Op-ed: Clean, co-operative resource development will secure future in the North

Former premier and signatory to the Nunavut Agreement explains why Nunavummiut should embrace expansion of Baffinland’s Mary River mine

Baffinland Iron Mines’ Mary River mine embodies the values Nunavummiut fought for when they negotiated the Nunavut Agreement 30 years ago, says former premier Paul Quassa, who is now a senior adviser to the company’s CEO. Quassa says that Nunavut was envisioned by its founders as a vibrant, economically self-sufficient territory that leverages its own resources. (Photo courtesy of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.)

By Paul Quassa
Special to Nunatsiaq News

When we negotiated the Nunavut Agreement 30 years ago, we had a vision for Nunavut as a vibrant, economically self-sufficient territory that leveraged its own resources. We created a clear and strict process for development that protects Inuit land and culture. Companies interested in development in our territory would be required to adhere to this process — without exception.

Baffinland Iron Mines’ Mary River mine embodies the values we fought for. Already a major economic driver for the North, the company’s proposed Phase 2 expansion has the potential to further transform the socio-economic landscape of the Eastern Arctic. It also includes an unprecedented level of Inuit involvement in project governance.

Paul Quassa is a former premier of Nunavut who is now a senior adviser to the CEO of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. (Photo courtesy of Baffinland)

Baffinland has held hundreds of public community meetings to obtain Inuit feedback and ensure transparency and accountability. These conversations have resulted in significant changes to Baffinland’s operations. This past July, in response to Inuit input, Baffinland delayed the start of its shipping season to avoid icebreaking activities. The decision followed monitoring results from 2020 that showed a lower number of narwhal in Eclipse Sound versus 2019. In light of further works planned in 2021 to complete Pond Inlet’s small craft harbour, and the uncertain effects this may have had on narwhal stocks, Baffinland temporarily suspended the activities it had control over.

This is how adaptive management works. If extensive monitoring, which includes direct Inuit oversight, finds a mitigation measure isn’t working, the partnering company is to find remedial measures. Phase 2 would formalize Baffinland’s commitment to adaptive management and make it directly answerable not only to regulators but also to Inuit.

In sum, Baffinland is listening to communities. I would not have agreed to associate with Baffinland if I did not believe this to be true.

As one of the last generations to experience the traditional way of life and one of the founders of the territory, I believe Nunavut is changing quickly. Economic development and Inuit freely practising subsistence hunting can now happen in unison. There are naysayers, to be sure, who say Inuit have survived for thousands of years without large-scale resource development, and will survive thousands more without it. Of that there is no doubt. But should that be our goal? To merely survive? Or should we aim higher?

Many of our people face serious challenges — poverty, youth suicide, food insecurity, housing, and education. Projects like Baffinland’s represent an enormous opportunity to help address these issues and add significant revenue to our territory. If Phase 2 is approved, more than $2 billion in royalty revenue will be paid to Inuit organizations through 2038, including over $1 billion to the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and $1.4 billion to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. That’s on top of approximately $700 million in taxes to Nunavut and $1.4 billion to the Government of Canada. When we have a resource project already accounting for a quarter of Nunavut’s GDP that employs hundreds of Inuit with the prospect of employing hundreds more if expansion proceeds, we would be ill-advised not to embrace it. Not when our partner is a responsible operator that has collaborated so closely with Inuit to protect our land, water, and culture.

Our culture is paramount, but we Inuit must embrace a measure of change and collaborate with companies that provide the investment, jobs, economic prosperity and environmental stewardship that enable our way of life. It is the bridge to a better future that also respects our past.

Paul Quassa is a senior adviser to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s chief CEO Brian Penney. He is a former premier of Nunavut and was an MLA and Speaker in the territory’s fifth legislative assembly.

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(39) Comments:

  1. Posted by Ian on

    Paul, my humble opinion very well said,it’s nice to see a true leader to continue to follow his vision of NUnavut so many years later. Where is our younger generation, the new leaders to help you carry the vision and burden this brings,

    • Posted by Norman Gordon on

      From Inuit advocate to….
      2 face
      Money talks I guess

  2. Posted by articrick on

    Looks like the company gave him this to read.

  3. Posted by Jo on

    It is incredibly disingenuous for Nunatsiaq to frame this as simple opinion. It’s an advertisement.

    “Former premier and signatory to the Nunavut Agreement.” Fine, but you also have to mention right at the beginning that this guy is a Baffinland employee/lobbyist. It should be made very clear that this “opinion” is a Baffinland advertisement.

    Company things company’s idea is great. What a shocker.

    • Posted by LOL on

      It was mentioned. Twice. Is it because it is not in bold letters or because it differs from your opinion that it offends you?

  4. Posted by Consistency on

    Nice AD for Baffinland.

    If only we could trust anything Quassa or BIM says. While Quassa was an MLA he rarely told the community what was going on. but we should believe that BIM is listening to us. Next BIM should get some Nunavut celebrities to put out adds saying BIM is so great.

  5. Posted by Popcorn time on

    Is anyone else just here for the free popcorn?

  6. Posted by sharp shooter Inuk on

    Wow, an ad written by BIM and read by a token Inuk. Sorry to say it but this felt really shallow and empty. This felt like Paul being a puppet, with Penny using his hand as an ventriloquist .

  7. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    right on Mr Quassa, well signed and emailed.

    now howbow dah royalties and payment for this well written opinion piece by the lawyers from the place of employment.

    can I borrow $5 for a pepsi? maybe one of those fancy flown in fresh bepsi if you don’t mind.

    • Posted by Inuk on

      And yes where you is the royalties ?
      Instead of focusing on BIM I think we now have to focus on the land lease owners? QIA? NTI? , Like how many years has it been since the shipments started??

  8. Posted by Lifelong Nunavut Resident on

    So when an Inuk is put into a position of power and influence, they are called “puppets”. When a non-aboriginal is put into a position of power, they have influence and authority!! Disgusting….

    Paul, good for you, I am glad that you put yourself in a position to continue to fight for Inuit to ensure sustainable development. We need jobs and business opportunities from our resources – this is really one of the only opportunities we have in the territory – we are resource rich, let’s find a sustainable ways to develop our resources and encourage investment. We can’t rely on the GN and “purple checks” (welfare). We must find ways to reduce poverty, hopelessness and despair.
    If we are so concerned about our wildlife, let’s stop ourselves from continuing the overharvesting of our wildlife for profit. This is what I believe is the cause of populations declining. For example, it is not sustainable for the the Kivalliq hunters to supply caribou meat to the residents of the Qikiqtani region (Baffin Island) without negatively impacting the Qaminirjuaq caribou herd. We all know that over-harvesting is leading to a major decrease in caribou populations. All we do is deny the fact that populations are declining and tell everyone that questions it (including NTI), that we are “allowed under the NLCA”. We cannot fault the negotiators that put this is the NLCA, nobody had the faintest idea that FACEBOOK would create a platform that is causing the slaughter of arctic wildlife for PROFIT. The worst guys are the ones with good paying jobs – they are the ones with good equipment and they go out on a weekend and shoot 10-15 caribou each to sell to the Baffin. I know of a number of hunters that brag about killing and selling 50-60 caribou in one winter.
    Narwhales – overhunted due to the value of the “tusk”.. The populations will decline everywhere wildlife is overhunted. The number of whales struck and not retrieved is alarming. The quota means nothing as many more die due to gun shot wounds. How many I wonder? double the quota set, triple??
    Human nature is human nature and we are allowing ourselves (Inuit) to hunt for profit like the whalers of old and we will suffer the consequences when our wildlife populations start to crash. Of course, we will blame industry and the big bad white man.

    • Posted by Angry Hunter on

      So true.

  9. Posted by Terry Dobbin on

    Mr. Quassa statement is spot on! Just a reminder of Nunavut land claims agreement signing years ago. There is an excellent book titled ” New Owners of their Own Land”. The book was written by Robert McPherson, who was a Geologist that the Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut, to identify mineral rich lands that Inuit would eventually select, which those lands are paying dividends today. Millions of dollars in royalties going to Inuit Organizations today These royalties are just the bonus benefits on top of the training, high paying jobs, Inuit businesses that we are reaping the benefits from resource development.
    This co-management system also giving us a strong environmental protection system, to ensure that any development is done responsibly in such a way that Inuit knowledge is considered in ensuring that the land, waters and wildlife are protected.
    As Mr. Quassa made reference too, it’s important that Inuit youth understand what the land claims negotiators did for them, why they it and how” a important first step would be to make Mr. McPherson’s book a required reading for all Nunavummiut from youth to politicians. This book is a written account of how Inuit have been able to use mineral wealth to realize self reliance, social, and cultural wellbeing that has been sought for so long. Here is the link to a copy of Mr. McPherson’s book:

    • Posted by Quite biased on

      Mr. McPherson’s book is a very one-sided and dated account of the history of Inuit relations with the mining industry. I agree that people should read his book, because it documents an important perspective. However, people need to read it critically. Obviously a guy who originally came to Nunavut as part of a uranium exploration team and later helped select mineral rights for Inuit is going to speak highly of the mining industry. There are other perspectives that are equally as valid, from Inuit and others who did the grassroots work opposing uranium.

  10. Posted by No Moniker on

    Interesting to see so many cynics pairing up with the voluntary police force that monitors which opinions ‘count’ on this.

    I recently commented that unless you “stay in your lane” (that is, say the things the gatekeepers of Inuit identity want you to say) you are sure to be accused of heresy. This isn’t just about Paul of course. No one, it should be noted, is entitled to an opinion that deviates from any of the norms that have grown up around this issue. To speak against the orthodoxy Paul has become ‘fair game’ you might say.
    From here his opinions can be summarily discounted, ignored, and even shown a little contempt. A sad, albeit predictable, spectacle it is.

  11. Posted by Nice strategy – this wont work ! on

    Nice marketing add Baffinland – hire big names in Nynavut, pay them as “advisors” and get them to say what you want and push your agenda. Nunavumiut will not buy in this – we will be heard !

  12. Posted by delbert on

    I predicted Paul would sing the Baffin land Song. I all so predicted he would be a loud and wonderful singer. Bravo.

  13. Posted by Nice face on

    May as well let brian penny write it. This is an advertisment. Bim are 10 year liars. Want all and give peanuts.

    • Posted by Can I have your peanuts on

      If $7 billion is peanuts to you, do you mind if I have your peanuts?

      • Posted by Nice face on

        All we got was the option of a food basket, sound like a trade to you?

  14. Posted by shame on

    Shame to see so many Nunavutmuit frothing at the mouth for the money that is offered for the destruction of the land they call home. Would our ancestors be proud of this? would the ones who suffered brutally at the hands of colonial oppressors be proud of this? When did we say it was alright to destroy the land for profit? when did that become the inuit way?

    • Posted by A Rorschach Moment on

      It is always fascinating when people invoke the mind of their ‘ancestors’ as if to channel their thoughts in some way. To me this a Rorschach moment that tells us more about their own inner workings than anything else.

      Wasn’t it iron that drew the first ancestors of the Inuit into the Canadian Arctic? Weren’t they looking to trade with the Norse or to get their hands on the meteoric iron in northern Greenland? And why?

      Because they had become accustomed to iron use through trade with Asia and many of their technologies had been built around it.
      Had they known about the iron at this site and been able to exploit it would they have done so?

      Hell yes they would.

      • Posted by shame on

        destroying the land for the profit of foreign investors was never the inuit way. you’re either not inuit, or you sold your way of life for money a long time ago, which is a shame because the inuit way of life is beautiful. sever the connection to the land from it’s people and you lose a big part of the inuit way. destroying the land would prevent future generations to learn our history and would further cause identity issues in this crazy world. are you ready to sacrifice your way (not just your way of life but every inuit child, woman and man) of life for a few dollars more? and why is mining the only type of work that you’re fighting for inn the north, you can advocate for many other types of employment, but you’re dead set on selling the land we use to southerners. you need to go out on the land a reconnect.

  15. Posted by iRoll on

    The critics are posting the least interesting analysis here.

    “ThE mInE mUsTa WrOtE dIs”!

    “LoOkS liKe BrIaN PenNy SaId DaT!”

    Such a failure of imagination.

    • Posted by sharp shooter Inuk on

      @ iroll, GoOd jOb GeTtinG YoUR MeSSaGE ACroSs, YoU GeT aN ‘A’ fOR sTYle.

      • Posted by iRoll on

        I like you too, Sharp Shooter!

        • Posted by Ludger Makkik on

          Ah! ah! yes! what what! is it again?.

  16. Posted by Tom Shelby on

    Funny he went from Premier to an Advisor for Baffinland LOL They wouldn’t be paying him to push their agenda would they, no never happens anywhere in the world. Wake up people, this stuff happens everyday in the world. This should read “Premier fills his pockets while saying its all good for the north”

    • Posted by Do some reseach on

      Before you go after Paul Quassa’s character, do a little research on who he is, what he stood for as Premier and how he was forced out trying while trying to solve Nunavut’s ongoing poverty and housing crisis. Paul has spent decades trying to change Nunavut’s failing hierarchy that seems to favor rich Inuit and compound the problems of the poor. Maybe he sees Baffinland as a tool to make a dent in the impenetrable shield of Nunavut’s oppression of its own people. On Baffinland’s payroll or not, I will always see Mr. Quassa as an idealist, not a capitalist.

  17. Posted by Happy Hunter on

    The problem with Quassa’s approach is that there Is not a single mine anywhere on the planet that has coexisted with wildlife without absolutely reducing the total number of animals. All mines reduce the natural environment, usually permanently. All lining devastates the local environment and Mary River will be no exception.

    It’s what mines do.

    This is an experiment. Likely there will be a substantial, long-term reduction in the wildlife and a gain in income for Nunavut. Thats’ the tradeoff. Quotas for all hunting forever and the end of that part of the Nunavut Agreement.

    The idea that we can have both the mining income AND preserve the wildlife as is, is false, because it has never been done before in the history of mining on Earth.

    • Posted by High Arctic Hunters on

      Remember Nanisivik Mine? The one that is an hour drive away from Arctic Bay? They seem to be doing lots of happy hunting still these days. Even tho the mine had tailing ponds the environment or animals weren’t eliminated. We can’t keep being dependent when there’s so much resources.

  18. Posted by Hey on

    Hey…frankly….who cares if he is benefitting from this. Awesome.powerful position. Mr. Quassa knows what this Territory needs for mental health and he has a place whereby he can make it happen. All we need are the people of this Territory to step up and seek what they need and embrace the benefits. Once the needs are met then we can further our future and our children’s fu5ure

    • Posted by Jim on

      I care if he’s benefitting from this because then he is biased. I don’t understand that the expansion of the mine – which hugely shortens the life of the mine – the length of time the taxes will be paid, the Inuit jobs will be held and increase the detrimental affects to wildlife is very positive to Nunavummiut. I think of the iron ore as money in the ground. It is not beneficial to anyone but, the corporation to dig it up as fast as possible. Taime.

  19. Posted by Tiivi on

    ᓄᓈᐱᓯᓐᓂ ᐅᒪᔪᓯᓐᓂᓗ ᑲᒪᑦᓯᐊᓛᕐᖁᓯ. ᒪᑭᑉᐱᓕᐊᕐᓂᒃ ᑮᓇᐅᔭᑎᒍ ᐱᐅᔫᒐᓗᐊᕐᐸᑦ ᖄᖏᕐᓂᑯᓕᐅᕐᑐᒪᕆᐅᒻᒪᑕ ᓯᓚᑖᓂᒥᐅᑦ / ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑦ ᖃᐅᔨᒪᒋᑦᓯ. ᑲᔪᓯᓚᖓᒻᒪᑦ ᐅᔭᕋᓐᓂᐊᓂᖅ ᓇᒻᒥᓂᖃᑦᓯᐊᓗᓯ business-ᓂᑦ ᖃᖏᕐᓂᑯᓕᐅᖃᑕᐅᓛᕐᖁᓯ. ᓄᓇᓯ ᐆᒪᔪᖁᑎᓯᓐᓂᒃ ᐳᐃᕈᓚᖓᖕᖏᓚᓯ

  20. Posted by Washed up, fired former this and that never good on

    The project is controversial enough without this poor man who is trying to milk the last few dollars from a company that is desperate to keep their project on the go. This letter further highlights the desperation of the company to try to keep destroying the lands and waters of the Inuit in north Baffin. Keep up the good work residents of Pond in keeping all of us informed on your losses as it reaffirms our support for you.

    • Posted by Make or break on

      This project is the litmus test to see if Nunavut is worth investing in.

      Without investments expect to see mental health problems soar as yet another hopeless generation is raised up to believe there worth is nothing but collecting welfare and killing animals with colonial items.

      • Posted by Oh my goodness on

        The mine is on its 6th year of operation and has done nothing for mental well-being of Nunavut if you have not noticed. Being on the land and providing for a family is a truly rewarding form of therapy which you will never know. There are other mines in operation now in Nunavut so the investment will continue if the projects do not harm the hunting and fishing activities of the communities. Your logic is typical fear mongering activity which is so out to lunch now, we do not even consider worthy of consideration. Go play with your iron dust elsewhere please.

  21. Posted by MONICA A CONNOLLY on

    Back in the ’70s I interviewed some gentlemen involved in oil exploration off the Baffin coast. They impressed me as wanting good things for Baffin residents, but because of their background, they had no clue how their idea of good – jobs, Southern-style life – could clash with the Inuit ideal of maintaining good hunting for future generations.
    So now a resource company hires a prominent political retiree to advise them, and a bunch of anonymous critics accuse all of them of selfish greed.
    This is how organizations work in specialized societies: if you have no one on your team who is an expert on a topic that is important to you, you find one (or more) and you pay them for their time and expertise. This company needs geologists, mining engineers, experts on building roads and residences, biologists, chartered accountants, experts on culture and communications, advisors on COVID-19 protection, etc.. etc. Former politicians are often consultants.

  22. Posted by One of the Defenders on

    I observed earlier this year to world renown MIT linguist , and political dissident Noam Avril Chomsky earlier this year that what is occurring is the genesis of an Inuit bourgeoise society and perhaps the last real example of the natural behaviours and responses derived from self serving interests. There are ~25,000 Inuit in Nunavut territory and with the mineral endowment contained on the Land Owners land anyone who believes that Inuit are being well served receiving 1.92% of the revenues derived from the extraction of said minerals and line up fir food stamps the fellows with the deep pockets, the billionaires repatriate the other 98.08% to their palaces on the Bridle Path in Toronto. Unfortunately the former premier has been bought and sold by the highest bidder.

    With the mineral wealth that exists on Baffin Island (and i would agree the former premier’s intent may be good however hes been badly brainwashed. I don’t think <2% of the comtained wealth is a fair deal Nunavumiut should be living like Saudi Arabian royalty yet theyre crammed 20 to a shack while the government drags its arse meeting the needs of the Indigenous Nations of Canada. Truth and Reconciliation Day? Give me a break! The beneficiaries of the holiday are the bureaucrats who were complicit with politicians in the residential school aystem, hanging dog tags around Inuit after they were herded off the land and settled in Hamlets that were strategic in asserting Canadian Arctic sovereignty, whom were subjected to “sexual favours” to Canada’s RCMP for food mail, failing to provide potable water etc. etc. etc,

    Lets get our heads out kf our arses Canada has become a fake country presided iver by a fake prime minister who started out loved by the world including the Chinese and hes niw the laughing stock globally. The rest are no better.

    People can get pretty greedy when they’re running their own horse in the race. That horse is always called self interest. Notwithstanding the fact that this country has become the laughing atock of the world we’re still the best goddamn hope the world has.

    If we’re going to resolve the past we need to create a future for Indigenous Canadians and quit running the propaganda machine. I Stand with the Land Defenders and im whiter than the pure Arctic snow until it gets dusted out red.

    Another question for all the do gooders…take a look at the Google Map Pro historical imagery for the Milne Inlet port and explain under the authority of what permits (presumably the ones currently under contemplation for running ore through Eclipse Sound and possibly endangering the Narwhal species. The land owners including the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Association made the most convincing arguments against the southern shipping route and they were gnarly folks not averse to digging their heels in when necessary.

    Ill pit my money on a few Inuit taking a stand any day over the mining company or the government. As I said to a very well known Canadian politician recently if the Elders and the Land Defenders are bitching there’s something wrong and rather than explore that possibility they're being sued in court..piss off! The Steensby route was selected for good reason and it would be feasible to consider transporting all the ore in an underground bored tunnel. The best tunnel bore consultant in the country says its feasible. Perhaps the richest man in the wirkd Elon Musk who is Canadian can put his money where is big fat mouth is and come up and practice in permafrost in the Canadian Arctic?

    It gets the dust off the land, reduces impacts to surface flora and fauna, archeological sites of significance, wildlife etc. and the conclusion in terms of marine mammals at Steensby was there might well be an impact for the odd walrus however the impacts on the species as a whole were deemed low risk. Narwhal on the other hand were less certain and those beautiful creatures who cannot speak for themselves need someone to speak for them. I swim with the Narwhal! Across the straight in Nunavik (another territory of Inuit brothers and sisters mayor Johnny of Aaupuluk said it best “we may have the smallest hamlet in Nunavik <200 people however we represent millions of residents and we need to do things right because they are incapable of speaking for themselves.” Sound logic i thought and thanked him.

    Here we are same old story last of the colonists getting the natives fighting among themselves while they skim off all the cream and most of the milk. Put a bag of money in the room and everyone goes foolish.


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