Iqaluit residents leery about radar-site proposal
City officials say a Nav Can project near the Road to Nowhere will be delayed if necessary.
IQALUIT — City officials say Iqaluit residents can rest assured that construction of a proposed radar site will begin only after adequate information has been gathered and the public has been consulted.
“There are a lot of issues being raised and the city has no interest in ramming anything against the community’s wishes,” said Rick Butler, Iqaluit’s chief administrative officer. “That’s what the public consultation is all about.”
Nav Canada, a private corporation in charge of air-navigation services throughout the country, has proposed a radar site near the Long Lake area off the Road to Nowhere. A representative of the corporation was in the city earlier this month to raise public awareness and take part in a public meeting on the proposal.
Some who attended the May 15 meeting were not satisfied with assurances from Nav Canada that the project will have no environmental impact. They questioned why a public meeting was held when Nav Canada is already planning to begin construction in two months.
Butler said the city is using its standard planning-committee process to study the project. After the process is complete, he said, Nav Canada will be able to present a report to the committee before the proposal goes before council.
“There has been no pre-decision made and there’s no rush that we’re getting into. If it has to be delayed, the project has to be delayed,” Butler said.
Resident Elisapee Davidee was at the public meeting, and said that though she’s not opposed to a radar site, she takes issue with its proposed location.
She said the site is not welcome in an area used for leisure and recreation.
“You don’t want to go pick berries around a site like that. I see a lot of people going out there to caribou hunt, to hunt ptarmigan. I also see people using that area, especially around Toonik Tyme, for fishing in a little lake,” she said.
Davidee also questioned the point of public consultation without informing people that it’s being done.
“I heard about the public meeting the day of the public meeting,” Davidee said. She said better consultation is critical before the project is given the go-ahead.
Questions were also raised as to why Nav Canada was not required to hold public consultations and environmental assessments earlier in the project’s life.
Keith Irving, chair of the city’s planning committee, said Nav Canada came to the committee Feb. 20 and said they were hiring an independent firm to do an environmental assessment.
Nav Canada then returned for a meeting in May with more details on their proposal, as well as information about what their environmental review would contain.
“At that point we said we’d like to see more than that. We’d like to see a public consultation,” Irving said. The city told Nav Canada to expand the consultation process by going to the Northern store, and holding a public meeting.
“I think if it comes to the planning committee and we don’t feel confident that they’ve consulted with the community enough, I think we’ll ask them to do more. But I don’t want to pre-judge that,” Irving said.
Nav Canada spokesman Graeme Stephen said his organization has worked closely with the town’s planning committee.
Stephens said the company been following the process set out by the Nunavut government since an application for commissioner’s land was made in January 2001.
He said the Nunavut Impact Review Board was asked to conduct an expanded review of the project, the results of which will be disclosed this week. Nav Canada has commissioned an independent environmental impact assessment report. Issues raised at the public meeting will be included in that report, he said.
Pending approval from the city council, Stephens said, “We’re going to push forward with this site.”