EDITORIAL: Time for the plan to become reality

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As a territory covering one-fifth of Canada, at 3.2 million square kilometres of land, it’s clear Nunavut needs a land use plan. Such a plan is one of the unsatisfied requirements of the Nunavut Agreement, which itself celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018. That’s a long time without a plan.

The Nunavut Planning Commission (NPC) is currently working from its third draft plan, which sits in limbo as funders – Government of Canada – and signatories – Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. – demand a reboot.

“Go back to the drawing board,” were the words Premier Joe Savikataaq used to paraphrase a letter to NPC from the three parties that will get to make the final approval of the draft. The direction was a non-binding suggestion but NPC appears to be taking the advice to heart.

Funding is required, of course, and past experience has shown that the feds are not a guaranteed supporter of the NPC’s requests. In 2014, the Harper government rejected funding for hearings to continue into the draft as it stood at that point. Based on their direction, though, it would make sense for the feds to come through with the funding.

Last week we reported that the Kitikmeot remains left in the cold without a funded public hearing of its own on the draft use plan. With last week’s news of the shift toward a fourth draft, it seems logical to expect the Kitikmeot will get one eventually but leaders in the region are so desperate to see this land use plan become a reality, they’re willing to forego consultations if the NPC can be permitted to do its work and get the plan done. It sounds crazy but that’s the state of things.

This is coming from a region where gold is coming out of the ground so pure, it can be turned straight into gold bars. There’s money in these hills, and Inuit need to know there is a plan that protects their interests.

This stands in contrast to the comfort provided to the two other regions, which have the Kivalliq Regional Land Use Plan and the North Baffin Regional Land Use Plan, the latest versions of which were both approved in 2000. These plans provide a framework from which developers can make plans for the lands informed by the Inuit vision.

We’re coming up on 20 years with these plans – which are the basis for their respective regions of the Nunavut plan – and longer without one for the Kitikmeot and south Baffin (where there is admittedly less activity but DeBeers’ Chidliak property between Iqaluit and Pangnirtung could change that).

Progress takes time in Nunavut but it’s getting to be time for this file to close.

So we hope that the fourth time is a charm, that the process will work the way it should, and that NPC is provided the funding it needs to do the job right. We encourage all parties involved to focus on the intention of the land use plan, to make no compromises in the process, and to balance completion with conciseness in the interest of drafting a plan that works for Nunavummiut.

Let’s work together and get this done.