Court dismisses appeal of injunction that ended Baffinland mine protest

Hunters’ group blocked access to airstrip, trucking road over concerns of environmental impact

The Nuluujaat Land Guardians, a group of protesters opposed to the proposed expansion of the Mary River mine, set up a blockade in February 2021 focusing international attention on their fight with Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. over a proposal they said would disrupt caribou and narwhal habitat, threatening Inuit traditional way of life. (Photo from Nunavut Court of Justice)

By Nunatsiaq News

Nunavut’s court of appeal dismissed a group of hunters’ appeal of a court injunction that stopped them from protesting at Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River iron mine in 2021.

The hunters, who are from around Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay and described themselves as the Nuluujaat Land Guardians, were protesting what they said were visible environmental impacts from the mine on fresh water, small mammals and other supports hunters rely on.

They were also concerned about an application the company submitted to the Nunavut Impact Review Board to increase the mine’s output.

The decision by the Nunavut Court of Appeal identifies Tom Naqitarvik, Christopher Akeeagok and Andy Kalluk as the appellants and Namen Inuavak, Daniel Inuarak and Jonathan Pitula as other members of the group.

According to the written decision, on Feb. 4, 2021, about five protesters set up a camp on the airstrip that serves the mine and a couple more did the same on the road used to truck ore from the mine to Milne Port about 100 kilometres away.

“Essentially, the protest shut down mining operations. It also stopped the movement of people and supplies to and from the mine” and prevented about 700 miners living there from leaving, the decision says.

Five days later, on Feb. 9, 2021, Baffinland asked the Nunavut Court of Justice for an injunction, citing mischief, trespassing and unlawful interference with economic interests by the protesters.

An interim order was granted, ending the protests, and days later the court granted an injunction.

Lawyers for the hunters launched an appeal at the Nunavut Court of Appeal against the decision.

They claimed the injunction was granted without adequate notice, that there was an absence of procedural fairness and that the hunters were denied a reasonable opportunity to instruct council and be heard.

They also argued the judge erred by rendering a decision before cross-examination was heard.

Justices Frans Slatter, Elizabeth Hughes and Jane Fagnan heard the appeal at the Nunavut Court of Appeal on Sept. 19 and in a judgment dated Oct. 18, the appeal was dismissed.

According to the decision, the judges noted that Baffinland had all the necessary permits and approvals in place to operate the Mary River mine and that “the injunction would not prohibit the appellants from carrying out protests and expressing their views in suitable locations” elsewhere.

They also failed to disclose any reviewable error in the way the injunction was granted, the judges ruled.

In an email to Nunatsiaq News, Baffinland spokesperson Peter Akman said “the judgment confirms that the protesters’ actions were unlawful, and that they had no right to block the project just because they disagree with it.

“Baffinland remains open to discussions with the protesters to address any concerns they have.”

Anne Crawford, the lawyer representing the hunters, said in an email that “the injunction is a side issue, where the main concern for the Guardians remains the iron ore contamination at the mine site and on the lands around the site, including the ocean and the caribou hunting lands.”

She added: “The main lawsuit and the countersuit will continue.”

Still before the courts is a lawsuit filed by Baffinland against three of the protesters, over loss of income it says it suffered during the blockade. The hunters filed a countersuit, which alleges environmental damage caused by the mine.

Akman said Baffinland would be open to dropping its lawsuit if the hunters drop their countersuit.

“We have told them that they are free to hunt and use the land as they wish as long as they don’t interfere with the Baffinland operation,” Akman said.

The court’s decision on the injunction was released to the media Wednesday.

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Sadly on

    Sadly, their lawyers put a blind eye to the real reason, the family not getting a contract. Greed for money from certain family. Put peoples safety at risk, people should call them out on it. No connection between the protestor’s and their advisor’s role.

    HELLO!

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  2. Posted by HOT on HEELS on

    At the time Baffinland tried to make it into a political protest and not an environmental statement – that was not true.

    At the time Baffinland tried to say that their workers were being held – they weren’t.

    At the time the mine tried to say that their people were running out of food – they weren’t

    “Sadly” seems to think they have a secret – that the protest was for money and contracts – it wasn’t

    Baffinland keeps pointing at others and hoping no one looks at the mess it is making of the environment. If they admitted the true reason for the protest and the court case they would have to do something about the widespread iron ore contamination – they don’t.

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    • Posted by cold north warm south on

      As all thr people who know nothing or heresay only vote down, you are absolutely correct. Also some families are better equipt to manage the climate for long durations and are standing in the cold for those who cant. Dont worry. People see what truely has gone on here. Especially the hundreds who took part in the celebration parade when the rail line was turned down. Baffinland cant stand to admit that even their southern workers were in support of the inuit, publically. Time will flush out the truth. Even if its not in a court. Its a clown show anyway.
      Lastly, it seems to me northerners are tired if clicking on baffinland articles. Immagine that. People living their lives lol.

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