Kitikmeot mayors cry foul over lack of land use plan hearing in their region

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The Nunavut Planning Commission (NPC) is currently working on a supplementary funding proposal and budget to submit to the federal government, hoping to finally move the territory-wide land-use plan to completion.

Download the 2016 draft Nunavut Land Use Plan 

Feds ignoring Nunavut Planning Commission funding concerns

Controversy over Nunavut land use plan continues

 

photo courtesy Nunavut Planning Commission
The 2016 Nunavut Land Use Plan describes, in colour-coded and numbered detail, three essential areas: protected, special management and mixed use. The plan, covering two-million square kilometres, is intended to provide for the conservation, development and utilization of the land – a balance between economic and traditional needs.

The commissioners have essentially agreed to the terms of the three parties’ – the Nunavut (GN) and Canadian governments and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s (NTI) – demands: re-draft the 2016 plan, conduct more consultations, then hold hearings – otherwise no funding. This despite the fact that one public hearing was already held in the Baffin region in March 2017.

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq put it to Nunavut News this way:

“There was a tri-party letter that was sent out to NPC (in June) – signed by the GN, NTI and the Government of Canada – saying, ‘Go back to the drawing board.’ The 2016 draft was not acceptable to do any more consultations on. It was unacceptable the way it was written. In order for it to become the Nunavut Land Use Plan, all three parties have to sign off on it. At that time, they would not sign off on the draft. Come back with a better plan and then do your consultations.”

NPC’s executive director Sharon Ehaloak says the commission is following the engagement strategy that everybody worked on back when, in 2005, the three parties requested that the commission create a document in step with the Nunavut Agreement.  The guidance, set out in the Nunavut Agreement, is laid out in an approved and endorsed document: Broad Planning Policies, Objectives and Goals from November 10, 2007.

Regardless, that’s no guarantee of funding, as the historical record of the past five years points out. Nor is a re-draft a guarantee governments and industry will be satisfied, as these seem increasingly pitted against community concerns.

For example, at a Nunavut Association of Municipalities (NAM) meeting in November, Cambridge Bay Mayor Pam Gross presented a resolution from the five Kitikmeot mayors who sought support to get a land-use plan hearing in their region – the one that was scheduled, then cancelled by the GN, the federal government and NTI.

“We hadn’t been consulted before the letter went out to hold off,” said Gross.

“We felt that we were left out of the process and our community voice won’t be included.”

The resolution Gross presented, and which she and others say was passed by all Nunavut mayors in attendance, reads: “Whereas the sole source of funding for the Nunavut Planning Commission is from the Government of Canada, we direct the Government of Nunavut to support the Kitikmeot mayors’ demand that adequate funding be provided so the voices of the Kitikmeot are heard as per Section 11 Part 5 of the Nunavut Agreement to share and voice our concerns during the 2016 draft Nunavut land-use planning process prior to the commission re-drafting as outlined in the Nunavut Agreement.”

Failing this, the mayors resolved the commission conclude its work, that it update the plan, and submit it to the federal government for approval.

Gross says the Kitikmeot mayors don’t want the plan scrapped. The need for the Kitikmeot to have a plan is great, Gross has previously told Nunavut News, as that region does not have an existing plan, while there are two existing plans – the Keewatin Regional Land Use Plan and the North Baffin Regional Land Use Plan.

The final wording of the NAM resolution is not yet available to the public, as members are reviewing all resolutions passed at their November meeting.

Savikataaq says the GN does support the commission.

“We just don’t support the 2016 draft. And it’s not only us. It’s the federal government and NTI, too. And we want the hearing, too, but what’s the point in having a hearing if this plan is not going to be signed off by the three signatories? It’s a waste of money.”

 

More and more detail coming in

Misinformation abounds about the plan, mostly related to the NPC’s adherence to the Nunavut Agreement and subsequent guiding documents. It’s also worth mentioning consultation is an iffy topic on the best of days.

The commission has held extensive consultations all over Nunavut and other affected communities bordering the territory over 10 years to develop what should have been a final draft of the land-use plan. A 2014 draft plan was scheduled for public hearings, but the federal government declined to provide funding.

Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern says it’s not the quantity but the quality of consultations that matter. She says there are issues with the 2016 draft plan, and she recommended re-doing some of the consultations in the Qikiqtani region “because there were problems with not producing hard copies of the plan for the consultation.

“What are we supposed to be looking at if we don’t have it in front of us? Is that consultation? We said not,” said Redfern, who also says the lack of “track changes” to identify differences between the current draft and 2014 draft is a problem.

Ehaloak disputes the lack of hard copies. Brian Aglukark, NPC’s director of policy and planning says five hard copies were sent to each community.

But, most importantly, one of the consistent government and industry criticisms leveled at the plan is that it’s too detailed. Meetings were held between the three parties and the planning commission to try to resolve this issue, among others. It’s not clear what exactly was worked out in those meetings in late 2017 and on – the record of those meetings hasn’t been released by the commission, at the request of the three parties.

But what the NPC public record does show is the longer the process takes, the more details come in and the more detailed each draft plan becomes. When the record was reopened, due the parties’ position in 2018, more than 300 pages in additional documents streamed in.

Redfern talked about other issues. Municipalities don’t have the resources – necessary staff, expertise or other resources – to adequately participate in the consultations, to develop detailed submissions, she said.

“And there is a significant gap, an effective process for meaningful consultation to avoid judicial reviews and court action, such as the Clyde River case which sought to halt seismic testing in their area, but had to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to do so,” said Redfern.

“This is why I spoke of the need for addressing the gap about the kind and quality of the consultations.”

She agrees the plan is too detailed, and favours a more general plan which would then allow development to be considered on a case-by-case basis, with details to be worked out between the proponent and any affected communities.

But to hear Aglukark describe the draft plan is to understand the voice of Inuit, which is highlighted in the Nunavut Agreement along with a balanced approach to development, is respected. The document clearly lays out three fundamental areas: protected, special management and mixed use. Mixed use, in grey on the land-use map, is where there are no terms to the areas, and it’s the predominant colour on the map.

“You could potentially do whatever you want in those areas,” said Aglukark.

An estimated date for a final draft plan for submission to the federal minister will depend on whether or not Canada funds the pre-hearing engagement with communities, as well as the four regional public hearings. The commission decided to split the Baffin region in two, as per community requests.

Ehaloak says the commissioners will need to decide next steps if funding from the federal government, as laid out in the Nunavut Agreement, is once again denied.

“Failing adequate funding the Kitikmeot mayors request the Nunavut Planning Commission to conclude its work with the information gathered and submit the commissioners’ revised plan for ministerial approval even in the absence of further public hearings,” the Kitikmeot mayors stated in their resolution.

Meanwhile, the NPC continues to receive almost 200 project proposals annually with no territorial land-use plan in place.

Participants can respond to the additional written submissions until January 25.

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Michele LeTourneau first arrived at NNSL's headquarters in Yellowknife in1998, with a BA honours in Theatre. For four years she documented the arts across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Following a very short stint as a communications officer with the Government of the Northwest Territories, Michele spent a decade at a community-based environmental monitoring board in the mining industry, where she worked with Inuit, Chipewyan, Tlicho, Yellowknives Dene and Metis elders to help develop traditional knowledge and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit contributions for monitoring and management plans. She rejoined NNSL and moved to Iqaluit in May 2014 to write for Nunavut News. Michele has received a dozen awards for her work with NNSL.