Iqaluit water licence needs full screening: NIRB to Ottawa
City's water licence too complex, requires public input, Nunavut board says
The Nunavut Impact Review Board shot back at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Oct. 21 saying the board must conduct a full screening of Iqaluit’s new water licence because of the potential impact and complexity of the city’s proposal.
The debate centres on the interpretation of Schedule 12-1 of the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement which, under item 3 of that schedule, exempts from screening, “all construction, operation and maintenance of all buildings and services within an established municipality…”
In an Oct. 16 letter to the NIRB — which is soliciting comments on the City of Iqaluit’s comprehensive Type “A” water licence application — AANDC says the application should be exempt from screening because it falls within a municipal boundary.
But the NIRB interprets that portion of Schedule 12 more broadly saying that the water licence application constitutes “industrial activity” due to its multi-faceted, complex nature.
The NIRB points out that the city’s proposal involves the upgrade, operation and decommissioning of various facilities including a water treatment plant, solid waste management facility, wastewater treatment plant, sewage lagoon, access road and associated infrastructure.
The city’s last valid water licence expired almost three years ago.
It must get a new water licence before it can go ahead with closing down its old dump site and opening the new landfill site and quarry about eight kilometres northwest of town.
It’s a complex process involving multiple levels of government and various departments and agencies.
In the NIRB’s view, even if one component of a proposal requires a public hearing and input from Inuit — and the Nunavut Water Board has already indicted this application will — then the entire project must undergo a full screening under Article 12 of the land claim.
“One of the primary objectives of the NLCA is to provide Inuit with the opportunity to participate in decision-making concerning the use of land, water, and resources, and therefore any actions which may affect Inuit participation in substantive decision-making should be limited,” says the NIRB letter, signed by Ryan Barry, its executive director.
“The primary purpose of Schedule 12-1 is to exempt from normal screening requirements of Article 12 only those types of project proposals that by their nature do not have the potential for significant environmental or socio-economic impact, alone or cumulatively.”
It’s clear the NIRB wants to establish a precedent in this case, to solidify the review board’s role for future development in Nunavut.
Barry says that, despite AANDC’s doubts in the matter, the NIRB intends to go forward with a screening decision report, which will be forwarded to the AANDC minister, Bernard Valcourt.
But the NIRB notes in its conclusion that the ongoing debate over interpreting the NLCA is an important one, especially when considering the federal Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act.
That act, sometimes referred to as NUPPAA, became law in June 2013 as part of the Northern Jobs and Growth Act; NUPPAA is meant to help streamline development in the territory.
Schedule 3 of the NUPPAA is the part which outlines what “classes of works and activities” would be exempt from screening, much in the same way Schedule 12-1 lists what items are exempt from screening under the land claim agreement.
Schedule 3 of the NUPPAA is still being written and Barry says, in his letter, that the NIRB wants to weigh in before the wording is finalized.
“The board would welcome the opportunity to discuss these broader questions associated with exemptions from assessment with AANDC and the other parties with an interest in these provisions, including the Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the regional Inuit associations, the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Water Board,” Barry says in his letter.