Ottawa, Nunavut ignored Inuit knowledge in polar bear quota: Makivik Corp.

Nunavik’s birthright organization challenges decisions in court


A polar bear walks over the ice near a floe edge in August. (FILE PHOTO)

A polar bear walks over the ice near a floe edge in August. (FILE PHOTO)

Makivik Corp. says it’s “profoundly disappointed” in decisions made by the governments of both Nunavut and Canada, which restrict polar bear hunting in Nunavik’s southern Hudson Bay region—a move that’s led the birthright organization for Nunavik Inuit to challenge the decision in court.

Makivik said the decision of federal environment minister Catherine McKenna and that of Nunavut’s environment minister Joe Savikataaq to set the total allowable harvest in the region at 25 was “discriminatory and unfounded” in a notice filed last November at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.

There was not previously a regulated quota in place. The parties which harvest polar bears from the southern Hudson Bay subpopulation—Nunavik Inuit, Nunavut Inuit (Sanikiluaq) and James Bay Cree—agreed to a voluntary and shared quota of 45 polar bears between 2014 and 2016.

In anticipation of the agreement’s expiration in November 2016, wildlife management boards in Nunavik and James Bay submitted a new quota. The number was not made public, but eventually rejected by both Ottawa and Nunavut.

“Both the Nunavut and Canadian ministers had an obligation to give ‘full regard’ to the extensive body of Inuit traditional knowledge in making their decisions, which they failed to fulfill,” said Makivik’s vice president of resource development, Adamie Delisle Alaku, in a Jan. 19 release.

“[The decisions] also did not respect the spirit of the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement (NILCA) in making their decision on total allowable take, and non-quota limitations.”

Delisle Alaku said Makivik is now asserting its rights under Article 5 of that agreement, which sets out the wildlife management system for the Nunavik marine region.

Not only are the federal and territorial governments’ decisions inconsistent with criteria to restrict Nunavik Inuit harvesting rights, Delisle Alaku said, but he believes the decisions were based on “speculation and irrelevant considerations.”

Some organizations have called for stricter harvest quotas in Nunavik, after about 60 polar bears were hunted in Inukjuak in early 2011.

Makivik’s notice requests a judicial review of the decision.

None of the allegations in the notice have been proven in court and none of the respondents named in the notice—the GN, the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board, the Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board and the Attorney General of Nunavut—have submitted written responses to the allegations.

An earlier version of this story reported that the Canadian and Nunavut governments set the total allowable harvest in Nunavik region at 25 polar bears, when in fact, the quota was set at 23.

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