Extended deadline gives groups time to comment on land-use plan
Nunavut Planning Commission sets new February dates for organizations to give input on draft plan
Updated on Monday, Nov. 28 at 2 p.m.
After several groups called for more time to respond to the final draft of a new Nunavut land-use plan, new February deadlines were set by the Nunavut Planning Commission.
The deadline to provide written submissions was extended by one month to Feb. 10, and the new deadline to comment on those submissions is Feb. 24, the planning commission posted on its website.
The Government of Nunavut as well as the Amaruq Hunters and Trappers Association and a delegation from the federal government had called for more time than the commission’s original Jan. 10 deadline allowed.
“Development in the North can be particularly challenging, and we owe it to all Nunavummiut to collect all the necessary information and input before making land-access decisions,” said Henry Coman, director of forfeiture with the Government of Nunavut.
The final hearings for the land-use plan were held in Iqaluit from Nov. 14 to 19, with the GN presenting on the final day.
In a news release issued after the extension was made, NPC chairperson Andrew Nakashuk said it was the right time ”to commit to the necessary compromises” to develop a plan that reflects “the vision of Inuit.”
The hearing was run by the Nunavut Planning Commission, the agency in charge of developing a land-use plan for the territory. When complete, the plan will establish where resource extraction and development can occur and which areas will be protected.
In their presentation Saturday, GN representatives argued the 2021 land-use plan, which is the current version proposed, is too restrictive toward resource exploration.
Specifically, approximately 20 per cent of lands where mineral exploration would be prohibited should allow exploration but under conditional use.
Over the next 10 years, 10,000 Nunavummiut will become adults and need jobs. Allowing mineral exploration balances the territory’s environmental and economic priorities, Coman said.
He also said that with large amounts of Nunavut’s land remaining unsurveyed, the potential for mineral resources is unknown and “holds considerable value.”
Coman said the growing need for minerals and metals that can be used to produce renewable energy increases the resources’ economic value to the territory.
Exploration can have a low environmental impact, he added.
However, the GN received pushback on its position later during the question period.
Paul Crowley, of Friends of Land Use Planning, a group that supports Indigenous-led land-use planning, disagreed with the GN’s position it is balancing the economic and environmental sides of the plan.
“How is almost all of the lands being open for exploration a balance?” Crowley said.
He added his concerns that under the current GN plan, a company could get exploration rights overnight for Inuit-owned lands, without the consent of the affected community.
“The right to exploration is the most important right,” Crowley said, adding that exploration still makes an impact on the environment.
In response, Daniel Haney, the GN’s acting manager of land use and environmental assessment, said regional Inuit associations have the right to manage their lands any way they see fit.
Crowley responded, saying it is still Inuit-owned lands being opened for exploration.
He also asked to know what reports the GN accessed in making its argument that there would be significant economic benefits to more exploration.
Haney answered that it gathered its information from its various departments, as well as Statistics Canada resources.
When the GN emphasized the regulatory system in Nunavut still oversees whether a resource extraction project can go ahead following exploration, Crowley said that process comes with heavy costs.
He cited the recent Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s process for its proposed Phase 2 expansion of the Mary River mine, calling it costly for the communities involved as well as Baffinland. The company’s expansion plans for the iron mine, located on north Baffin Island, were rejected last week after a four-year review process marked with several delays.
Haney emphasized the GN could change its current position on the land-use plan, as it is listening to the views of communities as well as hunters and trappers associations at the hearing.
“The Government of Nunavut is listening,” Haney said. “Our positions are not set in stone.”
Correction: This story, as well as the headline, has been updated to note the Nunavut Planning Commission extended the deadline to respond to the final draft of its Nunavut land-use plan.