Baffinland expansion ‘a threat to my people,’ says Nunavut MP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq hosting telephone town hall for Nunavummiut to discuss Mary River mine expansion

Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq addressed the proposed Mary River mine expansion in the House of Commons on Tuesday. (Screenshot from ParlVu broadcast)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq is calling the proposed Mary River mine expansion a threat to her people, to Indigenous sovereignty and to the environment.

“I want to make my position clear,” she said in the House of Commons on Tuesday, adding “the government has been largely silent on this dangerous project.”

Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. is looking to double the size of its mine on north Baffin Island, which could include the construction of a 110-kilometre railway from Mary River to Milne Inlet.

Inuit organizations and a group of hunters have expressed concern over the impacts this could have on wildlife populations, the environment and Inuit hunting traditions.

Last week, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s chief executive officer said NTI wasn’t prepared to support the expansion and wants more respect for Inuit’s oral testimonies in the review process.

On March 5, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association also said it wouldn’t support the expansion because Baffinland didn’t incorporate enough Inuit traditional knowledge or consultation into the plan, and it needs more information on the impacts of the project.

In her statement on Tuesday, Qaqqaq spoke about a group of protesters who set up a blockade at the mine’s road and airstrip to protest the project for six days at the beginning of February.

“Land guardians braved temperatures as low as –36 C for days to have their voices heard to defend Nunavut from environmental and cultural harm,” she said.

“One hunter reminded us of something really important … this is our land, our home, being destroyed and we have to think about our future, our children.”

Qaqqaq is hosting a town hall on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET to discuss the expansion with her constituents.

“Please join me to raise your concerns and let us fight for our rights,” she said.

Nunavummiut will receive a phone call with the option to join the discussion, according to Qaqqaq.

Mathieu Boisvert, who works in her office, confirmed that only those within the territory who are on the MP’s contact list will receive the call automatically, but others in Nunavut can contact the member’s office to get a direct call-in number.

The town hall will be held in English and someone will be available to translate for those who want to ask Qaqqaq a question in Inuktitut, Boisvert confirmed.

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(29) Comments:

  1. Posted by Threat how? on

    The only danger is losing much needed jobs for the people because a couple families want to benefit more financially, the pictures of the dust are literally less than 1km from the ore stock pile, of course its dusty, it was all about money, since that back fired it’s about environmental issues and animals? How bout over hunting and climate change as well as new apex predators that kill off the young because they are easier to catch? Sheeesh , the real culprits are NTI and QIA for not negotiating for more royalties and such, Baffinland is following all the rules and then some

    • Posted by iThink on

      Mumilaaq honestly lacks the real world experience, education and critical thinking skills to consider this issue from anything other than a simple binary between oppressed and oppressor; which is to really say ‘good versus evil.’ Her social media posts paint a clear picture of an individual who views herself as a warrior and defender against the outside world.

      The hyperbole that follows—the government is killing us, the mine is an existential threat, etc, etc, are born inside a self-amplifying loop, reinforced by a small and uncritical gang of approving admirers and fawning activists on social media who have no connection to Nunavut and little real sense of the issue or its consequences.

      • Posted by Who Do you represent? What is it you want? on

        A warrior and defender who is defeated because she brings no solutions to the problems. Maybe there is truth in the first comment. It certainly is the word on the street. If certain people don’t get contracts and don’t get more they will shut the project down.
        If there is legit concerns with the dust than Baffinland needs to deal with it. According to the other stories they are doing a good job with reducing the definite by-product of open pit or in this case open hill mining.
        The MP should really be talking to people to find out if they actually feel the same way she does or is this just the grand dance before the big election. The reaction of the MP is looking like it chases the dance of someone else. The NDP talks so much about jobs for people while this project has more potential than anything in the region to produce jobs and she wants to kill it. I think someone needs another rest period. It the roar of the lion coming from a kitties mouth.

        • Posted by From ontario on

          May hold some relevance here:

          Similar issues with dust arise in southwestern ontario, where farm land neighbors, and is in direct contact with fumes, air-borne particles from lime and cement plants that are nearby (Carmeuse-lime, Federal white cement, Lafarge).

          These plants utilize air-quality monitoring — not just chemical suppressants, or covering of the raw material, to better react -in real-time- to the dust getting into neighboring farm crops/land. There are small-buildings with air quality monitoring meters that are located outside the perimeter of the plant, and onto the farm land, to ensure the particles aren’t spreading.

          Might be a relevant initiative to be implemented within a containment approach for Baffinland to ensure the iron filings/residuals are contained

  2. Posted by PJ on

    People who criticise her on this are the ones who actually benefit from BIM. Unforturnately they are loud, but too few!

    • Posted by JB on

      Your logic is hilariously incorrect. I benefit to zero extent whether or not BIM succeeds. I am, however, thoroughly concerned about Qaqqaq’s uselessness in conjunction with her ferocity. She is a dangerous combination that has damaged Nunavut’s already questionable reputation.
      I know well enough that your logic isn’t representative of all Nunavummiut, but it unfortunately does represent far too many of you.
      Please do better.

    • Posted by What is yer point? on

      I’m sure some of the people who work at the mine, and the families who are supported by it, oppose Mumilaaq’s over the top rhetoric. So what? Is she going to pay their wages once the mine packs up?

  3. Posted by Reality on

    The “threat to her people” is activists who convince Inuit that they are entitled to all the benefits of a modern life, without having to develop or participate in any sort of economy to support it. If even MPs are opposed to, and fight against, basic activities like mining, which is one of the few economic activities available to Nunavut (agriculture, forestry, and manufacturing are out due to climate and remoteness), what is the plan for providing a modern life to a growing population? Being opposed to everything is easy. Expecting the outside world to solve all the problems that result from rejecting the activities that support modern life cannot go on forever.

    • Posted by full picture on

      activists? don’t have to develop or participate in any kind of economy? are you off your rocker? Phase 2 is one part of a massive project. that project is already approved to go and build a railway and ship 30MT of ore per year! “poor planning” by baffinland, or, if like some, you believe this was their plan all along, then a strategy by them, now has Inuit apparently by the balls saying Phase 2 or bust. Inuit supported the first proposal, shipping via steensby. who’s saying no to mining in an absolute sense? no one that i can hear. you folks on about binary good vs evil also have your eyes closed to the bigger picture.

      • Posted by iThink on

        I pointed out the silly binary because it represents the kind of cartoonish vision I see our MP take on numerous issues. Listen to or read some of her interviews and social media commentary and maybe you will see where this comes from, maybe not.

        Either way, it’s hard to argue against a call for better quality conversations and more robust information about this project and the mine in general. I agree, I feel like we are missing the full picture.

        • Posted by PJ on

          At least we have a rep that can have a stance, and say what she believes, regardless of you critics. She has my vote. All people writing just dont like what they hear. Forturnately most dont even sound like Nunavuimuit.

          • Posted by iThink on

            I’m curious, PJ… what does a Nunavuimuit sound like to you? (I really hope you answer this)

            That aside, you’ve posed an interesting question here. Is taking a stance better than avoiding issues and shirking responsibility, or simply not taking a stance at all?

            It seems this needs some important qualification. Would you agree that a stance could be completely destructive? It is not hard to imagine examples where it could. To me it seems a stance is only as useful and as laudable as the quality of thought that goes into it.

  4. Posted by Bert Rose on

    And the 325 jobs at the mine paying an average of $60,000 each – are those Inuit to starve?

    • Posted by Humm on

      Maybe that’s the average, but one study on NIRB site says average mine wage in Canada is 84,000 a year, and average for Inuit at the mine is only about $44,000 a year. So what’s going on here?!!

      • Posted by JE on

        your comment shows the lack of understanding of the locality. How can you compare average wages from all mines in Canada to this specific remote mine in the Artic? All supplies and provisions including food and fuel for the camps and workers have to be brought in by sea. Including shipping all the waste and garbage from the camps back off the island. So can you imagine why wages at the mine aren’t the same as say an oilsands mine in ft mcmurray?

  5. Posted by This is nuts! on

    I can’t believe we elected an MP who wants to kill a quarter of Nunavut’s economy.
    Aren’t our elected officials supposed to help promote opportunity and prosperity?
    WTF is going on?

    • Posted by Pj on

      Economy that benefits who exactly? Only people in IQ. As far as i can tell. Not up here

      • Posted by Perplexed on

        That’s a misrepresentation of reality, PJ and you know it.

        How many families are supported and benefitting from employment at the mine?

        Also, if the community is not benefitting who is to blame for that? QIA has received millions, and has signed an agreement to bring in over a billion over the next decade. Are they distributing that back to the community or not? If not, why not? And if not, why isn’t anyone going after them? Why aren’t you going after them?

      • Posted by Do work on

        Go to work, lots of jobs available for you guys from the mine….lots, you just don’t want to work, stuck in public housing and social assistance is not the way of the future

      • Posted by Reality Check on

        Sounds like you want Hunter back .

  6. Posted by snapshot on

    There is only one way to avoid criticism:

    *do nothing

    *say nothing

    *be nothing

    Someday is here and it is upon us. Do it for us, Do it for one another, do it for each other, STAND UP!

    *DO something

    *SAY something

    *BE something

  7. Posted by Word to the wise on

    To quote the venerable American Political Scientist, Wilfred Reilly:

    “One truly annoying aspect of the ‘culture war’ is the constant use of goofy apocalyptic language.”

  8. Posted by No longer an NDP voter on

    I am a life long NDP voter and supporter who has donated money and campaigned for the NDP in Nunavut for many years.

    I voted for Ms. Qaqqaa in the last election but I will not be voting for her or the NDP in the next election.

    Our Nunavut Impact Review Board has not even finished looking at this proposal and all the thousands of hours of testimony and all the thousands of pages of evidence.

    They have not made a a report or recommendation yet but our MP seems to think she already knows more than the experts at the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

    What contempt for the legal processes we fought for in the Nunavut land claims agreement. Where is the concern for the working people of Nunavut who have jobs at Mary River?

    Consider me an ex-NDP voter. In my humble opinion the best strategy for Nunavut right now will be to get the Liberals to somehow get their act together and find a good candidate to take this seat away from the NDP

  9. Posted by Prospector’s Beard on

    A lot of hyperbole in the comments section. No where in the article does it say our MP is calling for the dismantling of the entire mining operation at Baffinland. You won’t find it on her Twitter, Facebook or the House of Commons hansard either. It says “Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq is calling the proposed Mary River mine expansion a threat to her people, to Indigenous sovereignty and to the environment.”
    This is the same position NTI and QIA are taking, basically. Opposition of expansion because of the devastating environmental impacts the current operation is causing now. Baffinland should work on minimizing that first before expanding. The Land Guardians have been clear that they are not against development. We should be glad to have an MP that is supporting them and showing solidarity with NTI and QIA on this matter.
    Comments section so woke they don’t even read.

    • Posted by Saturday Clothes on

      In a way maybe, but QIA’s position seems best described as a very recent conversion based on a expedience and political epiphany. That is, somewhere between hypocritical and completely disingenuous.

      • Posted by Locutus on

        Sure and sometimes it takes a while to do the right thing. Even if you don’t really want to. QIA needs to save face in this whole mess. If they can’t contain or lower the amount of dust blowing across the sea ice and tundra then there is no case for expansion.

  10. Posted by Ernest Taylor pokiak on

    1) The mine is producing .. Simply, continue producing as is.. 2) The mine life would be extended which would benefit the Inuit workers over the term of the mine..

  11. Posted by Philip Uvilluk on

    Ms.Qaqqaq and all politicians, do your homework, talk to all Nunavutmiut, meet all people face to face, travel to all communities. Look at everything, not just housing shortage, look at cost of living. Look at lack of training on trades, other professions. The environmental impacts, eg’, dust, how far does that go? Caribou routes, know where caribou travel? Did you know caribou have a cycle? Every 70 years, numbers go up and down. You want to represent Nunavut and Nunavutmiut? I’m sure you want skilled people, professionals. Take advantage of all and every training oppurtunities. Nunavutmiut have sovereinty, there are no threats to Nunavutmiut, no rights have been taken away. Do your homework. Qiujanamiik.

  12. Posted by Steve L Hill on

    We need ‘ Balance ‘ here.

    This mine, is vital to our economy.

    If our Goal is to make Nunavut a national park, I understand. Use traditional methods, do not disturb the environment, and do not request budget assistance from the Federal government. Why would we? The Caribou and the Narwal have fed themselves for centuries. why would Ottawa need to assist them.

    If we talk preservation – and we should, by all means. We need to clearly identify economic zones, where we will tolerate a degree of intrusion in the ecological cycles , and we need to identify environmental exclusion zones. Where, whatever the potential of mineral extraction / economic benefit – we will not tolerate intrusion into the balanced eco system.

    To try and confuse investors of the magnitude of Baffinland, is dangerous.
    They are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to set up a functional , profitable business, in an area where we have already considered the balance, and approved economic activity : We should be supporting them. The mine is there, it is approved, it is functioning and viable. Support it, make it happen.

    It is dangerous for us to send mixed messages to investors. We are not their only option, iron in similar concentrations exist in Svalbard and other places.

    If we designate and area for mineral/economic activity – support it. Help to make it profitable. If we designate an area, which is too ecologically important to be disturbed, then exclude any economic activity. Period. Do not mix.

    Many organizations worldwide are watching this. The outcome will affect whether or not they are willing to risk capital in areas which they feel there investment is not secure.

    We have started, expand the mine. Support it. or, send a message to Investors : We are high risk, emotionally driven, unstable destination for investment.

    I understand and respect everyone’s concerns, but the mine is open.
    Do not send out a mixed messages whether investment in Nunavut is a safe, stable preposition.

    MPs need to balance their comments .


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