Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut June 14, 2012 - 8:44 am

Nunavut’s Mary River project review should include human rights assessment: Kunuk

"It would be relatively straightforward for the proponent to adopt a proactive strategy of human rights"

JANE GEORGE
This map from the environmental impact statement on Baffinland's Mary River iron mine project shows the location of the project.
This map from the environmental impact statement on Baffinland's Mary River iron mine project shows the location of the project.

Human rights and its link to the Mary River iron mine project are the focus of a two-part submission that Igloolik filmmaker Zach Kunuk handed June 8 to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

The NIRB is now reviewing the project that Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. wants to develop into a mine, which will ship out about 20 million tonnes of iron ore, year-round, over at least 20 years to markets in Europe and Asia.

“My birthplace is like the ‘heart’ of the Baffinland iron mine impact area, the part that would change the most if and when the mine, railroad, deep-water port and supertanker shipping passing through it are approved to go ahead for the next 100 years,” said Kunuk in Attatama Nunanga, My Father’s Land, submitted to the NIRB for consideration as the mine project’s regulatory review moves into final hearings.

These final hearings are scheduled for July in Iqaluit, Igloolik and Pond Inlet.

“My newest grandchild is named after my father who passed away a few years ago. Inuit take names very seriously; when we name a new baby with an atiq from an ancestor we believe the child also carries the spirit of that ancestor forward in a new life. I call my grandchild my ataata, my father. When I speak of “My Father’s Land,” I mean the land of my father who is passed away, and also the land of my father who is my grandchild moving into the future,” Kunuk says in the submission.

Kunuk wants the NIRB, Baffinland and “decision-making ministers of Canada” to bring the environmental review process up to date “in the professional field I know best,” that is, by using media to provide information.

And he also wants that review process to incorporate a human rights impact assessment.

This past spring IsumaTV and Nipivut Nunatinnii hired Lloyd Lipsett, a human rights lawyer, to do a human rights impact assessment on Baffinland’s Mary River project and its final environmental impact statement as part of its Digital Indigenous Democracy project, which received $1.35 million from the Canada Media Fund Experimental Stream and other project partners.

Lipsett started his assessment in May and expects to finish it by the end of 2012, Kunuk’s NIRB submission said, pointing out why he believes such an assessment should be done.

Although the idea of a human rights assessment is only about five years old, mining companies and the United Nations now accept such assessments, the submission said.

While Baffinland also states that “we respect human rights and the dignity of others” in section 3.0 of its Sustainability Policy, a specific discussion of how human rights will be respected is currently lacking in the final EIS, it says.

Lipsett’s human rights assessment on the Mary River project will consider how human rights are protected in Canada and in Nunavut. And it will also take a close look at labour rights, that is, how well the company treats its workers, and how the community will be affected by the project.

“Given that the project remains at a pre-approval and pre-operation stage, it would be relatively straightforward for the proponent to adopt a proactive strategy of human rights due diligence and thus satisfy international human rights law, standards and guidance,” states Kunuk’s submission.

The submissions recommends that:

• Baffinland voluntarily adopt and implement a human rights strategy that conforms to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other guidance relevant to the mining industry;

• the NIRB consider encouraging or requiring Baffinland to adopt and implement a human rights strategy that conforms to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other guidance relevant to the mining industry;

• the design and implementation of a human rights strategy be done in consultation with Inuit and other stakeholders and should draw upon specific human rights expertise

• Baffinland and other parties collaborate with the human rights impact assessment as it pursues its research, interviews and analysis in the coming months;

• the NIRB encourage or require future proponents to proactively integrate human rights into their environmental impact statements in conformity with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other guidance relevant to the mining industry.

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