The Nunavut Impact Review board has received hundreds of letters from people opposed to a proposed uranium exploration project for caribou calving grounds in Nunavut, but few of the submissions are from local Inuit.
About 200 letters and emails have been sent to the review board since Dec. 1, with most asking the board to deny Uravan Minerals Inc.'s application to carry out preliminary drilling at its Garry Lake site, located 245 kilometres northwest of Baker Lake in Nunavut's Kivalliq region.
Most of those who have submitted entries are against uranium exploration in the area, which is also the calving grounds of the Beverley caribou herd.
But out of the emails and letters to the board, only a few have come from local Nunavummiut.
"I don't hear the Inuit saying much, and especially the people of Baker Lake," said Alex Hall of Fort Smith, N.W.T., who has spent the last 35 years guiding canoe trips through the calving grounds.
"I've travelled all over the post-calving areas in the summer and we have seen virtually no caribou, or their sign, in the last three years," Hall said. "They've just disappeared off the map."
In an email sent to the review board on Jan. 9, the Baker Lake hunters and trappers organization called on the board to "delay exploration" for Uravan while the Nunavut government works out a caribou protection act.
The organization also said Baker Lake residents have not had enough time to express their views. As well, officials say they want input from wildlife management boards on the effects of development on caribou.
'The people have to speak up'
In another email sent Jan. 12, Baker Lake residents Winnie Putumiraqtuq Ikinilik and Jacob Ikinilik said they and other Inuit elders oppose Uravan's proposal, citing concerns with the number of caribou they've seen in the area.
"At least there is this process taking place," said Marilyn Crawford of the Community Coalition Against Uranium Mining in Ontario, which also has submitted a letter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
The impact review board will hold a public hearing, likely in Baker Lake, once Uravan completes its environmental impact statement on its proposed project.
"I don't hear Inuit say anything over there, in Nunavut. And unless they do, I don't think they can expect the NIRB to turn down Uravan," Hall said.
"The people have to speak up. And if they don't, they're going to get what they deserve."