committee.

The complex loophole occurred when Parliament passed the law that authorized the devolution of public land and resource management to the Government of the Northwest Territories in 2014.

As part of a modernization of the Northwest Territories Act, the Canada-N.W.T. devolution law repealed an order-in-council, or cabinet order, that dates to 1960.

The original cabinet order, written in the now-archaic terminology of 1960, gave the N.W.T. government the power to regulate hunting by “Indians and Eskimos” of “game declared in danger of becoming extinct.”

But after April 1, 2014, it’s possible the GN lost that legal power, which it had inherited from the N.WT.

“An unforeseen consequence of the repeal of the 1960 order is that the legislature of Nunavut may no longer have the clear authority to restrict or prohibit Indigenous people from hunting game for food,” Walsh said.

Three of the four species listed under the latest version of the 1960 federal regulation on “game declared in danger of becoming extinct” are hunted in Nunavut: caribou, muskox and polar bear.

The fourth species on the list, wood buffalo, is found only in the N.W.T.

The proposed change to the Nunavut Act, contained in the omnibus budget bill, would declare that the 1960 regulation still has legal force in Nunavut, and would be made retroactive to April 1, 2014, Walsh said.

“This retroactive provision would ensure the validity of legislative action taken by the Government of Nunavut under the Nunavut Act and ensure greater certainty in relation to wildlife management for the benefit of Indigenous people and all Canadians,” he said.

It’s not clear how this affects wildlife management decisions the GN has made since April 1, 2014, including major steps it took to regulate caribou harvesting.

The GN imposed an interim moratorium on caribou hunting on Baffin Island that took effect Jan. 1, 2015 and later that year imposed a small quota of 250 animals, specifying that only bulls may be harvested.

In 2016, the GN laid a charge against a Canadian Ranger from Igloolik, alleging he illegally harvested a caribou during the 2015 moratorium.

That case is still before the courts, and the man’s lawyers said last summer they’re preparing constitutional arguments to use in his defence.

Now, the GN’s legal authority to lay the charge appears to be in question, but the federal government has done little to explain the loophole created by its 2014 legislation.

A single sentence, on page 135 of the 369-page budget information document the Liberal government released this past February, says only this:

“In addition, the Government proposes to amend the Nunavut Act to resolve the legal gap for the Government of Nunavut to manage wildlife pertaining to Indigenous harvesting for game food.”

The chair of the Senate committee, Sen. Dennis Patterson of Nunavut, asked Walsh to explain why the amendment is needed now.

“We’ve gotten along since 2014 without this order applying to Nunavut. What’s the problem with continuing with the status quo? Things have gone on OK for the past four years, I believe.” Patterson said.

Walsh replied by saying that, although the Northwest Territories Act has been modernized through the devolution exercise, Nunavut may have accidentally lost legal powers over wildlife management.

“The way the Nunavut Act is constructed, it can be read that Nunavut no longer has authority to pass regulations in this area,” Walsh said.

For example, Walsh said that right now, Nunavut cabinet ministers may not have the authority to enforce the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board’s recommendations on total allowable harvests.

“I think that would be the biggest challenge moving forward,” Walsh said.

Bill C-74, the omnibus budget implementation bill that contains the amendment to the Nunavut Act, is is now at second reading.

Various parts of it have been referred to different Senate committees, including the Arctic committee, which is supposed to report on its findings by May 31.

At some point in the future, the Crown-Indigenous relations department will consult Nunavut Tunngavik and the GN on a proposed modernization of the Nunavut Act, which right now is mostly a mirror of the old N.W.T Act, Walsh said.

Once that’s done, the 1960 federal regulation can be replaced by words contained in a revamped Nunavut Act, and the stop-gap fix proposed now won’t be needed, he and other officials said.

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(12) Comments:

#1. Posted by May Day on May 16, 2018

Does this mean an end to the indiscriminant harvesting of caribou in the Kivalliq? You know, 15 at a time, stuff like that?

#2. Posted by Inuk on May 16, 2018

Does it mean that the moratorium on caribou harvesting on Baffin Island is now unconstitutional and we are allowed to hunt them until the changes to the Nunavut Act are enacted? Does it also mean those who have been charged under the Wildlife Act after April 1, 2014 can now apply for an appeal to have their charges overturned?

#3. Posted by Ours not yours on May 16, 2018

@#1
Maybe a more appropriate action would be to stop inter-regional sales of caribou? It’s not the fault of Kivalliqmiut that Baffin could not manage their herds.
The next few years will be interesting in terms of wildlife management. It will be interesting to see how regulators will dance around habitat protection and harvesting regulations. History tells us that harvesting rights will be affected before economic development stopped

#4. Posted by Northern Inuit on May 16, 2018

one only needs to review the Kivalliq Sell / Swap Facebook pages to see how much caribou is being sold.  when a single animal is sold for $300.00 and they are not up for long, it is telling how much is being made.

yes, Inuit are allowed to sell traditional food, that is not up for debate.

but when the herds are drastically diminished for short term gains such as large amounts being sent via airline cargo (who will not divulge how much country food is sent by the way), it can decimate the herds long term.

#5. Posted by Inuk on May 16, 2018

With the population of people growing in Nunavut eventually we will need quotas and seasons to hunt, also with our weather starting to change I’m sure it will effect the caribou.

The way it’s going in the Kivalliq they might be in trouble too in a few years, have to start thinking about that now because it’s no fun not having any Tuktu around.

#6. Posted by Ours not yours on May 16, 2018

I’d like to correct myself. Not the stoppage of economic development but the stoppage of certain activities in certain areas. Economic development is possible outside of these areas (the calving grounds).

#7. Posted by pissed off on May 16, 2018

No 3
What happened to the idea of ``Nunavut as en entity ?
Are we going to become so tribal that it is going to be my region, my community, my rule, my mineral ressource, my beluga, my cariboo.

THinking along this line would make any civil entity impossible to manage. It would very quickly become a case of`` grab what you can and the hell with everybody else``.
It would be a matter of `` you guys`` are not gonna tell us what to do . Let`s think in term of jurisdiction and policies for the better good of ALL.

Such a selfish comment!!!!!

THanks

#8. Posted by Important consideration on May 16, 2018

Regional biota should be understood more broadly from the perspective of a taxonomic super-domain. We should resist parochial / anthropocentric views on ownership as well.

#9. Posted by Ours not yours on May 16, 2018

@7
Couldn’t have said it better my self.

Selfish- lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.
Baffin depletes its own natural resource, pays the kivalliq so that they do too?

That’s besides the point. The point was that it will be interesting to watch wildlife management over the next few years. Kiv-ia is in the process of approving the exploration of an abandoned mine in the kaminuriak calving grounds which will very quickly make the herd decline in a similar fashion to the Quebec herds decline. The similarities between the 2 are there.. It won’t even be a matter of inter-regional sales being an issue, it will involve real harvest management, very strict quotas and the mining industry is hiding behind an Inuk prospector to get away with it.

Will NTI and Kiv-ia be held accountable? Were definitely going to be going through some interesting times in the near future. Inuit will be able to sue Inuit organizations for their actions.

#10. Posted by North Baffiner on May 16, 2018

Kind of stupid comments here and there. Some dumb Inuit think Baffin caribou was killed off…It was in its’ low cycle of island adapted caribou. They tend to die off when there is no more food anywhere on Baffin Island. Troll much?
There have been many cases of Kivalliq caribou arriving on Baffin Island, only to run into trouble due to their lack of terrestrial know=how. Caribou have many instincts, but the island caribou have different ones than the Barrenground species.
The caribou are at the low end (4000 or less) and until the lichen grows back, there is nothing this Eskimo farmer can do…other than to kill every wolf I see. He He He.
Stupid is as stupid does. Doesn’t say much for Kivalliq leadership when we have to listen to MLAs who expound regionalism, much like many of the commentors here. Nothing like the blind leading the deaf…BUT, Eskimos always said DUMB Inuit will end up HERE. CAPICHE?

#11. Posted by Eelata on May 17, 2018

#2 - I think you might be right.

#12. Posted by a little knowledge goes a long way on May 18, 2018

#9 you need to take a look at Article 5. It’s a good read, especially 5.7.30. Once that is done, please outline how, with references to back up your bold and unfounded statements, NTI and KivIA are accountable and what exactly they will be sued for. Your comment is inflammatory and irresponsible. Misinformation does more harm than you apparently know.

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