Mayors tired of being shunned by GN, Inuit organizations

We want some too, municipalities say


Nunavut's municipalities want a piece of the action from future mining activity, including a share of royalty payments from mining companies and a say in what goes into Inuit impact and benefit agreements.

The Nunavut Association of Municipalities made this point to hundreds of mining executives and bureaucrats gathered in Iqaluit this week for the Nunavut Mining Symposium. And the NAM did this, without even being invited to speak during the meetings.

That didn't stop Nunavut's mayor, Elisapee Sheutiapik, from donning her other hat as president of NAM when she gave a welcoming speech on Monday evening, and stressing the importance of involving communities, at the municipal level.

"We do not see your companies as a goose from which we can squeeze golden eggs to alleviate poverty or build badly-needed schools or health clinics in our communities," she said, as an assurance to mining executives. "These things are government responsibilities and Canadian governments have the capacity and the responsibility to meet these needs."

Instead, municipalities want a share of royalty payments, which are now collected by the federal government. The Government of Nunavut recently began talks with Ottawa to negotiate a devolution agreement, which would give Nunavut some of that money.

"We believe that local governments' share of resource revenue should not be an additional tax on industry's share," she said. "Rather, we need a share of the resource revenues already paid by the private sector."

Kitikmeot Community Futures Inc., Job Opportunity – Executive Director

Municipal governments would spend that money better than the territorial government would, Sheutiapik told the crowd.

She quoted Wayne Murdy, chair of the International Council of Mining and Metals, who says "central governments have failed to use tax revenues from mining companies effectively to fund basic public services and empower local governments."

The next day, meeting-goers heard that Nunavut's municipal governments are tired of being shut out of talks between mining companies and regional Inuit organizations on the details of Inuit impact and benefits agreements.

That message was delivered by Michelle Gillis, the mayor of Cambridge Bay, who also happens to sit on the board of NAM, when she spoke on Tuesday about community involvement with mining companies.

"It's not that we want to complicate the process," she said. "Right now we're not involved. We're outside that process."

Gillis' comments surprised Greg Missal, vice president of government and regulatory affairs for Tahera Diamond Corp.

"There is a general perception in industry when you are negotiating IIBAs, the groups represent communities," he said.

But Gillis said every time her hamlet approaches the Kitikmeot Inuit Association for information on agreements struck with mining companies, they never get far.

"We received a legal direction from KIA we not be involved," she said. "We've been refused."

That leaves Gillis, the mayor of the Kitikmeot's biggest community, wondering how Cambridge Bay should prepare itself for the expected mining boom.

Half of mineral exploration in Nunavut is taking place in the Kitikmeot, she said. And in Cambridge Bay, the region's hub, mining companies are the biggest employer, after government.

"It's the smallest region, but we have a lot going on," she said.

But the community has a shortage of housing and skilled workers, and they don't hear much about what's being done to fix this.

Gillis welcomes the idea of public-private partnerships, or P3s, to make up for the community's lack of infrastructure.

Gillis' calls were echoed by Paul Waye, the senior administrative officer for Kugluktuk, who has participated in public hearings for Miramar's proposed Doris North gold mine, and more recently, Areva in Cambridge Bay.

He said a more collaborative approach is needed between regional Inuit organizations and hamlets, "so we can participate and get involved."

But regional Inuit organizations such as the KIA are under no obligation to deal with hamlets when they work on the details of impact agreements, or IIBAs.

Gillis' comments did not please Paul Kaludjuk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., who stood with a flushed face to offer a rebuttal to Gillis' comments.

He defended the way IIBAs are negotiated, and said Inuit organizations seek comments from affected residents before a deal is struck. "We don't want the public misinformed," he said.

Gillis also criticized Nunavut's regulatory regime. She said it takes too long for companies to receive approval from the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

"Let's eliminate red tape and support that process," she said.

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