Feds announce money for Nunavut-based centre to house Franklin relics
Parks Canada also working with Kitikmeot Inuit to develop National Historic Site
Nunavut and Ottawa appear to have moved forward in a dispute over the home of the relics from Sir John Franklin’s shipwrecks: Parks Canada this week announced $16.9 million for its ongoing search for the HMS Terror, as well as for work on establishing a facility in nearby Gjoa Haven.
Parks Canada said March 17 that the agency would collaborate with Kitikmeot Inuit to establish a facility to house the Franklin expedition’s history and artifacts — a project first announced by former Conservative MP Leona Aglukkaq last September during her re-election campaign.
Parks Canada said it’s working with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association to negotiate an Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreement for the new National Historic Site around the HMS Erebus, discovered in 2014 in the Queen Maud Gulf, and the HMS Terror, which has yet to be found.
Last April, the Official Gazette of Canada and its Order Amending the National Historic Sites of Canada registered the 10-kilometre by 10-kilometre area around the place where Franklin’s ships are both thought to have sunk during his failed 1850 expedition.
Adding the Wrecks of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site of Canada to the National Historic Sites of Canada list provided the site with the protections afforded by the Canada National Parks Act and its regulations.
The recognition of the site “will support Parks Canada’s commitment to recognize the invaluable contributions of Inuit to establishing and conserving Canada’s heritage places,” said the federal agency, in a March 17 news release.
The announcement comes a week after a CBC news investigation found that Nunavut refused to authorize diving permits for Parks Canada’s to explore the Kitikmeot waters around the wrecks in both 2015 and again in 2016, unless the department agreed that any relics from the HMS Terror would stay in the territory.
Under the Nunavut Lands Claims Agreement, all archeological specimens discovered within the territory are to be jointly owned by the federal and territorial governments.
Since its discovery, all 55 objects retrieved from HMS Erebus remain in Ottawa for conservation, including the ship’s bell.
Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna told the legislative assembly last week that discussions are ongoing regarding the ownership of certain relics found aboard the HMS Erebus, and what’s expected to be found when divers locate its sister ship, the HMS Terror.
However, the federal government and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association appear to be on the same page.
“Incorporation of Inuit knowledge was important for the discovery of HMS Erebus and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association is confident that the collaboration between Inuit, associated communities, government, and tourism organizations will lead to appropriate development and ongoing management of The Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site into the future,” said KIA president Stanley Anablak, in the same release.
“I look forward to working with Parks Canada and to the completion of the negotiation of an Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreement.”
In the meantime, the KIA announced the creation of an interim advisory committee including membership from local communities, the Government of Nunavut, Inuit Heritage Trust, Nunavut Tourism and Parks Canada.
The committee’s role will be to advise Parks Canada on the management of the National Historic Site until the IIBA is finalized.
The committee will also look at options for the Gjoa Haven facility, which could include a visitor centre, conservation labs, administrative offices and staff housing, the release said.
“The Government is committed to working respectfully with Inuit and honouring their contributions to Canada’s protected places,” said Catherine McKenna, the minister responsible for Parks.
“Today’s announcement recognizes the primary role that Inuit will have in the development and co-operative management of The Wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror National Historic Site, and sharing this unique and fascinating episode of our nation’s history with Canadians and the world.”