Paul Quassa joins Baffinland as senior advisor
Former premier and land claims negotiator will be CEO Brian Penney’s personal advisor
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.”