Paul Quassa joins Baffinland as senior advisor

Former premier and land claims negotiator will be CEO Brian Penney’s personal advisor

Paul Quassa, seen here speaking in July at a Nunavut Planning Commission event, has been hired as a senior advisor to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. CEO Brian Penney. (File photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Former Nunavut premier Paul Quassa has signed on with Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. as a senior advisor to CEO Brian Penney, saying that the purpose of the Nunavut agreement was to be self-sufficient and that mining can help the territory get there.

“Our No. 1 priority [when signing the Nunavut agreement] … was to become self-sufficient, self-reliant and being independent in the sense where we can run our territory in a positive way and let it grow,” Quassa said in an interview following Baffinland’s announcement that the veteran politician had joined the company.

Quassa, one of the negotiators of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, said Baffinland can provide Nunavummiut with employment and teach them new skills and trades.

“When we signed the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, these are the things that we were expecting to come within our territory.”

Quassa’s interest in the company dates back to 2005, when he lived in Igloolik and Baffinland was surveying land.

“They were looking at various routes or areas that the Inuit would know,” Quassa said. “So, interestingly, me and my wife were quite active, taking part in going on flights, looking at the land.”

Decades before that, Quassa said he can recall the tote road between Milne Inlet and what is now the Mary River mine being built, and that he has stayed involved or up-to-date ever since.

When Quassa resigned as Speaker of the legislative assembly and the MLA for Aggu in August, he said he knew it was an opportunity to try out the private sector after being a 40-year career politician, and that Baffinland was one of the options.

The company is in the midst of a Nunavut Impact Review Board hearing on its proposed mine expansion, which critics say will have harmful impacts on the environment. Penney has said the expansion must be approved for Baffinland’s operations to be financially viable.

Between being Inuk and knowing the region Baffinland operates in, Quassa said he can help foster a positive working relationship between the company and Inuit opposition to the expansion.

“I think it’s very important — to have a successful development or anything up here, there has to be that close partnership,” he said.

But first, Quassa wants to hear directly from people who are concerned about environmental impact before he speaks on how he can help mend that relationship.

When asked if Baffinland’s expansion should be approved as it currently stands, Quassa did not say.

“Sustainable development certainly can happen in Nunavut,” he said.

Quassa served as president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. In the legislative assembly, Quassa served as education minister and as Nunavut’s premier, until MLAs removed him from that role in a non-confidence vote after a year.

He said he will be in Pond Inlet for the upcoming review board hearing that resumes Nov. 1.

“I think it’s important to always emphasize that this is what our elders in Nunavut, when developers first started up, were always in support [of] because they were thinking of their future, their next generation. And I think that’s so vitally important.”

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by Couldn’t be any worst on

    You certainly choose the wrong path !!!

    Baffinland, mining companies are great as it gives income to Nunavumiut. But the uncertainty you have on the animals on the land here in Baffin will only become more sparse.

    You cannot negotiate the land with Inuit Orgs. Land is not be be mine, you want to be part of a company who is taking the land from the animals in it ? For what ? The money they offered you ?

    Nunavut had a beautiful land and it’s all being damage by the mining companies. I would have thought you learn in the last 40 years negotiating. That the land is not for sale and you have just done that by joining them ?

    • Posted by Oh Ima on

      The only people that can enjoy being on the land are people with income, the majority of Inuit live in extreme poverty. Resource development and hunting can coexist. The only people really opposed to development are bleeding-heart environmentalists that have nice cars and houses that live in the south that don’t have to live in poverty.

      • Posted by sigh on

        No one is opposed to ‘development’. They’re opposed to a mining company doing a risky expansion without following the proper steps. Most scientists around the table at nirb disagree with Baffinland’s claims that it will haven no significant impacts. Baffinland claims it will use adaptive management to make sure everything’s fine, but refuses to finish its adaptive management plans until AFTER the nirb assessment is done.

        This isn’t about being pro/anti development, it’s about a company trying to push through a controversial proposal in an irresponsible way.

      • Posted by More Ironic than Baffinland on

        I love this comment, it’s just so good.

        “The only people really opposed to development are bleeding-heart environmentalists that have nice cars and houses that live in the south that don’t have to live in poverty.”

        The irony is here is that this argument – that only southerners are environmentalists – was hatched and perpetrated by a few consultant types living in Iqaluit.

        Nevermind the land guardians – comprised entirely of Hunters in affected communities – in painting environmentalism as an elite urban phenomenon.

        It’s an old trick played by old tricksters, and in the shifting Nunavut political landscape it’s increasingly tone-deaf.

  2. Posted by Observer on

    What a great add by Baffinland. People have complained about the lack of Inuit in leadership, now we have an experienced Inuit leader with the ear of the CEO in a position of influence.
    Paul can help ensure Baffinland does development right, listening to Inuit concerns and doing right by the communities and the people.

    • Posted by Gimme that Free Travel on

      Quassa’s known to participate in questionable ethical decisions, as evidenced by his suspension as NTI president over misuse of a corporate credit card.
      I imagine that as long as Baffinland keeps putting fat cheques in his pocket, handing over plane tickets, and indulging him in lavish meals down south, I think Quassa will say what they want him to say.

  3. Posted by Drain it Now! on

    As the Americans would say – drain the swamp!

    We need laws to prevent former politicians and bureaucrats working for this way for a number of years after they leave government.

    • Posted by Piitaqanngi on

      Imagine if he became a lobbyist?

    • Posted by Curious on

      What do you suggest? Maintain the status quo by continuing to procure southern non-indigenous, former government and retired bureaucrats as so called expert consultants and advisors on matters relating to Nunavut Inuit, environment, waters, and wildlife?

  4. Posted by Terry on

    I wanted to respond to the “Couldn’t be any worst” comment that Nunavut had a beautiful land and It’s all being damaged by mining companies. I absolutely agree that Nunavut is a beautiful land, but disagree that all the land is damaged. For information sake, all operating mines in Nunavut combined occupy less that 1% (Stats Canada Source) the area of Nunavut, that’s tons of economic prosperity for Nunavut from a very small footprint.

  5. Posted by Yay! on

    Way to go Paul, they couldn’t have picked a better person, you are the right man for Nunavut always!

  6. Posted by North guy on

    Well weighing the plus and minusus I think plus side wins,they should just help all Baffin people not just affected communities

  7. Posted by delbert on

    One thing about Paul. He will sing to what ever tune Baffin Land Play’s. A wonderful singer he will be.

  8. Posted by Northern Guy on

    This is all moot and Quassa’s tenure with Baffinland will be short-lived. I predict that the company will receive another mauling in the upcoming NIRB hearings as external special interest groups with no stake in the territory pull the strings. Baffinland will finally pull the plug on the project putting it into mothballs followed shortly thereafter by the property falling to the federal government for “care and maintenance” because no one else will want to touch this project or do business in the Baffin. No jobs, no housing just an endless cycle of poverty and a reliance on government handouts.

    • Posted by Doom & Gloom on

      That’s an interesting doomsday prediction.

      A more nuanced prediction is that the price of commodities, like Iron, continues to rise and ArcelorMittal continues to enjoy record profits.

      Baffinland and ArcelorMittal are wealthy beyond imagining, and all this doomsday nonsense is just a negotiating tactic. There’s no way Baffinland goes into C&M without shareholders turfing the executive for killing a golden goose.


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