Pond Inlet hunters push to exclude new benefits agreement from hearing on mine expansion
Deal struck by Baffinland and Qikiqtani Inuit Association only selectively dealt with at hearing, hunters say
The Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization wants to exclude a multi-million dollar agreement from evidence in deliberations over a mine expansion in north Baffin Island, unless that deal is dissected before the committee in full.
The organization is asking for the Inuit Certainty Agreement to be excluded from records used by the Nunavut Impact Review Board to decide whether to let Baffinland expand its Mary River iron mine. Alternatively, the Pond Inlet organization wants the board to admit the agreement into evidence, so that it can be questioned in full.
A motion dealing with these requests is scheduled to be debated later today.
The Inuit Certainty Agreement, struck in June, would amend the existing Inuit impact and benefits agreement between the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Baffinland.
It has 34 sections that outline community incentives, the inclusion of Inuit traditional knowledge and more.
Eric Ootoovak, chair of the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization, said in an email to Nunatsiaq News that if the board excludes the parts of the agreement that have been introduced, “it will force Baffinland to be more transparent about the fact they have not addressed Inuit concerns.”
The organization says the board has not sought concerns from affected communities about the Inuit Certainty Agreement, and hunters “remain confused about what parts of the ICA the board considers relevant,” according to the notice of motion provided by the organization on Jan. 25.
“Considering only a partial and one-sided picture of the ICA prejudices MHTO and other affected communities, and creates confusion and unfairness in the hearing,” the document states.
Heather Smiles, Baffinland’s manager of stakeholder relations, said in an email to Nunatsiaq News that “Baffinland will be filing its response to all motions on the public record.”
“It would be inappropriate to comment until a response has been submitted to the board as part of the NIRB process,” she said.
The Inuit Certainty Agreement would only be implemented if Baffinland’s mine expansion plans receive federal approval following the final hearing.
The agreement involves plans for adaptive management, in which the company will remain flexible in its operations to account for environmental problems that arise throughout the life of the mine, according to the 49-page document. It also states that there will be social monitoring to preserve language, support Inuit way of life, education and mental health.
But the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization argues that the “so-called beneficial programs under the ICA” have not been discussed in full, and is misleading because not all of the arrangements in the agreement are finalized.
For example, one clause states that if, in certain matters, Baffinland and QIA do not agree, the decision will be up to an arbitrator, which Ootoovak said would be “imposed on Inuit.”
“Baffinland and QIA want to say, ‘Look at this great [agreement]’ without showing the board the whole agreement,” said Ootoovak. “Particularly those parts that are not helpful to Baffinland.”
In a supporting document to the motion, Ootoovak said that Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet, Igloolik, Sanirijak and Clyde River must be “reasonably satisfied” for QIA to support the Inuit Certainty Agreement during the board hearings.
“The fact that QIA is presenting part of the ICA suggests that consensus exists, when in fact it does not,” he wrote.
The nine-member Nunavut Impact Review Board assesses the environmental and socio-economic impacts of development projects and advises the federal and territorial governments on their findings.
The Baffinland hearing is being assessed by three members who were appointed by the board in October 2020.
The hearing will continue until Feb 6.