Makivik fights Nunavut government polar bear quota in court
Complex Southern Hudson Bay management area straddles one territory, two provinces, three Indigenous groups
Makivik Corp., the organization that represents Nunavik Inuit, has taken a spat over polar bear hunting quotas in the southern Hudson Bay management area to the Nunavut court, documents filed at the Nunavut Court of Justice reveal.
In a notice filed Nov. 4, 2016, Makivik said a Government of Nunavut decision to set the total allowable harvest in the region at 25 was “discriminatory,” “unfounded,” and was issued “without reasons or with reasons that are manifestly inadequate.”
“Most importantly, the fewer polar bear that are harvested, the less chance Nunavik Inuit have to experience and pass on to the next generation key aspects of their culture, such as survival skills and life skills, feelings of fulfillment gained from sharing the meat, and the pride of completing an important coming-of-age experience associated with being a good hunter,” said the notice, recently obtained by Nunatsiaq News at the Iqaluit courthouse.
The notice requests a judicial review of the GN’s decision.
None of the allegations in the notice have been proven in court and none of the respondents named in the notice—the GN, the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board, the Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board and the Attorney General of Nunavut—have submitted written responses to the allegations.
Setting the quota for hunting polar bear in the southern Hudson Bay management unit has been controversial and complex.
In part, that’s because the area includes land in one territory, Nunavut, and two provinces, Quebec and Ontario, and includes land covered under two Inuit land claim agreements and protected Cree hunting grounds.
Stakeholders agreed to a temporary quota of 60 polar bears in 2011 to be shared by Sanikiluaq, the only Nunavut community in the region, all Nunavik communities, and Cree hunters in the James Bay area.
At the time only Nunavut had set a quota of 25 for Sanikiluaq, leaving 35 polar bears for Nunavik and James Bay.
In January 2012, the federal government asked the Nunavik wildlife board to establish a quota, the court document said.
The board consulted with communities and accepted “extensive submissions,” from stakeholders, including Makivik.
In October 2014 all parties agreed on a new quota of 45 polar bears to be shared in the management unit, including 25 to be shared by Nunavik and by Inuit and Cree hunters in the James Bay area.
That quota expired in November 2016.
In July 2015, the wildlife management boards in Nunavik and James Bay submitted a new quota, but that quota—which was not specified in court documents—was rejected by both Ottawa and Nunavut.
Ottawa asked for a revised quota, the court document said.
In January 2016, the two wildlife boards submitted a final quota of 28 to be shared by Inuit and Cree in Nunavik and around James Bay, said the court notice.
But on Nov. 1, 2016, the wildlife boards received letters from both Nunavut and Ottawa—dated Oct. 6, 2016 and Oct. 19, 2016, respectively—rejecting the quota and lowering it to 25.
That decision reduces the number of Nunavik Inuit who “will be able to exercise their treaty right to harvest,” Makivik argued.
“Limiting the polar bear harvest also reduces the extensive social and economic benefits that the polar bear harvest provides the Inuit,” and reduces access to “inexpensive and healthy country food in an area where food costs are extremely high,” Makivik said.
The notice will be put before a judge in Iqaluit on Jan. 16 at 1:30 p.m., the document said.