Nunavut senator dumps on land use plan, Trudeau government
“I have fought my entire political life to end this kind of patronizing and colonial Ottawa-knows-best decision”
Proposals to protect big swaths of Nunavut land through the Nunavut Planning Commission’s draft Nunavut Land Use Plan won’t help the economy, people or caribou, Conservative Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson said April 4 at the Nunavut Mining Symposium in Iqaluit.
And, what’s more, the federal government has undermined devolution by imposing a moratorium on offshore Arctic gas and oil drilling, Patterson said.
Patterson was one of several speakers at the symposium who complained about the protected areas proposed in the NPC’s draft plan.
In a presentation, Patterson heaped scorn on three processes: the NPC’s Nunavut-wide land use plan, devolution and what he called Ottawa’s “paternalistic and colonial approach to Nunavut.”
Patterson, who said he’s always been an advocate for responsible development, slammed the draft land use plan, suggesting that the commission drop its idea of regional consultations planned for the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions of Nunavut, and produce a new redrafted plan this summer.
“What is the reason for the rush to finalize a plan that almost everybody except the World Wildlife Fund is seriously dissatisfied with,” Patterson said.
As for devolution, for which Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna hopes to get an agreement-in-principle on by the end of 2017, Patterson said it’s been undermined by the federal government’s decision to take oil and gas out of the negotiations, without consultation.
“I have fought my entire political life to end this kind of patronizing and colonial Ottawa-knows-best decision,” Patterson said.
However, it was the government formed by Patterson’s party, led by the former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that wanted to see a devolution agreement for land-based resources only.
The 2008 devolution protocol, signed by Chuck Strahl, then the Conservative government’s minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, said the first phase of Nunavut-Canada devolution talks would seek an agreement on lands only.
And offshore oil and gas and seabed issues would be discussed in a future phase of devolution talks, that protocol agreement said.
Paul Okalik, then the premier of Nunavut, and Paul Kaludjak, then the president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., signed that document, on Sept. 5, 2008.
Speaking at the symposium, Patterson also complained that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had no business deciding to place a five-year moratorium, subject to a review, on offshore Arctic gas and oil drilling last December.
That, Patterson said, is “jeopardizing our future economic self-sufficiency and arbitrarily deciding for us to treat Nunavut like a protected areas playground.”
He accused Canada of taking its advice from the WWF, which maintains Arctic offshore drilling is a risk, although in the past 500 wells have been drilled in what are now Nunavut waters, Patterson said.
The oil from Panarctic’s small Bent Horn oil well on Cameron Island was “so sweet and pure that during an experiment it replaced diesel to power generators in the Resolute Bay power plant,” Patterson said.
Panarctic killed the Bent Horn project in 1996, after it had produced about 2.8 million barrels of oil, although since the year 2000, the federal government has regularly invited oil and gas companies to bid for exploration licences at Bent Horn and elsewhere on islands in the High Arctic.
But for the past decade and a half, oil and gas firms have shunned eastern Nunavut and the High Arctic. Most observers believe that’s because of the harsh climate and high operating costs.
Patterson also accused Ottawa of undermining devolution by committing to protect 17 per cent of land and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2020.
“Stand guard, citizens, or Nunavut and the government of Nunavut. The feds will go where they can play—on Crown lands they still control in Nunavut.”
The challenge now, Patterson said, is to stop Ottawa from taking advantage of Nunavut—”the last federal playground”—to freeze development.
He said the moves will deprive Inuit of benefits and jobs.
Presentations on caribou—which followed Patterson’s speech—also pointed out why protected areas doesn’t always work.
For example, the protected areas proposed for caribou in western Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region no longer reflect where the caribou migrate or now calve, according to the Kitikmeot Inuit Association’s director of lands, environment and resources, Geoff Clark.
And other presenters said studies show the traditional Indigenous harvest has more of an impact on caribou than development.
The mining symposium continues April 5 and April 6, with the public invited to attend a trade show at the Frobisher Inn 1:30 to 3 p.m. April 5