KIA should worry about the right issue


The Kivalliq Inuit Association has decided to celebrate the creation of Nunavut’s fourth national park with a time-honoured Nunavut tradition – a good, old-fashioned bitch-off.

Its nose is out of joint because Prime Minister Jean Chrétien won’t go to Repulse Bay tomorrow to sign an agreement that creates the Ukkusiksalik National Park in and around Wager Bay.

We understand why politicians and other public officials love signing and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. They’re easy-to-organize events, always good for a bit of cheap publicity, and a chance for Nunavut’s professional meeting-goers and honorarium collectors to strut around in front of their constituents and pretend they’re working hard.

But given the political problems that Chrétien is facing this week, including a revolt staged by a large group of his own backbench MPs over his government’s plan to introduce a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, we’re lucky to see Chrétien at all. We can only assume that it’s Jean Chrétien’s much-professed love of the North that has inspired him to come to Nunavut and sign the deal himself, rather than send some cabinet underling.

In any event, the KIA is making a lot of noise about a trival issue.

If it wants a serious issue to worry about, it should turn its attention to the actual agreement that it will sign tomorrow – an Inuit impact and benefits agreement. Under the Nunavut land claim agreement, such deals, also known by the acronym “IIBA” must be signed before any new national or territorial parks are created.

In exchange for agreeing to the creation of Ukkusiksalik National Park on behalf of the Inuit of the Kivalliq region, the KIA will get about $1 million, guaranteed subsistence hunting rights within the park, commercial char-fishing rights on one river, arrangements allowing for the extraction of carving stone, and Inuit-preference provisions for any jobs and contracts associated with the park.

So far, so good.

But a quick look at the development of national and territorial parks and conservation areas in Nunavut reveals that few land claim matters have been slower to implement than parks issues.

For example, an IIBA on territorial parks – which are administered by the Government of Nunavut – wasn’t concluded until May of 2002, at least four years after it was supposed to have been done.

And that agreement had no money in it to provide any economic benefits for Inuit. That’s because Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., and the territorial and federal governments have been unable to agree on a new 10-year implementation contract for the Nunavut land claim agreement – to replace the one that expired on July 9 this year.

Those talks are bogged down over a disagreement on how to implement the Inuit employment provisions of Article 23. NTI and the GN want millions of new spending on job training every year, while the federal government is dragging its feet on the issue.

Another example is the protracted negotiations for an IIBA to cover the Igaliqtuuq marine sanctuary near Clyde River, and other proposed conservation areas. Those talks have come to a complete halt.

The Ukkusiksalik park negotiations themselves took nearly 25 years to complete. Despite the agreement that will be signed tomorrow, the people of Repulse Bay and the Kivalliq may have to wait a long time before they see the economic benefits they hope to achieve as a result of the park’s creation.

We presume that the KIA’s negotiators worked hard to get their Ukkusiksalik IIBA. They should be prepared to work even harder to ensure that its provisions are carried out, rather than worry about trivialities like the location of a signing ceremony. JB

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