Nunavut planning body accuses Ottawa of blocking updated land use plan
Updated plan would protect caribou calving areas, stress food security
(Updated 10:20, p.m., June 17)
The Nunavut Planning Commission is “astonished” that the federal government will not fund a final public hearing on its long-awaited draft Nunavut land use plan, forcing the commission to suspend it, the organization said in a statement June 16.
“Ironically, the Nunavut Planning Commission had scheduled the public hearing to meet the timeline imposed on it by Nunavut Member of Parliament Leona Aglukkaq and AANDC Minister Bernard Valcourt to submit the DNLUP for approval by March 31, 2015,” the NPC said.
That hearing, originally scheduled for Nov. 24, 2014 in Iqaluit, would look at an updated draft land use plan that contains new provisions aimed at protecting caribou calving areas from development.
The updated draft land use plan, which the commission calls the “DNLUP,” is to be released June 20 — but it may not get a full public airing and the entire process is now up in the air.
“The final public hearing now lies in jeopardy of never occurring,” the NPC statement said. (See document embedded below.)
The updated plan responds to a long list of groups who have urged the planning commission to ban mining and mineral exploration in caribou calving and post-calving areas.
“With poverty reduction and food security as its underlying themes, the updated DNLUP proposes protected areas and special management to address public concern over development on core caribou calving areas and other unique and sensitive Arctic habitat,” the commission said.
The groups demanding such revisions to the plan include all three Nunavut wildlife boards and hunters and trappers organizations in Arviat, Baker Lake, Chesterfield Inlet and Repulse Bay, as well as the cross-boundary Beverly Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board and the World Wildlife Fund.
Many aboriginal groups in the Northwest Territories, Manitoba and Saskatchewan who depend on food from the same migrating caribou herds also urged the planning commission to create protected land use areas for caribou.
“We are very concerned that unless significant revisions to the draft plan occur, areas of crucial caribou habitat will be unprotected from damage that may result from mineral exploration and other commercial land uses,” the Sayisi Dene First Nation of Tadoule Lake, Man., said this past May 15 in a letter to the land use commission.
The commission received similar messages from Fort Smith Metis Council, the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, the Metis Nation of NWT and the Athabasca Denesuline Né Né Land Corp.
The Government of Nunavut, in a submission made May 28, recommends that mining, mineral exploration and other forms of industrial activity, such as roads, pipelines and other infrastructure be banned from caribou calving areas and key access corridors.
“Caribou are especially vulnerable to disturbance during calving and the effects of development cannot be mitigated in these areas,” the GN said.
For caribou post-calving areas, rutting areas, sea-ice crossings and migration corridors, Nunavut recommends seasonal restrictions on development activity that would essentially apply when caribou use those locations.
For seasonal caribou ranges, the GN recommends that when regulators consider proposed development projects, they reduce disturbance to caribou to the greatest extent possible.
The commission released its original draft land use plan for Nunavut on Sept. 7, 2012.
After that, the commission conducted a consultation exercise that involved 33 communities in Nunavut, Nunavik, Northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as numerous federal departments, Inuit organizations and environmental NGOs.
Now, that lengthy public process is up in the air.
“AANDC’s decision not to fund the November public hearing has effectively blocked the commission’s ability to conclude the public review of the DNLUP,” the NPC said.
“Although this is representative of an historic pattern of AANDC’s underfunding of regulatory boards in northern Canada, the Nunavut Planning Commission remains hopeful that the department will reconsider its decision to block further development of the DNLUP.”
(More to follow)