Op-ed: Clean, co-operative resource development is welcome, but that’s not what Baffinland is offering

Nuluujaat Land Guardians member responds to Baffinland op-ed

The Nuluujaat Land Guardians, a group of protesters opposed to the proposed expansion of the Mary River mine, set up a blockade in February 2021, focusing international attention on their fight with Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., over a proposal they say would disrupt caribou and narwhal habitat, threatening Inuit traditional way of life. (Photo from Nunavut Court of Justice)

By Joelie Pewatoaluk
Special to Nunatsiaq News

Updated on Monday, April 25, 2022 at 10:30 p.m.

We agree with some of what Paul Quassa says in his recent op-ed promoting the Baffinland mine.

We agree that Nunavut should be a vibrant, self-sufficient territory, that developments must protect Inuit land and culture, and that it’s possible to have resource extraction projects and Inuit hunting go together.

Where we disagree, very strongly, is on whether Baffinland Iron Mine Corp.’s Mary River mine expansion proposal fits with any of these objectives. Based on our experiences with Baffinland and its mine, we believe this expansion is not compatible with Inuit hunting, and is in fact a threat to Inuit land, culture and self-sufficiency.

Joelie Pewatoaluk is a member of the Nuluujaat Land Guardians. (Photo courtesy of Joelie Pewatoaluk)

Since Baffinland opened its mine, hunters and elders have observed serious effects on our animals and land. We have watched the animals decline. And this is just at current levels of production. Narwhal calving grounds are at risk. A key caribou migration route could be disrupted by the railway Baffinland wants to build.

We have tried to engage in good faith with Baffinland to have our concerns addressed. We are not opposed to all mining. We just want to see mining done in a socially and environmentally responsible way. But Baffinland refuses to take meaningful steps to address Inuit concerns.

The environmental working groups meant to monitor impacts from the mine and recommend changes are dysfunctional and ineffective. Baffinland has lost the trust of communities by ignoring or refusing to use Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.

From our experience, Baffinland is a bully. What we and many Inuit see is a company trying to manipulate, pressure and force Inuit into accepting a project that could destroy our way of life. We see a company trying to exploit Inuit economically and culturally.

Baffinland tries to present itself as the solution to all our problems, our only path to a better future. But this ignores that so many of our problems are actually caused or made worse by Baffinland. Also ignored are those communities outside of the five most affected.

Mines come and go, but our communities will still be here after the mine is gone. We must take care of our animals to ensure they are always here to sustain us and our traditions.

We are telling you this mine is harming us. We are saying no to this expansion. Our culture and traditions are not for sale.

Joelie Pewatoaluk is a member of the Nuluujaat Land Guardians.

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(23) Comments:

  1. Posted by iWonder on

    I’ve brought this up multiple times in these pages, but rarely does such a great example of my point present itself as it does here.

    A commentor recently suggested that Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit is a favourite amulet—a kind of magic that pierces whatever we place before it. This is a good metaphor.

    It is certainly not hard to wonder at the use of IQ as a tool in our political discourse. It seems reasonable to ask if its use is driven as much by opportunism and convenience as real observations about the world. After all, the incentives for using it politically and rhetorically are many, and the disincentives are few. And why not? Rarely does it go challenged. Rarely does someone ask “well, how do you really know that?” Or “why should we believe you?” To be taken seriously, this needs to be done.

    That said, and let me be clear, this is not to say IQ is meaningless or should be ignored. I don’t write this in the spirit of disrespect. My point is we should be exquisitely careful and pay close attention to how any concept that claims to be empirical is used, and we should not accept that every time someone says “IQ” a magical wand has been waved that necessarily confers some deep mystical truth about the world; though we can be open to the possibility that at times it might be pointing towards truth as well.

    So, when Joelie says “Baffinland has lost the trust of communities by ignoring or refusing to use Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit” is this true? And what is being said?

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    • Posted by Sad but true on

      They rather move backwards and go back into poverty and blame the government for not giving them money.

      Many of us want to work and make money cause it’s not gonna happen in our communities.

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  2. Posted by Observer on

    Ahh, the battle of the ghost writers continues. Politics in Nunavut 101

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    • Posted by iWonder on

      I’m not paid or affiliated with anyone, if that is what you are getting at.

        • Posted by Arctic Grouch on

          That is so blatantly racist, as if Inuit are incapable of writing in their second language. I recall in 1980 when I won the English overall mark for NWT, but they changed it to English as a second language to ensure a student from Yellowknife could win the award and I still beat him by 4% as my Alberta

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          • Posted by Sorry, but… on

            I’m sorry about your historical experience, but the comment is in no way racist.

            Politicians and activists almost never write their own speeches or comments, and it is incredibly unlikely to have been the case here.

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            • Posted by Sam I am on

              So did Paul Quassa wrote that op Ed letter last December how he’s pro miner all of sudden when he came out of politics? Or was that Brian Penney writing for Paul Quassa?

          • Posted by Soothsayer on

            Dear Arctic Grouch,

            I am sorry you feel so aggrieved at the suggestion this was not written by its ‘alleged’ author. No one is saying Inuit can’t write in a second language, or that Inuit aren’t capable of mastery in English, or writing better than English language speakers.

            But the question is not a general one, it is specific; did Joelie Pewatoaluk write this letter?

            Unless he has expertise in communications that is a valid question to ask. In reality there are few southerners who can write this way either, this is clearly the work of a university trained professional. That does not have to be controversial. In fact, the author(s) barely hide the fact. Consider what is meant by “We agree with some of what Paul Quassa says..” where ‘we’ continues to be sprinkled throughout. Who is this (not well hidden) ‘we’?

            If you are angry consider pointing your outrage at the organization who used Joelie, and at this publication which has participated fully in gaslighting its readers with the pretense that he did.

            Let me add; we have to know that the group who put the time into writing this piece must have anticipated this criticism and were prepared to defend the integrity of their work by flaming the persons who had the audacity to point it out as ‘white supremacists’ or ‘racist.’

            Yet to do this is not to participate seriously in the discussion, but to defend and maintain their illusion.

            We know there is a lot at stake in this dispute. Both sides are going to make damn sure they put out the best communiques possible. Open your eyes and see what is going on here, and don’t shoot the messengers who are pointing it out.

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          • Posted by Dave on

            Ironically, based on what you have written here. It is very difficult to understand the point you are trying to make. The reader is left with more questions than answers.

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            • Posted by Soothsayer on

              Well, there are a couple possibilities here.

              1. You are right
              2. You’re just not trying hard enough.

              As for those questions you are left with, ask away?

  3. Posted by Binky the Doormat on

    This letter was clearly written by a university educated professional of sorts, probably an activist organization. There’s really no doubt about it. There are few people who can write like this.

    And what of Joelie Pewatoaluk? You could say he is being used by this group, but it’s undoubtably a reciprocal relationship, he believes everything they’ve said and gets to enjoy stardom and a bit of clout. Lucky guy…

    Now the question is, how does Nunatsiaq not notice this? It’s impossible to imagine they don’t.

    So, what are the ethics around passing off an op-ed to the public, knowing it was written by an interest group and not the person they are using as their totem?

    Is that okay with everyone?

    How about you Corey, is that okay with you?
    Your readers are disillusioned, will you come talk with us…?

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    • Posted by lulz on

      Do you think the Premier writes his own speeches? Or that Paul Quassa wrote the op-ed attributed to him a few months back? For that matter, do you think the Prime Minister of Canada writes their own speeches?

      No, they did not. That’s how politics works. A lot of people work on a piece, and then the spokesperson signs their name or gives the speech.

      Oddly, I don’t see anyone up in arms when a GN premier or NTI president has someone draft a speech for them. It’s only when it’s a grassroots activist or HTO opposing a mine when suddenly they’ve been ‘infiltrated’.

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      • Posted by Not Corey on

        Hi Corey,
        The reason some of us use screen names and fake email addresses is because our employers do not permit us to comment publicly.
        .
        We are concerned about issues. We want to help make things better (for varying definitions of “better”). We have perspectives to contribute. But our employers require that we do not have public faces.
        .
        So thank you for providing this forum.

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      • Posted by Binky the Doormat on

        So I took a chance and wrote Corey, told him my real name and brief bio, asked him some questions about the topic and hand and he totally ghosted me. Be careful everyone, here is a fickle date.

        Seriously, it’s okay Corey. It’s surely a coincidence that I started getting more junk mail from online bingo and crypto sites after that, right?

  4. Posted by Arctic Grouch on

    (cont)…exam mark was 97%, and the third place winner was a French student who had transferred to GREC. I find it disturbingly elitist to ask whether or not Inuit are able to write their own opinion pieces. I find it disturbing that visitors or those who supposedly work for us in GN are such wimps that they feel threatened by someone who is indigenous but clearly much smarter than any of these ghost commenters.

    I hope that you will look yourself over in the mirror to see if you are a white supremacist in hiding because I have always heard this sentiment from challenged white people: “you are too smart for your own good”! Oh, I believe it may have been massaged, but that message is one we Inuit are indeed espousing against the deleterious impacts on our hunting culture.

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  5. Posted by Missing the Mark on

    Great op-Ed. But very clear that’s all this is. An opinion with zero substance. What exactly is “clean co-op resource development”? I don’t see it defined anywhere…?

    Where exactly has Baffinland missed the mark in their proposal? Are you aware of ways to move iron ore across water without using ships? Are you aware of a more economical and environmentally protective way to move ore across 100km of land without a train? Please author (whoever you are…), enlighten us!

    You say the current mine has impacts – meaning you don’t support current levels of production or project design. At the same time you say you don’t support changes to the mine plan that might help reduce these impacts (i.e. change from rail to road or switch to indoor crushing). So how then can you purport you advocate for resource development in Nunavut? Should random companies just provide revenues to the territory and pay people to stay at home without actually digging up any minerals? Is that clean development?

    This is not a ‘good faith’ engagement. In fact, it’s the opposite. Baffinland has brought hundreds of solutions to the communities to try and address concerns – and what they’re getting in response is statements from people saying they support the project under certain conditions without, in any real way, illuminating what any of those conditions might actually look like. The dysfunctional members of the Working Groups you refer to appear to do the same.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could all say much of nothing, offer no substantive solutions, do no work, cause no harm, and still get the Eutopian world unarticulated here.

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    • Posted by Frozen Airstrip on

      So who do you work for ,buddy? Ever live in a place where jobs are waived under your nose with the story of ‘look at this, only if you give us your land’, and then have every opportunity and application for you denied,,? BIM is a joke and the people who ACTUALLY LIVE UP HERE truely know it. ,,(Except the one hand full of people who actually did get a job).
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      All this waved in our faces from the beginning. Jobs, training facilities, no harm to wildlife. Then proven were a bunch of backdoor deals, sick looking animals, ore covered land, and ‘not one nail’.
      .
      If they stay as they are and the output of 12mt is proportional to Inuit employment, that would give us jobs then.
      .
      But they want wings and can’t even walk here.

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    • Posted by Not the point on

      Not providing solutions in this context does not equate “bad faith” engagements.

      It is not up to Joelie or the people in Nunavut to come up with solutions. The job of Nunavummiut is to review proposals from companies like Baffinland and see if they align with the priorities they have previosuly established, like ensuring the protection of Inuit land, culture and wildlife.

      If a company like Baffinland wants to do business here, they have to continue to produce better solutions until they hit the mark and residents are satisifed, that’s THEIR job. If they can’t come up with proper solutions and try to use money and influence to get their way instead, they have a right to be called out.

      Nunavut needs investment, yes. We need more housing and better services. But it seems that what Joelie is trying to say is that we don’t want them at the expense of our land, culture and traditions. Put the responsibility where it belongs.

      Also, don’t try to exaggerate his words by saying “random companies should just provide revenue to the territory and pay people to stay at home”. That’s just lazy arguing.

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  6. Posted by Aputi on

    Just approve the mine, make money for nunavut more money more houses, stop collecting welfare and get a job

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  7. Posted by 867 on

    Let’s ignore the damage that snowmachines motorboats and Hondas have on the animals though. Let’s keep revving our engines and flying 100 mph across the land and the ocean because as long as its an outsider making the noise, it has to be shut down.

    There was recently an article that the cbc published about a Russian truck falling through the ice and the hunters in taloyoak being concerned about possible fuel spill damage on the land and marine environment. News flash atv’s snowmobiles and trucks fall through the ice all the time in nunavut and fuel spills happen all the time as well with 99% of them being unreported. There’s 2 sides to every story but only 1 side ever makes the news.

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