Igloolik call-in show kicks off human rights assessment of Mary River
Lawyer Lloyd Lipsett takes calls from listeners
No matter where you are, you can now listen to call-in radio shows, featuring a human rights lawyer from southern Canada who is visiting Igloolik to work on a “human rights assessment” of the proposed Mary River iron mine.
To start his assessment, Canadian human rights lawyer Lloyd Lipsett fielded comments and questions from listeners during a May 9 call-in show on the Igloolik-based Nipivut Nunatinnii Our Voice at Home radio network.
Lipsett introduced himself on the show, which aired in Igloolik and online, from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., asking for feedback on the huge iron mine that Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. wants to build in north Baffin.
“I’m here to listen to people on the radio, and in the community,” said Lipsett, an independent consultant, who has previously undertaken human rights assessments of mining operations in North America and Guatemala.
Lipsett’s employer in this human rights assessment: the Digital Indigenous Democracy project, which has received $1.35 million from the Canada Media Fund Experimental Stream and project partners, Nunavut Independent Television, Hamlet of Igloolik, Nunavut’s department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, Carleton University’s Centre for Innovation and Mt. Allison University.
The online community radio portion of the project, Angiqatigingniq — Deciding Together, will use new media tools to draw on “the traditional Inuit skill of listening respectfully to different points of view, until reaching one unified decision everyone can support,” the project website says.
Its online radio network, Nipivut Nunatinnii Our Voice at Home, wants to link together the seven Baffin Island communities nearest to the proposed iron mine project at Mary River.
The goal is give “Inuit communities more power and influence at upcoming public hearings and the negotiating table with Baffinland and government agencies.”
Lipsett told listeners he plans to speak with as many people as possible to prepare his assessment, which he calls the “younger brother or sister of the environmental impact assessment.”
Lipsett said he plans to look at both positive and negative impacts of the proposed Mary River development on people, looking at the range of risks and opportunities, and consulting with as many Nunavummiut as possible.
In the end, Lipsett will produce will produce a report “so it will of benefit and inform everyone.” That report will contain recommendations, he said.
“I think this [human rights assessment] project has something very interesting about it that can contribute to human rights assessments around the world,” he said May 9.
That’s because this one will use social media to engage people in the process and share the results, he said, and this means the assessment process should be much “more transparent and participatory” than in others he’s consulted on before.
Although the idea of a human rights assessment is only about five years old, Lipsett said mining companies and the United Nations now accept such assessments.
Among other issues the human rights assessment on the Mary River project will consider is how human rights are protected in Canada and in Nunavut. And it will also take a close look at labour rights, that is, how well the company treat its workers, and how the community will be affected by the project.
Lipsett told listeners he is just starting his assessment process, and couldn’t present any conclusions: he just wanted to get the perspectives of other people who have something to say about the Baffinland project.
He also reassured a caller that he wasn’t trying to take away anything from the work of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association on the Mary River project, but rather add to it.
A couple of callers said they support the project that is heading to final hearings in July, but others worried about whether Baffinland would respect its Inuit workers and what the impact of increased shipping from the project would be.
One caller spoke about the importance of training and education, while another expressed worries about the trade-off between jobs and the environment: “I want my voice to be heard, from my own point of view, [that] the jobs won’t stay here forever. Our land will be gone… what is going to happen with our land?”
To that, Lipsett responded that it’s right to ask questions at the beginning of a development, both about the life of the mine and what happens at the end.
And if jobs are what people want to see flow from this development, it’s important to follow with links with training, he said.
On May 10, another call-in show with Lipsett is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. online, as part of the project descried as “acquiring knowledge, speaking your mind, talking it over and deciding together” (Tusaumatitauniq, Uqalaqatauniq, Uqqamajaqatiginiq, Angiqatigingniq).
On the website for the digital project, you can also listen to a taped interview with Zach Kunuk, the acclaimed filmmaker and recently-elected QIA board member.