Nunavut judge says no to protesters, yes to Baffinland

Injunction states protesters may not impede mine site, especially tote road and airstrip

The Nuluujaat Land Guardians are now forbidden from returning to the Mary River iron mine to impede or obstruct activities, especially the tote road and airstrip, judge Susan Cooper has ruled. (Photo from Nunavut Court of Justice)

By Jim Bell

Even though their blockade has ended, the protesters who call themselves the Nuluujaat Land Guardians are now forbidden from returning to the Mary River iron mine to impede or obstruct activities, especially the tote road and airstrip, judge Susan Cooper has ruled.

And if they do return to impede operations, the RCMP is authorized to remove them, Cooper stated.

That’s the essence of a decision released Wednesday, in which Cooper granted a request from Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. for an interlocutory injunction to prevent more blockades.

An interlocutory injunction is a court order preventing somebody from doing certain things until after a court action is concluded.

In this case, the injunction against the protesters will remain in place until after the Nunavut court has decided on a court action that Baffinland filed against the protesters alleging trespass, nuisance and interference with economic interests.

“It is clear that there is a serious issue to be tried,” Cooper said of Baffinland’s case.

And she said the injunction does not prevent the protesters from expressing their views in other ways in other places.

No clear reason for protest

In saying yes to Baffinland, Cooper rejected an argument made by lawyer Lori Idlout, who claimed that because the protesters have left the site, there is no need for an injunction.

That’s because Idlout, who represents only three of the seven or more people who set up the blockades at Mary River, could not confirm the protesters have agreed not to return.

Also, no clear justification for the blockade was presented in court.

“In addition, counsel for the defendants has not articulated the reason for the protest,” Cooper said.

“The protest and its reasons have been the topic of discussion in the media. There may be more than one reason for the protest. It may be that the individual protesters are there for different reasons,” Cooper stated.

That means there’s no guarantee they won’t return.

At the same time, promised meetings between Inuit leaders and the protesters have yet to occur — but it’s unknown how those meetings will progress.

“If the defendants are not satisfied with their meetings with Inuit leadership, the continued process of the [Nunavut Impact Review Board] hearings, or any other aspect of the mine project, there is a real possibility that the protest will continue,” Cooper said.

Judge rejects Indigenous rights argument

Cooper also rejected an argument from Idlout that the protesters were asserting Indigenous rights guaranteed by the constitution.

She said that’s because Indigenous rights with respect to resource development in Nunavut are settled, through the Nunavut land claims agreement.

And it’s not in dispute that Baffinland, whose activities are legally permitted, has complied with all of its regulatory obligations under the land claims agreement, Cooper said.

Also, the protestors are not alleging inadequate consultation or accommodation in relation to the current Mary River project, she said.

She said that if the protesters don’t like Baffinland’s expansion proposal — which the Nunavut Impact Review Board is still reviewing — their proper remedy is a judicial review.

But she noted that because they don’t represent any of the designated Inuit organizations, “their ability to advance collective rights may be limited.”

And if they don’t like how Mary River benefits are distributed, “then their remedy lies with the Designated Inuit Organizations,” Cooper said.

The Nuluujaat protesters drove by snowmobile Feb. 4 from Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay to Mary River, where they blockaded the tote road and airstrip until Feb. 11.

Baffinland said in court filings that this action cost the company at least $2 million a day and prevented aircraft from supplying food and supplies for about 700 workers.

The defendants named in the injunction are Namen Inuavak [Inuarak], Tom Naqitarvik, Jonathan Pitula, Christopher Akeeagok, Andy Kalluk, John Doe, Jane Doe, and any other persons who participated in the blockade.

Guardians stand by their actions

The land guardians, in a statement released late Wednesday, said they stand by their actions at Mary River and feel confident they can oppose expansion of the Mary River mine in other ways.

They said they’re disappointed in Cooper’s decision but look forward to presenting what they call “new evidence.”

In their statement, they allege this new evidence shows Baffinland has already spent heavily on the Phase 2 expansion and suggests the company “may be operating extra-legally” in doing so.

That allegation has not been proven in court.

The land guardians have the right to go back to court to change or set aside Cooper’s judgment, as long as they provide Baffinland with two days notice.

Baffinland v Inuavak Et Al,... by NunatsiaqNews

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(39) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    kid gloves are off.

    now next time you want to ‘protest’ go to the proper place, QIA Offices to discuss your royalty payments. not the mine.

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  2. Posted by Northerner on

    It does seem like at least 1 of these individuals is a former employee of Baffinland…

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  3. Posted by Inuk on

    Spelling on one of the names is incorrect, does that mean it’s irrelevant injunction towards one particular person?

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    • Posted by Spelling irrelevant on

      John Doe, Jane doe are named, that’s anyone…..they can still cash a cheque even if the u or q are misplaced

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    • Posted by Northerner on

      If you actually read the document, it makes no difference.

      “The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are authorized to enforce this Order, including removing or detaining to the extent necessary, any persons who have knowledge of this Order and who are obstructing or impeding access as provided for in this order”

      But nice try 🙂
      This means prettt much everybody

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  4. Posted by Kenneth on

    How can BIMs activities be legally permitted when they have been working on the railroad for years? All the supplies and rails are there on site. Machines have been flattening the road. Iv seen pictures of it. Looks like QIA isnt the only one bought out by baffinland. Iv been doing my theoritecal pushups. Im ready to take this on.

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    • Posted by Bystander on

      BIM can have all the equipment and materials they want onsite , they can even have a train there but as long as it’s not in service there’s nothing anyone can do about it. They have ever right to be prepared to expand, mind you they may be wasting a lot of money if they don’t get the approval to go ahead.

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    • Posted by Haaluutna on

      Okay, so what’s relevant about your point? How are BIM’s activities illegal in your mind?

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      • Posted by Kenneth on

        Because they already started building the rail road

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        • Posted by Question on

          If you order the supplies to build a house and have it sitting in seacans waiting for the hamlet to decide if you get the lease on the lot you’ve applied for, have you started building the house?

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          • Posted by Kenneth on

            It is if the foundation is constructed, the land disturbed, filled, and moved. Thats not sitting there waiting. That is developement.

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            • Posted by Me on

              Just to state facts: some materials are on site, they could also be used for the southern rail that is already approved. No foundations have been made and no soils have been moved. If you’d come to the mine you wouldn’t be able to fine any signs of phase 2.

            • Posted by Only facts on

              Just to state facts
              None of that as been done. Some materials are on site and they could be used for the southern rail that is already approved.

  5. Posted by Law of the land on

    Before people start posting random falsehoods, lets get the facts straight:

    1. The mine is on Inuit Owned Lands (Owned by QIA/NTI)
    2. Baffinland has every right to mine there, as they have a legal land lease with the QIA (for which the QIA is getting paid big bucks)
    3. The protestors were never allowed there without Baffinland’s permission. They were trespassing.

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  6. Posted by James Tegler on

    I think some elected officials at QIA need to get unelected.

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  7. Posted by John K on

    This is a good thing for the land defenders. This injunction should go a long way to helping them make sure they don’t waste any more of their time protesting in the place to the wrong people.

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    • Posted by ᑐᑭᓯᔪᖅ on

      ᖃᓄᐊᓗᒃᓕ ᑎᓐᒡᒥᓯᑯᕈᑎᓐᒐ ᐊᑭᑐᔪᐊᓗᑎᓗᒍ ᐃᖃᓗᒃᓄᑦ ᑕᐃᒪᓇ ᐊᔪᓚᐅᕐᑐᑦ ᑭᓯᐊ ᓂ ᖁᕕᐊᓱᒃᑐᒍᑦ ᐊᓕᐊᓇᐃᑦ ᓄᖃᓐᒐᑎᑦᑎᓚᐅᕐᒪᑕ ᓄᓗᔮᓂ ᖃᐅᔨᔭᐅᕙᓕᕐᐳᑦ ᓄᓇᕐᔪᐊᕐᒥᐅᓄᑦ

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  8. Posted by “Injunctions are a tool of colonialism” on

    What are injunctions? They are a demonstrably colonial tool used to suppress indigenous concerns in Canada. Injunctions do not decide who is ‘right’ in a conflict, they are designed to maintain the status quo until other decisions are reached.
    .
    Nearly 100% of all injunctions issued in Canada relate to resource development/extraction. Around 90% of them were interlocutory, such as this one. Such inunctions are the quickest way to authorise police actions, so there is rarely a need to issue permanent injunctions once there are alreayd police involved threatening use of force against dissidents(recall the heavily armed RCMP invading unceded Wet’suwet’en lands, aiming rifles at peaceful people on their traplines).
    .
    As of 2019, 81% of injunctions sought by corporations against indigenous people were granted, while 81% of injunctions sought by indigenous groups against a corporation were denied. 82% of injunctions sought by indigenous peoples against the government were denied.
    .
    Use of injunctions have rose sharply since 1982, the time our new Canadian constitution codified indigenous rights into the highest law of the land. Because they are the defence of the status quo in Canada, they are an irreparably colonial tool used against indigenous peoples as Canada is an irreparably colonial state which exists to deny indigenous rights in favour of resource extraction and private profits. They are assessed on a ‘balance of convenience’ and the Canadian court system weighs economic impacts more heavily than indigenous concerns about the permanent destruction of land.
    .
    Sources: the Yellowhead Insitute’s 2019 paper examining the history of injunctions in Canada & First Peoples Law’s articles dating from around July 2020.

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    • Posted by Sources, please on

      Next time you want to misstate what’s in an article, you shouldn’t provide enough information to find the original sources.
      .
      Neither of the sources you mention say that “Nearly 100% of all injunctions issued in Canada relate to resource development/extraction.” That is simply not true. So where did you get that number?

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      • Posted by “Sources please?” Use your eyes, Do your Googles on

        “Neither of the sources you mention say that “Nearly 100% of all injunctions issued in Canada relate to resource development/extraction.” That is simply not true. So where did you get that number?”
        .
        https://redpaper.yellowheadinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/injunction-infographics.pdf
        .
        “Nearly 100% of all injunction triggers surveyed relate to resource and development: Licenses & Permits (33), Forestry (46), Development (25), Fishing &
        Hunting (13), Mining (12), Hydro (15), Fracking (10), Transport (8)”
        .
        If you cared to actually engage on the issue, I cited my sources and you could have spent some time looking at their subject matter to find it rather than failing to be a bad faith debate-bro and getting exposed for your inability to find something in the top 3 results on google when searching “Yellowhead Institute injunctions 2019”. If you have more trouble reading, at least there are eye-catching shapes and colours on that single page to help you understand the essence of it all..
        .
        I look forward to another comment where you fail to acknowledge the substance of the message and criticise something superficial instead. My money is you will find me impolite, so you will just sidestep any and all discussion as to the way injunctions are demonstrably a tool that is overwhelmingly the tool for resource extraction types to silence indigenous people in pursuit of private profits.

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        • Posted by Sources please? on

          Thank you for your suggestion how to use google, however, your infographic didn’t turn up in my search. That’s because I found and read the document your link is a mere summary of. It is here: https://yellowheadinstitute.org/2019/11/14/injunctions-by-first-nations-results-of-a-national-study/
          .
          The issue is twofold: the first is that you wrote “Nearly 100% of all injunctions issued in Canada relate to resource development/extraction.” Neither the paper nor your infographic link say that. They say that the *cases they surveyed* had those statistics, and clarified the cases they surveyed were only cases in which a First Nation was a party. So, obviously, not all cases in Canada where an injunction was issued. So your statement was wrong on the very basics.
          .
          Second issue, which can’t be discovered in your infographic but can only be found in the actual paper (which you read, right?) The paper states “…we excluded cases that involved First Nation injunctions against other First Nations…”
          .
          So, not only did they not include all injunctions issued in Canada (as you wrote), they didn’t include all injunctions involving First Nations, specifically choosing to exclude some. While I suspect the number might be low, they don’t provide it. Without that number, you can’t even say that nearly 100% of the injunctions in cases with First Nation parties involved resource development.
          .
          That is itself sort of meaningless because the paper points out the majority of the injunctions involved blockades, which tend to be primarily about resource development projects. So, at best, the statement should be “In nearly all injunctions related to disputes involving First Nations and resource development, First Nations often get the short end of the stick.”
          .
          I don’t find you impolite. I find you misstated what was said because you didn’t read it correctly. That’s all.

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          • Posted by Pork Pie on

            The ‘Yellowhead Institute’ is an activist organization that pretends to do research, but in reality looks for suitable narratives to press into the service of its larger political goals.

            Of course a blanket statement like “injunctions are a tool of colonialism” is going to have a reflexive, emotional appeal to some people, but the details and context of this case don’t match the standard kinds of arguments they use in any meaningful way.

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    • Posted by Volunteer on

      It’s people like you that we and Elders need to hear from.Why is it the original peoples of Canada always loose??

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      • Posted by No-one needs to hear from me. on

        Thank you for your comment, but no-one ‘needs’ to hear from me, especially elders.
        .
        All this information is widely-available and sadly, widely-ignored (at least by those who have a say in things).
        .
        People involved in the legal sphere are well aware of when injunctions are likely to be successful or not, and that the system of Canadian laws will never suddenly undo the mess of their primary, colonial purpose of dispossessing as many indigenous peoples as possible.
        .
        Common law was created by a sweeping land-grab in 1066, and it has never looked back since.
        .
        This will never change, taking land from people and protecting it for a minority-class is what the system is designed to do, and in Canada it is especially directed against us indigenous people.
        .
        I would never waste my time trying to talk about the intricacies of this colonial system with our elders, as they are the ones I should listen to while our world changes rapidly, and the rules are applied with differential treatment. It is essentially futile for any indigenous people to expect Canadian common-law to protect us, our lands and our lifestyles over the interests of private profits. I will learn more in 10 minutes listening to an elder than I would if I spent another 10 years in legal circles.
        .
        The time our elders have left on earth are too precious to waste them explaining the lies of the system which was imposed on them by force.

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  9. Posted by Umingmak on

    Fantastic news! This is a victory for Nunavummiut.

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  10. Posted by Silas on

    “And she said the injunction does not prevent the protesters from expressing their views in other ways in other places.”
    This means that they may, with evidence, request an interlocutory injunction on the continued construction of the railway by BIM.
    They may also make their own presentation at the hearings and ask questions and suggestions of QIA and NTI. It is likely too late to be considered as interveners but individuals are able to make comments and ask questions of any of the members around the table of hearings. Put questions or comments through their HTO or Hamlet representatives, if those organizations agree with them.
    QIA and NTI are taking in millions of dollars each year over the life of the mine and they have every right to demand recompense for the destruction of their hunting grounds.

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  11. Posted by John D. on

    This is just an unorganized mess. Protesters not clear why or how to protest, their lawyer not knowing the basics. Ppl jump to support because it’s conservation against big company but what exactly is being supported? This group needs leadership to get their message across much better.

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    • Posted by North Baffinet on

      That is correct! We need the Hamlets and HTOs to show support for QUK so we actually have a voice.
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      Southerners can crack on this all they like…
      .
      But we need people to join the table, voice concerns, have a say and stick together. This is our chance. QIA does nothing, NTI wont hear us. NIRB has been a joke. We are being cornered and stiffeled. This is enough!

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    • Posted by Unreal on

      A lawyer who doesn’t know the basics of the law as it pertains to the settlement of a Lands Claim Agreement, I noticed this right away… what law school did Idlout attend?

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      • Posted by snapshot on

        are you saying that because your a lawyer yourself?

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        • Posted by Unreal on

          Whether I’m a lawyer or not is irrelevant to the point, address that instead elitist.

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        • Posted by Reductio Ad Absurdum on

          Imagine a world where only lawyers could be held accountable for knowing what the law is, your logic is worse than you think.

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      • Posted by Am an Lawyer on

        I am a lawyer.
        I do not see the error in Idlout’s logic or her knowledge of the NLCA.
        I do see a judge setting up a straw man and then knocking it over.

        That is not the same as responding to the arguments actually put forward.

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        • Posted by No Moniker on

          Dear Lawyer, thanks for taking the time to weigh in. Would you kindly expand on your claim that the judge attacked a strawman? I’m curious where that comes from.

          Since we are pointing out fallacies, so far you’ve invoked an argument from authority; which is to say “I am a lawyer therefore…” Of course, we both that’s not sound reasoning. To be fair, I have no doubt you have more to add than that and look forward to what you have to say.

          As for Idlout, her attempt to invoke indigenous rights as per the constitution and as a means to secure the right of the protestors to continue their blockade was disingenuous and made in bad faith. Surely, she knows the difference between an asserted Aboriginal rights and settled Aboriginal right? Undoubtedly she does.

          Granted, and I don’t mean this personally, but lawyers, much like the classic sophists, are not given to prioritizing truth but to winning arguments. Bending reality through language and perception is all part of the ‘game.’ This is something we should all be aware of.

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  12. Posted by C on

    Colonialism

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  13. Posted by Northerner on

    The unfortunate fact about the majority of these issues is that people would rather believe what they want to believe rather than what their eyes can see.

    No matter how many facts are presented, they won’t believe anything so long as it contradicts their beliefs. This way of looking at things will never end well and its often the uneducated that suffer from this.

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    • Posted by Annoying Multi-Monikered Commentor on

      The reality is most people have a vested emotional interested in having their beliefs re-affirmed, and when challenged it is common for people to dig in even more. I don’t have the answer as to how we create better dialogue and move away from our attachments to narratives over truth as a virtue. I often idealize the idea of a robust and healthy information ecosystem and platforms that encourage reasoned discussion. The one dimensional nature of a comments section like this one or those on any other social media that uses the written word is that too much of the nuance of interpersonal communication is lost, people don’t quite connect with the humanity of their interlocutors and miss the good will that may be present. Instead, it becomes a competition where the best meme-able zingers and quick digestible quips barely long enough to fit on a flash card reign. It’s all about the likes and the thumbs up. There really is less honest discussion on social media than there is a spectacle. There are places where good conversations are being hand; podcasts for example. I have heard about a platform called Clubhouse where discussions take place using real voice, I’ve also heard it’s much more civil, which doesn’t surprise me at all. When people speak in person it usually is much more civil. Let me finish off with a good quote, from Sam Harris:

      “All we have between us and the total breakdown of civilization is a series of successful conversations.”

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  14. Posted by Me on

    Pollution, ore dust, never did the Inuit ever give Baffinland permission to pollute their land with ore dust, conservation officers should do their job to investigate who is polluting the land, and apply it to the fullest of their law books

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  15. Posted by Steve Hill on

    If I may, I would like to add another perspective to the Mary River Blockade.

    As a Canadian national , I understand and respect the concerns of the local indigenous population with regards to dusting a large portion of Baffin Island with a layer of Iron Dust. I can certainly appreciate their concerns. Environmental assessments conducted pre-project approval will have to be replicated 50 or years years from now before the full trickle down environmental impact of this is clearly understood.

    As a Canadian business professional, working together with Organizations throughout the middle East and South East Asia, I can also identify the effects of the international media storm that surrounded the Mary River Blockade with an eye to international investor confidence.
    The international news narrative , albeit with a level over simplification, played out something like this :

    A small group of individuals , representing the as-of-that-point unidentified, and hither too unknown group, named the Nulaajat Land Guardians spontaneously erect a ramshackle encampment, comprised of what appears to be a tent like structure, in the middle of an airstrip , cutting off vital supplies and stranding 700 workers. Media interviews focus around a revolving group of persons, making various and sometimes seemingly unintelligible demands.

    The mining Company , stands back, and adroitly positions itself as the Victim, claiming the protesters are costing its operation several million dollars in losses per day.

    And I get it, as a Canadian, I understand this completely.

    But as a Business professional, this scenario was entirely inexplicable to my counter parts here in the Middle East. Investors want a secure investment environment, they want sound legal boundaries and frameworks to work within, and effective, professional law enforcement organizations to de-escalate and/ or mediate at flash points . None of this was illustrated through the Mary River Blockade debacle.

    To my point : Nunavut needs to position itself as a new, sound destination for domestic and international investment in the mining , energy and tourism fields, and to accomplish this, more effectively manage sensitive issues like this in the future. In order to build investor confidence. That is Vital.

    A humble suggestion :
    Identify developments of vital economic importance, and from the surrounding local indigenous community, recruit and train a Response Team comprised of : respected Local Elders, plain clothed Police officers of indigenous heritage , all taught and trained in Personal Crisis Negotiation and Behavioral Change Stairway Models .

    I do not pertain to fully understand, nor be able to appreciate all the intricacies of the individuals or motivations involved in emotionally charged situations like the Mary River Blockade, I am simply opening up lines of communication and feedback to generate ideas and discussions on how to best handle any further situations of this nature.

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