Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut October 01, 2012 - 12:26 pm

QIA president’s report puts positive spin on Olympic junket

Arcelor Mittal picked up the tab for controversial trip to London Olympics

Qikiqtani Inuit Association President Okalik Eegeesiak and QIA's vice-president George Eckalook, look over papers Oct. 1, the opening day of the association's annual general meeting in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
Qikiqtani Inuit Association President Okalik Eegeesiak and QIA's vice-president George Eckalook, look over papers Oct. 1, the opening day of the association's annual general meeting in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

Okalik Eegeesiak, the president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, said she has “very high expectations” for mining in Nunavut during her Oct. 1 president’s report to the QIA annual general meeting in Iqaluit.

“There are very high expectations for the mining industry to contribute to Nunavut’s growth and to provide benefits to Nunavummiut,“ she told delegates.

And Okalik put a positive spin on her August trip to London to meet representatives of the French steel-making giant Arcelor Mittal.

The trip, which took place in August during the final days of the summer Olympic Games in London, received criticism from many beneficiaries, who said the trip constituted a conflict of interest for Eegeesiak.

That’s because the tab for the trip was picked up by Arcelor Mittal, the majority owner of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., which wants to transport about 18 million tonnes or more of iron ore a year from northern Baffin Island to markets in Europe and Asia for at least 20 years — a mining project which recently received a positive recommendation and 184 conditions to fulfill from the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

The QIA continues to negotiate with Baffinland on an Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreement and commercial land lease.

In her report, Eeegeesiak described the London trip as “the initial phase of developing the long-term respectful partnership between AcelorMittal, QIA, QC and the other international businesses QIA, QC, and Inuit may be working with should the mine proceed.”

In London, Okalik said she told Arcelor Mittal representatives about QIA’s support for the mine “pending the outcome of the negotiations of the Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement and the commercial land lease.”

Okalik, along with Harry Flaherty and Levi Barnabas from the Qikiqtaaluk Corp. and Debbie Brisebois of the Inuit Broadcasting Corp. to travel to met “with AcelorMittal Board members, senior advisors, and senior representatives of businesses who partner with AcelorMittal.”

“We look forward to working with Baffinland and all other parties, through direct working relationships and working groups should the project go ahead,” Eeegeesiak said Oct. 1.

Among the other points mentioned in Okalik’s report to the QIA delegates:

• promising results from a Canada-Nunavut Geoscience Office research project near Inuit-owned lands north of Iqaluit on Peregrine Diamond’s Chidliak property, where a deposit of soapstone has been uncovered. “This carving stone find is a good example of how geoscience information could benefit Inuit,” she said;

• collaboration with the foundation of Prince Albert II of Monaco, who recently visited Iqaluit, “to build capacity focusing on the proposed Lancaster Marine Conservation Area;” and,

• the Feeding My Family campaign, spearheaded by Leesee Papatsie, which Okalik said has brought” attention to the high cost of nutritious food in the North.” “It is crucially important to recognize that chronic poverty remains the biggest obstacle to promoting the well-being of Nunavummiut,” she said. “Leesee is a great example of how we individually and collectively can take action to make it a better place for our children to grow up in, a place where their basic needs will be met, where their rights will be respected and promoted.”

“Our key message remains consistent — development, whether it be renewable or non-renewable resource development — must ensure community consultations, Inuit participation and must contribute actively and significantly to improving Inuit living standards and social conditions with economic benefits,” Eegeesiak said. 

During the four-day AGM delegates will receive an update on the IIBA and land lease negotiations with Baffinland, with a presentation on the Mary River project set for Oct. 2 at 1:15 p.m.

That follows “conflict of interest” discussion for earlier that morning.

The meeting is taking place at the Anglican Parish Hall in Iqaluit.

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