'Perhaps the single greatest advance for QIA and its 'be;neficiaries; has been economic devel
Mining, dog slaughter top the QIA's agenda
After meeting in Iqaluit for two days this week, the Inuit officials who run the Qikiqtani Inuit Association say two big, expensive projects will sit at the top of their to-do list for the coming year: the Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.'s ambitious plans for the Mary River or "Nuluyait" iron project, and the QIA's Qikiqtani Truth Commission.
"Both items will impact substantially on the QIA's financial landscape over the next few years," the organization's secretary treasurer, Joe Attagutaluk, said in a report presented this Monday to QIA's annual general meeting in Iqaluit.
QIA delegates from around the Qikiqtani region gathered at Iqaluit's Nova Inn this past Monday and Tuesday for a two-day annual general meeting, followed by a two-day board of directors meeting held Wednesday and Thursday.
The QIA's executive director, Terry Audla, outlined nine objectives for the coming year, but it's the top two – the dog slaughter and mining – that will consume the greatest amounts of time and money.
The truth commission, which will attempt to record the truth, from an Inuit point of view, about the killing of sled dogs in the 1950s and 1960s, may end up costing QIA as much as $1.5 million over the three-year life of the project.
But despite the expense, QIA delegates are adamant that the project go forward.
"I am really happy that we are moving forward on this. There are many people that passed on and there are many people who are waiting for the results," Joe Arragutainaq, the director for Sanikiluaq, said at the QIA's board meeting in Cape Dorset, when the board voted in principle to hire retired Labrador judge James Igloliorte to head the commission.
As for objective number two, the Mary River iron project, QIA and its business arm, the Qikiqtaaluk Corp., will each have their work cut out for them over the next two or three years.
The QIA's job will be to complete an Inuit impact and benefit agreement with Baffinland Iron Mines, while QC's job will be to ensure that Inuit workers and companies benefit from the billions of dollars of cash flow that the project will generate.
Thomasie Alikatuktuk, the QIA's president, said that if Baffinland carries out its plan to extract ore from the mountain of iron that sits at Mary River, the site's name in Inuktitut, Nuluyait, will have to change.
"It won't be a hill anymore," Alikatuktuk said.
Baffinland has spent $43 million exploring the site, but if the project goes forward, they'll spend much more: at least $1.5 billion on the first phase of development.
Terry Audla says this is the best piece of economic news that Baffin Inuit have heard in a long time.
"Perhaps the single greatest advance for QIA and its beneficiaries has been the economic development that we have witnessed in the past year," Audla told QIA delegates.
Since most of the Mary River project sits on Inuit land controlled by the QIA, the organization will spend a lot of time negotiating with Baffinland over leases, access permits and the most important document of them all: an Inuit impact and benefit agreement.
Audla told delegates that QIA assembled a Baffinland IIBA negotiating team in November of 2006, and that they held three sessions with the mining company afterwards.
But this past March, they suspended negotiations for two reasons: to wait for Baffinland to submit its final plans for the mine this December, and to give QIA more time to prepare a draft IIBA for use as a negotiating tool.
This means IIBA talks will likely resume in March of 2008, Audla said.
As for the QIA's remaining objectives, numbers three and four also concern IIBAs – one for conservation areas and another for heritage areas. Those talks have been held up by the federal government's foot-dragging over money to pay for them.
The other objectives are:
- helping establish a national park at Bathurst Island near Resolute Bay;
- continued development of QIA's strategic plan;
- more work on developing a thesaurus to compile terms from different Inuktitut dialects into an easy-to-use database;
- continued monitoring of the Government of Nunavut's Inuit language protection bill;
- finalizing a dividend policy to guide the use of large dividends from companies such as QC and the Nunasi Corp.
- more work on their "community concerns matrix," a computerized system that helps staff respond more quickly and effectively to beneficiaries.