Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 11, 2014 - 12:15 pm

Nunavut Inuit hope to team up with Ecojustice to stop seismic testing

“It completely scares us — it’s the food of our people"

LISA GREGOIRE
This is the banner atop the Fight Against Seismic Testing in Nunavut Facebook page. (PHOTO COURTESY NIORE IQALUKJUAK)
This is the banner atop the Fight Against Seismic Testing in Nunavut Facebook page. (PHOTO COURTESY NIORE IQALUKJUAK)
Niore Iqalukjuak, the man behind the seismic protest Facebook page, filled the photo section with Arctic wildlife and pointed messages. (PHOTO COURTESY NIORE IQALUKJUAK)
Niore Iqalukjuak, the man behind the seismic protest Facebook page, filled the photo section with Arctic wildlife and pointed messages. (PHOTO COURTESY NIORE IQALUKJUAK)

If federal officials think seismic testing will go forward in Baffin Bay without a hitch, they might want to rethink that.

With a Facebook protest group having amassed 1,800 members and a petition in the works, seismic testing opponents have now solicited the help of Ecojustice, a national charitable organization that offers free legal services to people fighting for environmental causes.

“I was looking at their website and I liked how their goal is that people should be living in a friendly and safe environment,” said Jerry Natanine, mayor of Clyde River.

“With the new [Tsilhqot’in] Supreme Court decision, we want to find out if our rights are being violated or not and we figure those guys would be good people to sort that out for us.”

Born in 1990 as the Sierra Legal Defence Fund and now known under its new name since 2007, Ecojustice has offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary and a bank of lawyers who specialize in areas of law that serve to preserve and protect the environment.

When contacted by Nunatsiaq News on July 10, a spokesperson for the organization said they do not disclose public requests for services until a formal partnership has been worked out.

“I’d suggest you check back with us in a couple of weeks,” Ecojustice’s Pierre Hamilton wrote in an email.

Both Natanine and fellow Clyde River resident Niore Iqalukjuak, are hopeful that Ecojustice will help them stop a bid by a consortium of companies to conduct seismic testing off the east coast of Baffin Island.

“My father’s generation, they have stood by and said nothing, but some of us are now at the point where we say we cannot be quiet anymore and stand by and just watch what the government is doing to our land and our people,” Iqalukjuak said.

They, along with other Baffin mayors and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, are opposed to the project and believe the National Energy Board did not apply due diligence when consulting, and informing, local communities about the project.

They are worried about the impacts that seismic testing — which involves underwater explosions of sound — might have on marine mammals.

A low-flying jet produces 140 decibels of sound, according to an online audio chart.

The underwater seismic explosion produces 260 decibels, according to a National Geographic infographic.

It says anything above 170 decibels can injure marine animals.

“So we know it will have an impact on our wildlife,” said Iqalukjuak, damaging their hearing and perhaps affect their annual migrations. Sadly, he suspects, no one will monitor that.

Natanine and Iqalukjuak are also aware that data obtained from those tests could lead to oil and gas exploration off Baffin Island.

A huge portion of the southwestern shoreline of Greenland is currently licensed to oil and gas companies for that very thing.

The Nunavut Planning Commission just released a study saying that knowledge about how an oil spill would behave on or under ice is extremely limited and that this poses an unpredictable risk to the Arctic environment.

“It completely scares us,” said Iqalukjuak. “It’s the food of our people. That’s why Inuit are so adamant about trying to stop this.”

Natanine said it might seem unusual for Inuit groups to seek help from environmental groups considering the acrimonious relationships they have had with some organizations in the past — Greenpeace in particular.

But he said it might be time to bury the hatchet and work together against a common foe — in this case, the federal Conservative government.

In fact, Natanine admitted when he read a recent Greenpeace opinion piece published on nunatsiaqonline.ca, which formally apologized for the impact its anti-sealing campaign had on northern subsistence hunters in the 1970s and 80s, he got a tear in his eye.

“At first, I thought, I hate those fuckers,” said Natanine, who explained how Clyde River was decimated by the loss of the sealskin market and how many people lost their livelihood and became depressed and alcoholic as a result, including his own parents.

“But you know, they’re just human. They didn’t know what they were doing. And now, to acknowledge they were wrong and that they had this negative impact on us, it touched me inside. I thought I would just forever hate them. But I say, ‘No.’ I’m not Palestine.”

Meanwhile, the “Fight Against Seismic Testing In Nunavut” Facebook page lists a who’s who of northern leaders, people of influence, and regular folks who exhibit varying degrees of anger toward the NEB, the Stephen Harper government and Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq.

Some members suggest people should protest at the September Iqaluit meetings of the Arctic Economic Council, an offshoot of the Arctic Council, which Aglukkaq chairs.

Iqalukjuak says he feels abandoned by Aglukkaq, saying she might have had influence over this project as environment minister and as Arctic Council chair.

“We just want her to speak for us,” he said, with disappointment. “We want to say ‘We need you.’”

He added that in launching the Facebook page, he wasn’t sure whether it would catch on, but is thrilled to see people posting comments and creating a unified voice.

Modern social media forums such as this provide a valuable venue for people to share information, inform themselves and organize, Iqalukjuak said.

He added that, if all else fails, concerned Inuit may raise this as an Aboriginal rights issue at the United Nations since Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 32 of that declaration says states must “cooperate in good faith with indigenous peoples” and obtain “their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.”

Iqalukjuak suggests Inuit are neither informed nor consensual when it comes to this project.

But Canada’s Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development minister disagrees.

In a letter he sent to Nunatsiaq News this week, Bernard Valcourt says the NEB “carried out a scientific and technical review of the application, which included consideration of community and public concerns.”

Valcourt also wrote that the proponents, Multi-Klient Invest (MKI,) had to submit a benefits plan to AANDC to demonstrate how Canadians would participate in, and benefit economically from, the project.

But the details of the plan have not been made public by either Ottawa or MKI.

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(26) Comments:

#1. Posted by Censor on July 11, 2014

“At first, I thought, I hate those fuckers,” said Natanine, who explained how Clyde River was decimated by the loss of the sealskin market and how many people lost their livelihood and became depressed and alcoholic as a result, including his own parents.

So we cant swear in the comment section but you can print that?

#2. Posted by Scare people much? on July 11, 2014

Yes, an airgun can produce a noise of 260 decibels, but that’s measured right at the airgun. And yes, that would seriously injure an animal if they were right there. As you get further away, the intensity of the sound decreases. A jet produces the same amount of noise flying at 1000 feet as it does at 10,000 feet, but what you hear on the ground is a lot different.

That’s why when a survey starts they use small bursts and gradually ramp up over time to full power, giving animals like marine mammals the ability to hear the noise and move out of the way. In order for a whale, for instance, to be injured by the 260 decibels it would have to actively get closer and closer and subject itself to more discomfort before it would get close enough to be injured.

Instead, whales do what you’d expect: they hear the ship coming from a distance too far to be hurt by the noise, avoid the area around the ship, and come back after the ship and the noise are gone.

#3. Posted by earth3rd on July 11, 2014

Where is the Premier of Nunavut, and the MLA’s of all the districts? Why aren’t they being more vocal about this. Good thing you have citizens like Niore Iqalukjuaq to take an active stand. I’m with you on this fight Mr. Iqalukjuaq.

#4. Posted by Small towner on July 11, 2014

Actually #2, sound waves travel through water alot easier and farther through water than in air.

#5. Posted by freedom fighter on July 11, 2014

There seems to be lot of bad faith bias decisions being made by Clyde River people.  So, why is he being interviewed for?  What is Palestines got to do with this?  Is newspaper promoting hate against Palestines for their stuggle for freedom?  Is inciting hate norm for newspaper or for Clyde River people?

#6. Posted by Questions on July 11, 2014

-What substance powers the engines of outboard motors and snowmobile engines that these hunters use?

-What substance “fuels” the ships and aircraft that deliver goods (hunting supplies) to Clyde River?

-What substance provides heat and electricity to 100% of the homes in Clyde River?

-Without what substance would the people of Clyde River be unable to survive more than a couple months?

#7. Posted by young inuk on July 11, 2014

“With the new [Tsilhqot’in] Supreme Court decision, we want to find out if our rights are being violated or not and we figure those guys would be good people to sort that out for us.”

The Inuit of Nunavut signed away their Aboriginal Rights when the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement was signed in 1993.

The beneficiaries of NLCA wouldnt have any chance of winning in the court since we signed our Aboriginal title away in return for the creation of Nunavut and 18% of Nunavut land mass.

The Supreme Court Ruling in BC does not effect us in anyway since the Land Claims Agreement is already law and agreement was made between the two parties.

#8. Posted by qaujimanngittuq on July 11, 2014

#7 maybe don’t pretend you understand the law…! several subsequent court decisions found that regardless of any treaty the federal government has to engage in meaningful and purposeful consultation. Did they with this project? probably not. = possible court challenge. Does seismic testing pose potential harm = yes. As for the supreme court ruling, there is no doubt that those findings will be brought up in court challenges in Nunavut. It will have an impact. Yup

#9. Posted by Answer on July 11, 2014

#6

Troll much? We can still get fuel/oil without destroying our land/water and animals. We’d need more oil and money just to catch the same animals if they were driven further away. Unable to survive? Hahahahaha, only urban folks wouldn’t be able to survive more than a couple of months. Hahahahahaha.

#10. Posted by The voice on July 11, 2014

“The Inuit of Nunavut signed away their Aboriginal Rights when the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement was signed in 1993.”
This is the most false statement I have ever heard.
The beniefits given since the signing of the land claims agree ment are numbering to the down falls. The inuit people worked hard and long to get the agreement.
Too much hard work was put into the agreement to be bashed on nunatsiaq news comments.
nunavut meaning our land. Yes its about time we stand up For our land, Our animals being the biggest natural resource. Really hope we dont lose the image we have of your land over a dollar sign.

#11. Posted by seriously? on July 11, 2014

Seriously, #5?
there are different meanings to the word. pick up a dictionary once in a while.

they should have probably edit out the swear word, someone might just have a heart attack -_-.

#12. Posted by East Baffin on July 11, 2014

#5. What you are saying is exactly what you seem to be against? I think you would only understand if you grew up and live around this area on this urgent issue.

#13. Posted by Jen on July 11, 2014

Im glad for this union, at least someone is sticking up for Nunavutmuit.  My name is on the list, if there is any way I can help fight against this I will, as iv done since 2011.

Thank You Jerry for sticking up for what you believe is right even with all the critics.  Nunavut needs strong voices.

‘Some of it your gonna like, some of it you wont, but ill never tell a lie’!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#14. Posted by Polar Watcher on July 12, 2014

Any pojects in the Nunavut Settlement Area requiring an authorization needs to go to Nunavut Impact Review Board, if the project is unable to be screened/reviewed by NIRB,they may request a Federal Panel to do so. Either way,consultation is required. NRCan proposed Seismic Testing a couple years ago and stopped due to the negative responses. Now a consortium is heading the project and will require the same review.The Minister may accept or reject the NIRB findings. Consultation does not mean “everyone needs to be on board”, just that people were consulted. You can have every person in Nunavut say no, but as long as they were consulted, it could still happen.NLCA trumps all legislation,but,it does not say projects have to stop because people say so,in signing the NLCA,you agreed to consultation, not veto power…you should be asking NIRB if this project has been screened or reviewed (PArt 4 or Part5) and what the outcome is,if not, wait, it has to go to them….

#15. Posted by Peter on July 12, 2014

I still want to know where our MP is on this issue? What is her official stance on this?

#16. Posted by No... on July 13, 2014

Polar Watcher, this project was not sent to NIRB, it was reviewed by the NEB because it lies outside the NSA.

COnsultation does not just mean holding a meeting. The duty to consult includes the duty to reasonably accommodate. That was not met in this instance.

The only options now are to petition the federal government, go to court, or engage in a peaceful direct-action campaign of civil disobedience.

#17. Posted by Polar Watcher on July 13, 2014

Peter, her official position is the position of the Conservative Government for which she is a Minister with portfollio, I would like to know what her position is as an Inuk. That we would not hear unless she is willing to resign as Minister and become just an ordinary MP.

#18. Posted by Polar Watcher on July 13, 2014

I would hve to re-check the area, I dont think it was outside NSA (includes more than the lands), if the effects of the project has an impact to Nunavut than NIRB still kicks in, or if Federal Panel than yes,consultation is required… NEB is known to include all parties legally required to consult.They have lawyers that have no affiliation to Federal Government and can not be influenced politically. I guess some would disagree,but, if those people did the research they would know. Also, “reasonably accommodate”?, that is a dull sword, NLCA Part 12.11.1 means, NIRB should be involved, requires a Designated Inuit Organization to request…so…why has this not happened? Call QIA

#19. Posted by FPIC your battles on July 14, 2014

Polar watcher, consultation and accommodation aren’t enough. As it says in the article:

“Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 32 of that declaration says states must “cooperate in good faith with indigenous peoples” and obtain “their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.””

Thus Canada has an obligation to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of Inuit before moving ahead with seismic testing. They can consult and accommodate all they want, but if Inuit still say no they are obligated to halt the project.

#20. Posted by No... on July 14, 2014

Polar Watcher,

I’m sorry, but you’re clueless on this one. Have you read over all of the letters QIA wrote to the NEB over this issue?

Its outside the NSA, NIRB was not involved, and NEB approved it anyways.

The duty to accommodate has stopped other projects in the past. Clearly, you’re not a lawyer.

#21. Posted by Supersiksik on July 14, 2014

What’s the big deal with testing? That’s what it is, is it’s testing. This isn’t gonna harm animals permanenly. Plus if they found a bit of gas and oil, it would create jobs, which a lot of Inuit could go and work for.

There is a lot of unemployement up north, people need jobs. Too many people rely on government welfair. What do the people in the south know about living conditions or quality of life in the north? They know nothing, all they care about it how cute a seal looks like and now they are gonna use Inuit as a tool to get what they want, and the sad thing is, is many Inuit are gonna jump on board and support something they have no clue about.

People have to wake up and join the 21st centry.

#22. Posted by earth3rd on July 14, 2014

#21
and you’re one of the Inuit that is going to jump on board and support something you have no clue about.

#23. Posted by Polar Watcher on July 14, 2014

You missed the point I made, why is QIA not requesting NIRB to screen as Transboundary affects are clear. 12.11.1 is clear on this point. QIA can write to NEB all it wants, follow the Land Claims Agreement and NIRB should be included. This is very clear, read and learn.  NLCA is at play, article 12.11.1, do you think the DENE have a say in this? No, but your interpretation states it does. I am merely pointing out that QIA obviously failed at using the NLCA to assist Inuit in having a voice.;;; good luck, this point is done

#24. Posted by Baffin Watcher on July 15, 2014

#23 the project is outside the Nunavut settlement area which means the Nunavut Impact Review Board does not have legal jurisdiction over the seismic testing project. There is nothing that the QIA can do about that.

The project is in offshore territory that the federal government’s oil and gas administration still calls “frontier lands,” so the National Energy Board, unfortunately, has jurisdiction.

The NEB did agree to an information sharing relationship with NIRB. The NIRB, through its membership on the Nunavut Marine Council also made a recommendation that the seismic project not go forward until after the federal government completes a strategic environmental assessment. As we all know, Mr. Valcourt rejected this and the NEB greenlighted the project.

IMHO QIA has still looked weak on this issue, not because of any failure to involve the NIRB, which does not have jurisdiction anyway, but because of their failure to make a political issue out of it.

QIA tried to take a quiet administrative approach with the regulator and all that did is make QIA look weak and ineffective in the eyes of the Inuit beneficiaries.

QIA never made any strong political statements about this or made any attempt to confront the federal government through media statements or gestures of support for the Inuit of north Baffin. Same with NTI and ITK.

This is why people like Mr. Natanine are turning to Ecojustice, because they have no confidence in the Inuit organizations.

#25. Posted by FYI on July 15, 2014

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hH6UynI5m7Y&index=7&list=PLBqhed9UDNTxH9BLDz4QX8Zhfk0oeSLGg

where the boys are, the bigger picture

#26. Posted by Supersiksik on July 16, 2014

#22

I have a pretty good idea about how poor inuit communities are and how important having an ecomony is to secure inuit and Nunavuts future. I think it’s you who doesn’t understand the level of proverty there is in Nunavut. I am totally on board in creating a strong self dependent future for Nunavut.

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