Kivalliq MLAs worry new Nutrition North subsidy could hurt caribou

“We will have all the rights and no caribou”

Cathy Towtongie, Nunavut’s MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, wants the GN to change the Income Assistance Regulations so clients can win at bingo without it affecting how much social assistance they get. (Photo by Beth Brown)

By Jim Bell

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, who’s also the MLA for Arviat South, and Cathy Towtongie, the MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, both say that a new federal subsidy for country food harvesters could hurt the Kivalliq region’s caribou herds.

The subsidy, which is to be rolled out after April 1, 2019, provides $62.6 million over five years to help country food harvesters throughout the three territories and six provinces that benefit from the Nutrition North Canada program.

It’s part of a package of changes to Nutrition North that Labrador MP Yvonne Jones, the parliamentary secretary to Northern Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, announced in Iqaluit last December.

So far, the federal government has released few details on what the harvesters subsidy would do.

But Savikataaq says that if the money is used for a full freight subsidy for caribou meat, some Nunavut herds may suffer.

“We just have to be mindful that if it’s a full freight subsidy for caribou, the amount of caribou being sold and harvested for commercial use may go up and that would be detrimental to some caribou populations,” Savikataaq said in the legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

Right now, there’s no total allowable harvest for the main caribou herds in the Kivalliq region.

That means that, under the Nunavut land claims agreement, Inuit beneficiaries in the Kivalliq are free to harvest caribou and to sell it commercially to buyers in other regions, such as Baffin, where a strict total allowable harvest for caribou is now in place in response to dwindling herd numbers.

“It’s in the land claims act that a beneficiary has the right to buy, sell, trade, or barter. Until that provision is changed, we as a government cannot infringe on the right of beneficiaries for the right that they have,” Savikataaq said.

Towtongie, speaking in the legislature the same day, said that she also is worried about the health of Kivalliq caribou populations and the impact of unregulated private sales of caribou meat.

Many of these sales are brokered on Facebook sell-swap pages.

“As the former elected president of Nunavut Tunngavik, I need no lectures from anyone about the importance of standing up and fighting for Inuit rights,” Towtongie said.

“However, I have also said very clearly that when it comes to harvesting Kivalliq caribou, the right to sell meat for profit becomes meaningless if there are no caribou left to hunt. We will have all the rights and no caribou.”

Savikataaq said he agrees with Towtongie that “it’s a useless right” if caribou herds dwindle to the point where there is no more meat to sell.

But right now, he said the GN’s hands are tied by the Nunavut land claims agreement

As for what should be done, Savikataaq said Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., regional Inuit associations, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and the GN need to sit down and work out a plan to deal with the issue.

“I’m sure that when the [land claim] agreement was negotiated they did not see some caribou herds collapsing, and buying caribou from one region to another to supplement the wants and needs of another region’s caribou desire,” he said.

As for the Nutrition North country food subsidy, a northern affairs official said during a briefing last December that Indigenous organizations will play a big role in managing the money.

To that end, the federal government and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami will create an Inuit-Crown food security working group that will “work towards a sustainable food system in Inuit Nunangat,” the official said.

But it’s still not clear how the harvesters subsidy money will be spent and what it will be spent on.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by pissed off on

    Finally Cathy is going beyond “ we have rights and nobody is going to tell us what to do“and puts on the table the hard fact that the population of cariboo can be vulnerable.
    This can be caused by a number of reasons but the result is the same . A great decline in the numbers.

    You can use the big words all you want but the decline in the number of cariboo cannot be reversed by words only. It needs concrete actions and it needs the hunters to toe that line also.

    Thank you

  2. Posted by Oscare on

    What ever happen to the traditional Inuit value of sharing country foods? I know employment opportunities is hard in some communities and that selling country food can be the only means of income, but I grew up with the Inuit value of sharing country foods.

    I guess this is the new Inuit value nowadays eh?

  3. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Times have changed . Sharing country food is great and most people do share up to a point but it also costs a lot of money to go out hunting and fishing……. gas/oil, grub, ammo, maintenance of machines, maintenance of guns and fishing gear and so on. People you share with rarely help out with the costs of actually going out hunting. In any case a the rate the population of Nunavut is growing and the amount of harvesting which is done to feed families and make money, there will probably be more moratoriums on hunting sooner rather than later.

    • Posted by Oh Ima on

      Time may have changed but how much of our values do we have to give up for the sake of going into the so-called modern world. If time change then pressures all levels of government to push for programs to assist hunters in providing financial assistant so that people that chose to pursue traditional harvesting activities, including women that provide clothes and distribute meat to be able to practice traditional values which is part of Government of Nunavut mandate.

      • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

        Why does someone else always have to pay or hand stuff out for free? Some people always expect a handout from other people or government agencies. How about demonstrating some of the other principles and values or is sharing the only one you know.

  4. Posted by Soothsayer on

    Cathy is right on and anyone who has thought seriously about this issue knows it. Joe obviously knows it too. So now what, an amendment to the NLCA? Where to go from here?

  5. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Easy solution. Simply ask the NWMB to set a universal TAH on all caribou populations in Nunavut. Problem solved.

  6. Posted by Don’t sale or give on

    Simple just stop selling or giving away meat, sorry but it cost to much to go hunting and selling a fraction of the cost to go hunting is not right, take what you need for you and ur families

  7. Posted by Tommy on

    Caribou meat used to be really good when it was available. Pretty soon we will be saying “there used to be caribou in the north”.

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