Ottawa nixes Nunavut review board chair recommendation
Duncan does not re-appoint Lucassie Arragutainaq
The chair’s position on the Nunavut Impact Review Board — the body that screens and reviews development projects in Nunavut — lies vacant following a decision by Aboriginal Affairs minister John Duncan to reject the re-appointment of incumbent chair Lucassie Arragutainaq.
“It just adds to the ongoing shenanigans with the NIRB and the federal government,” said Ramsey Hart, Canada program coordinator at Mining Watch, a non-governmental organization that monitors the behavior of mining companies overseas and in Canada.
The Government of Nunavut, supported by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., recommended Arragutainaq be reappointed to the chairmanship of NIRB.
Hart believes political motives lie behind the decision not to follow those recommendations.
“The Conservative government, I’m sure, would want someone who toes the party line, and perhaps the existing candidate was too much of an independent thinker,” said Hart.
The purpose of the chair’s position is to settle decisions when the eight-member board is divided 50-50 on a vote.
According to a NIRB bio, Arragutainaq pushed for more Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit within regulatory decision-making.
He co-authored two books on the topic, and in 2010 received the Nunavut Mining Symposium government organization award on behalf of the NIRB.
The decision not to reappoint Arragutainaq was brought up at the Nunavut legislature May 31, when Baker Lake MLA Moses Aupaluktuq asked Premier Eva Aariak about the GN’s position on the issue.
“This is outside of our control as the government of Nunavut,” said Aariak. “The Nunavut government did notify the federal government about their own choice.”
“We will continue to wait until the process plays itself out,” she said.
But it’s business as usual at NIRB, the organization’s executive director Ryan Barry told Nunatsiaq News.
“We are not anticipating that it will affect any of our active work. We have procedures in place when there is no formally appointed chair,” said Barry. “The board expressed their disappointment to the federal minister, but also respected it. When it comes right down to it, it is at the minister’s discretion to accept or direct the board’s nomination for chair person.”
NIRB vice-chair Elizabeth Copland is acting chair for the time being, until a new chair is appointed— which could be sooner than later.
“We’re hoping at the next board meeting at the end of June, and they were hoping that might [give] the minister enough time to fill the remaining vacancies on the board,” said Barry.
Areva Resources Canada Inc.— the company spearheading the Kiggavik uranium mine project — doesn’t know why the NIRB chairperson was not reappointed either.
“[I] didn’t know him well, met him several times. I have no idea what happened at the board meetings that considered our project. That hasn’t been made public, that I’m aware of,” said Areva’s manager of Nunavut affairs, Barry McCallum.
“It’s not up to us to decide who will oversee the board meetings that consider our project,” said McCallum. “We submitted our proposal to the Nunavut Impact Review Board. They are going through their well established process now to review the project.”