Nunavut Inuit boycott environment conference

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

DWANE WILKIN

Inuit leaders who boycotted a conference on the environment may have missed a golden opportunity to learn about the environmental practices of their neighbors.
But that’s about the only impact that Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s absence from the Inuvik conference on a protected areas strategy will likely have.

Environmental groups, aboriginal organizations and the mining interests met this week with federal and territorial government representatives to begin setting a framework for selecting future conservation sites in the North.

“I regret that NTI was not more fully involved in the planning and the organizing of this conference,” Stephen Kakfwi, the GNWT’s minister of renewable resources, wildlife and economic development said Wednesday.

Adrian Boyd, NTI’s lands manager, did turn up to give a brief overview of the work being done by the Nunavut Planning Commission in the Lancaster Sound, Keewatin and West Kitikmeot regions. But he was alone.

“It looked kind of embarrassing to have a non-aboriginal person, staff person, in a grey suit, sending a political message here,” Kakfwi commented.

Last week, NTI and seven other Inuit groups from Nunavut announced they would not participate in the protected areas strategy conference.

The Nunavut land claims agreement, they said, already provides Inuit in the Nunavut Settlement Area with tools to adequately protect land and water resources.

Bad feelings between leaders?

The minister attributed it to politics ­ in particular, lingering bad feelings between Inuit leaders and the GNWT that erupted in Cambridge Bay over a disagreement about the design of the first Nunavut legislature.

“Relations, politically, between Inuit aboriginal leaders and certain members of the legislature is not very positive, and it may have a spinoff on how kindly they look at initiatives like this.”

Kakfwi suggested NTI’s decision not to participate in the development of a protected-areas strategy for the Northwest Territories was shortsighted.

“NTI says the tools are there. Sure the tools are there. They have provisions for establishing parks, they have provisions to develop management plans for protected areas within Nunavut… but Nunavut is not an island.”

Inuit will eventually have to work with several neighboring jurisdictions in the area of environmental protection, the minister said.

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