Conservationists cheer latest proposal to protect land in Nunavut

WWF-Canada happy to see calving grounds protected in new proposal

Paul Quassa, former chairperson of the Nunavut Planning Commission, speaks at the podium in Iqaluit’s Frobisher Inn on July 8 during the commission’s unveiling of the 2021 draft land-use plan. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Nunavut Planning Commission’s new proposal for what parts of the territory should be protected from industrial activity is getting some early approval from World Wildlife Fund Canada.

That’s because the new draft of a land-use plan for the territory identifies more caribou and walrus calving areas and marks them as off limits year-round.

Specifically, the government uses Inuit traditional knowledge and a study from the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board to mark calving grounds on Baffin Island, and these areas would be protected for the first time.

WWF-Canada applauds this move as a “signal that caribou calving grounds are off limits to development,” said its Arctic species and ecosystem specialist, Brandon Laforest.

In 2016, WWF-Canada mapped out the territory’s mineral rich-areas and its caribou calving grounds and found that if all caribou calving grounds identified were protected, there would be 10 per cent of overlap.

“It’s a necessary sacrifice to protect caribou calving grounds,” Laforest said.

The Nunavut Planning Commission was established as part of the 1993 Nunavut Agreement that created the territory.

The commission’s mandate is to map out rules for land use and wildlife conservation across Nunavut. This is its fourth try over the past 10 years at coming up with an overarching plan for the territory that will satisfy Inuit organizations, the federal government and Nunavut government.

The most recent proposal, released in 2016, was criticized by Inuit organizations and the mining industry for protecting too much land.

The most recent plan lays out 100 pages of proposed measures to protect a larger percentage of the Nunavut Settlement Area — 22 per cent — but introduces a more lenient system for exempting existing mining projects from the plan.

Under this plan, the mining industry would know which areas of Nunavut are completely off limits — as determined through community consultations — and which ones are open for business.

This is a step in the right direction, said Laforest.

“Every day that we don’t have a Nunavut management plan is another day when the large, vast majority of the territory is completely open to staking and claiming of mineral rights,” he said.

Laforest also pointed to parts of the plan he’s concerned about, such as exemptions for companies with existing mineral claims.

Tom Hoefer, executive director of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, said the Canadian mining industry has changed a lot since 2016.

“Nunavut exploration has experienced a significant decline,” he said, citing a chart published by Natural Resources Canada that shows a nearly 10 per cent drop in Nunavut’s share of Canadian mineral exploration to three per cent in 2021.

Last year, the Fraser Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank, ranked Canada as the second most attractive region in the world for mining investment. Yet Nunavut ranked 39 — much lower than its rank of 15 only two years prior.

Hoefer said the chamber is still reviewing the draft plan, and understanding its potential implications will take some time. In the meantime, he is concerned that investors are taking their money elsewhere.

“As the land-use plan controls land access, and land access controls where, and if, exploration can be conducted, we have a strong interest in seeing what effects the [draft plan] might have on mineral resource development,” he said.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. will be reviewing the plan over the next few months as well, focusing on whether it protects access to country food, safe drinking water and increases economic opportunities, according to a statement from CEO Kilikvak Karen Kabloona.

The commission plans to hold public hearings in the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions in November and possibly Pond Inlet and Iqaluit early in 2022, if funding allows.

After that, the commission may make changes to the draft plan, depending on feedback, before asking for approval from the federal and Nunavut governments and NTI.

Share This Story

(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Qanualulli? How The Hell? on

    Let me get this straight: the Nunavut Planning Commission (NPC) was established pre-1999 and after $60 MiILLION+ (SIXTY PLUS MILLION DOLLARS) and all it has to show for it is a DRAFT “Nunavut Land Use Plan”????? This is not what the NPC was created for. Under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) it clearly states that Regional Plans would be it’s primary focus/objective but they’ve somehow hoodwinked everyone to suggest that the pluralized language in the NLCA meant that a “Nunavut land use plan” was in order and not the regional approach. Throughout Article 11 it uses “plans” and “regions” (Parts 3 & 4) and it even goes as far as to state in 11.4.4 that “Consistent with the Agreement, the NPC shall: (a) identify planning regions” but because Part 5 uses the term “Nunavut land use plan” they wrongly singularized the term when it was in the pluralized sense (see 11.5.1). Why does this matter? Each Region within Nunavut is unique and has its own special considerations and a “Nunavut Land Use Plan” is too broad in scope! It is a dereliction of duty and responsibility. As a tax paying Nunavut Inuk I want accountability and true commitment to the spirit and intent of what I gave up rights for when the NLCA was ratified!

    They failed at the West Kitikmeot Land Use Plan due to the strong parity of pro-development vs the pro-conservation camps in that region but that is what a “plan” is for: to have both sides to come to some type of consensus or agreement to disagree and lead others down the path to some conciliatory venture. You may ask what about the North Baffin/Lancaster Land Use Plan? That pre-existed The NLCA by almost a decade. So the real question is what happened to the $60 Million?

  2. Posted by Prioritize Inuit on

    From a local resident’s perspective, I believe most Inuit are grateful for the position NPC has chosen putting Inuit, Inuit lifestyle and Inuit knowledge as it’s priority. We hear discontent in all three regions that the organization created to be a voice is nonexistent. This draft clearly shows the board members are fully tuned into the purpose of the NLCA. You must understand this file has enormous pressure from all levels of government, Inuit organizations and the mining industry to open the territory for mineral exploration. This draft plan clearly shows the members have made up their minds to stay the original course of the NLCA, Inuit values and their environment is priority. I do not see any failure in choosing their path and not to be pressured and succumbing to that pressure to open the territory. This organization is clearly well fixed on the communities of Nunavut. I believe if the board of NPC were to draft a plan that the signatories want, this plan would have been in place 10 yrs ago. NPC stay the course. You guys are a beacon to the protection of what we are, Inuit. Thank you.

    • Posted by hermann kliest on

      Amen to that second note….Prioritized Inuit.


Comments are closed.