Nunavut Inuit org wants conciliator to break deadlock over heritage rivers IIBA
GN work on Kazan, Thelon rivers held up as NTI dukes it out with Ottawa
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. wants a conciliator to help strike a deal with the federal and territorial governments on an Inuit impact and benefit agreement for Canadian Heritage Rivers in Nunavut, NTI said June 10 in a news release.
“Our negotiators have pushed for benefits for Inuit as laid out in the NLCA. The federal government’s offer was presented to Inuit as non-negotiable, with a totally arbitrary funding proposal that was not based on provisions in the NLCA,” James Eetoolook, NTI’s acting president, said in the news release.
Under the Nunavut land claims agreement, talks on an IIBA for Canadian Heritage Rivers were supposed to have wrapped up by 1998.
NTI now says that if Ottawa doesn’t put more money on the table by June 30, they’ll invoke their right under the Nunavut land claims agreement to ask for a conciliator.
In Nunavut, the Thelon and Kazan rivers in the Kivalliq region have been part of the Canadian heritage river system since 1990.
Though Parks Canada designated those waterways as Canadian Heritage Rivers, the Nunavut Department of the Environment is responsible for administering them.
But a Nunavut government improvement plan for the Kazan and Thelon is stalled because of the IIBA impasse.
Johnny Mike, Nunavut’s environment minister, said in the legislative assembly June 4 that this has happened because NTI has not accepted Ottawa’s proposals.
“The improvement plan for those rivers has been stopped and the project has not gone ahead. The Canadian Heritage River proposal has been turned down by NTI and NTI said that they would bring out something instead. That’s why the project has not gone ahead. It’s just sitting there right now,” Mike said in response to a question from Simeon Mikkungwak, the MLA for Baker Lake.
Mikkungwak said those planned GN improvements — such as campgrounds and other facilities — are needed to prevent the rivers from deteriorating.
“Without the campsites, the rivers will deteriorate and could be de-designated from the Canadian Heritage River System. This could result in fewer tourists visiting Baker Lake and less income for local guides and outfitters,” Mikkungwak said.
But Mike said nothing can happen until after Inuit organizations sign on.
“The Inuit groups were supposed to bring out some new ideas on how to proceed with the work. Right now, the two governments are just waiting on the Inuit organizations,” Mike said.
The Canadian Heritage River system is intended to conserve rivers with outstanding natural, cultural or recreational values.
It’s run by a board made up of people nominated by federal, provincial and territorial governments who make recommendations to the federal minister responsible for Parks Canada.
Parks Canada, however, is directly responsible for administering only six of Canada’s 37 heritage rivers.
The rest are administered by provincial and territorial governments, except in Quebec, which opted out of the national system in 2006.
Right now, that national board is chaired by Dave Monteith of the Nunavut government’s Department of Environment.
The GN has nominated the Coppermine River in the Kitikmeot, but that proposal still awaits acceptance.
The GN has also proposed the formal nomination of the Back River, or Hanningajuq.
But the Kivalliq Inuit Association has objected to the idea, on the grounds that protected status for the area could prevent exploration for uranium and gold.
The Soper River in south Baffin, also called “Kuujjuaq,” the main feature of the GN’s Katannilik Territorial Park, has been part of the Canadian Heritage River System since 1992.