Inuit organization rejects notion that it should help deal with increased social problems

GN, KIA squabble over mines fallout


Mines may not help Nunavut much if squabbling between Donald Havioyak, president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, and Leona Agglukaq, Nunavut's minister of health, are any indication.

Yes, mines will bring jobs.

But the territory may remain stuck with crumbling infrastructure, inadequate counselling for drunks and drug addicts, and few places for abused women and kids to run, even after huge wealth is extracted from the ground.

These problems may remain for the simple reason that regional Inuit associations like the KIA, which stand to earn a lot of money from mines opening, are reluctant to help governments offer badly-needed programs and services.

Some Kitikmeot residents worry that drinking, drug-use and violence will grow after new mines open, beginning with the small Doris North gold mine in late 2008.

Aglukkaq brought the matter up, however indirectly, when she recently asked the KIA at their annual general meeting if they would "share information" with her department.

She later explained in an interview that she hoped the KIA would consider rising rates of violence against women and children, alcoholism, drug abuse, and other big problems in the region when they negotiate deals, called Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreements, or IIBAs, with mines.

Aglukkaq insists she doesn't want money from KIA, although it's hard to see how social programs delivered by her department offers could be improved without it.

Havioyak flatly replied that providing social services isn't KIA's job. "It's not our mandate," he said.

But hamlets and the Nunavut government don't negotiate IIBAs. These are private deals between the regional Inuit organization and mining companies. Just how much money regional organizations get from IIBAs is a closely-guarded secret.

Havioyak later said he would consider spending "a little" IIBA money on community infrastructure, but not on providing social services.

But KIA does pay for social services, by doling out money to hamlets for recreation and wellness services. This year it hired a wellness worker in Kugluktuk, for example, with money from BHP's Diavik mine.

KIA may even use some IIBA money to build women's shelters, Havioyak says. He says, however, that KIA won't be suckered into taking on the responsibilities of the Nunavut government.

KIA also helps train Inuit to work in mines, although education is another territorial responsibility.

It's not so complicated elsewhere. When mining companies negotiate with native bands in southern Canada, they deal with the same organization that provides social services in communities.

In contrast, when the mayor of Cambridge Bay asked to join in IIBA talks, she was told by the KIA to butt out.

This disconnect between Inuit associations and hamlets bewilders mining companies, which believed they were striking deals with Nunavut's communities.

Tellingly, Havioyak describes the KIA as a "company." And the organization appears focused on using IIBAs to funnel contracts to its subsidiary businesses, rather than negotiate money for infrastructure and social services, which are the problems of governments.

In fact, KIA's mandate is to improve both the social and economic well-being of Inuit. Havioyak says they fulfill their social goals by lobbying government to do a better job.

Other than IIBAs, the KIA may also be financially motivated to encourage mining because they profit from leasing Inuit land to mining companies.

To work around this, the Government of Nunavut has begun to strike separate deals, called development partnership agreements, with mining companies.

In exchange for signing these deals, mining companies are reimbursed their fuel tax.

But these deals focus on providing training to Inuit and ensuring communities are connected to nearby ports, airstrips and other infrastructure built for mines, with little emphasis on providing social services.

There's another reason why Inuit organizations are reluctant to spend IIBA money on social programs and community infrastructure. These things may be used by non-Inuit.

Inuit money should only be spent solely on Inuit, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. has argued at mining meetings. They say using Inuit money to fund public services would be unfair.

This is short-sighted, says Aglukkaq, given how Nunavut's big social problems overwhelmingly affect Inuit.

The debate of how Inuit money from mines should be spent has been overshadowed by the loud protestations of Nunavut's premier, Paul Okalik, that the federal government should devolve its power over lands and resources to the territory.

But a devolution deal would almost surely be a money-loser for Nunavut in the foreseeable future, because it would only allow the territory to collect royalties from mines on Crown land.

Nearly every mine expected to open in Nunavut is on Inuit land. And royalties from these mines will go to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

NTI plans to use the money to pay off its more than $70 million in debts, and set money aside for a financial downturn, before it spends money on new programs and services.

So, even if Nunavut got the devolution deal it wants – which looks unlikely, given the territory's current manpower problems – it would only further strain government capacity, until oil and gas in the High Arctic is tapped.

That's not expected to happen for at least 30 years. And the federal government remains unpersuaded that oil and gas belong in a devolution deal, because the seabed beyond 12 nautical miles from shore is under federal jurisdiction.

A Nunavut throne speech once claimed the federal government collects "hundreds of millions of dollars" worth of mining royalties from the territory.

In fact, the federal government has sent that much money operating its lands and resources offices on the territory's behalf, and has no projections of earning money from royalties in the near future.

Instead, most mining money will go to Inuit organizations. That leaves Syd Glawson, deputy mayor of Cambridge Bay, worried that, other than jobs, municipalities may "basically get nothing."

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