Judge upholds self-described Land Guardians’ appeal of injunction
Rejection of Baffinland bid to strike down appeal means court battle will continue into next year
A judge has denied Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s request to strike an appeal filed by the self-described Nuluujaat Land Guardians — a group opposed to the company’s proposed expansion of its Mary River mine — but called the request a “close call.”
In March 2021, a Nunavut judge granted Baffinland an injunction against the group after its members blocked the mine’s airstrip and tote road.
The group is made up of hunters from Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay, who disrupted work at the mine to protest Baffinland’s proposed expansion.
Court documents identify Tom Naqitarvik, Jonathan Pitula, and Christopher Akeeagok as the appellants of the injunction and Namen Inuavak, Daniel Inuarak, and Andy Kalluk as other members of the group.
In April 2021, the group that calls itself the Land Guardians filed a notice that they would appeal that injunction.
In October, Baffinland applied for a court order to strike the appeal because of delays. The Land Guardians’ counsel missed deadlines to file several documents.
“Given the unreasonable and unexplained delay, this application is a close call,” Judge Frans Slatter wrote in a decision released Monday.
Slatter said the appeal record was filed nearly 10 months late and the appellants’ written argument nearly 13 months late. The scheduling of oral arguments was also nine months late.
The Land Guardians will also have to pay Baffinland $1,000 for the costs of this application given the delay, Slatter said.
“There has been significant delay in prosecuting this appeal,” the judge wrote.
Slatter said the group’s lawyers apologized for the delay, but “did not offer any satisfactory explanation other than for one necessary change of counsel.”
Its lawyers also said they had limited legal resources.
“They cannot expect that the applicant will merely acquiesce in these legal steps simply because the appellants have limited resources,” Slatter wrote.
The injunction preventing the Guardians from going onto Baffinland property — which remains in place — still needs to go to trial before it can be set aside or made permanent.
The injunction also states either party can apply on two days’ notice to vary the injunction or set it aside.
Slatter said the earliest the appeal could be held is in May 2023.
Baffinland spokesperson Peter Akman said Monday the company has previously offered to end all its legal action with the group in exchange for a pledge that they won’t blockade the company’s mining site again.
“We have also reiterated that they are free to hunt at the site as they have in the past,” Akman said.
He added the company plans to donate the $1,000 award for court costs to a charity once the group pays it.