Inuit organizations to intervene in Supreme Court seismic testing appeal

Three Inuit organizations have been granted intervenor status in the upcoming appeal to Canada’s Supreme Court over seismic testing in Davis Strait and Baffin Bay.

3 Inuit birthright organizations allowed to add their voice to Clyde River appeal

Clyde River challenged a 2014 National Energy Board decision to allow seismic testing off Baffin Island. The hamlet is taking it all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada this fall. (submitted by Nick Ilauq)

Three Inuit organizations have been granted intervenor status in the upcoming appeal to Canada's Supreme Court over seismic testing in the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Makivik Corp., and the Inuvialuit Regional Corp. will all be allowed to file 10-page arguments to be considered by the court when it hears the appeal on Nov 30. The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board was granted the same status.

Several Northern leaders, however —  Senator Charlie Watt, Rosemarie Kuptana, Peter Ittinuar and Tagak Curley — were denied the ability to add their voices to the hearing. 

Sufficient consultation?

The case in question revolves around a challenge made by the Hamlet of Clyde River to a National Energy Board decision two years ago.

In 2014 the National Energy Board gave the go ahead to a consortium of petroleum exploration companies to conduct a five-year seismic exploration program in waters east of Baffin Island.

That same year, the hamlet, along with then-mayor Jerry Natanine and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organization, asked for a judicial review of the energy board's decision, arguing that neither they nor the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board had been sufficiently consulted.

Their request was shut down by a federal court judge in 2015, who argued that the Crown's duty to consult was in fact met by the energy board.  

"Consultation [does not] equate to a duty to agree; what is required is a commitment to a meaningful process of consultation. Put another way, perfect satisfaction is not required," wrote federal court judge Eleanor R. Dawson.

"In my view, the nature and the scope of the process afforded by the Board was sufficient to uphold the honour of the Crown," she wrote.

Who made intervenor?

This federal court decision was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which agreed to hear the case along with an appeal from the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation regarding a proposed Enbridge pipeline through their traditional territory.

The two cases are dealing with similar questions of consultation and jurisdiction of the National Energy Board, so the Supreme Court will hear them together.

Along with the three Inuit organizations, a number of governments and organizations have been given intervenor status, including the Attorney General of Ontario, the Attorney General of Saskatchewan and the Chiefs of Ontario, among others.

Other applications for intervenor status were shut down, including ones from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the National Energy Board and Amnesty International, along with a number of First Nations.

Intervenors must submit their arguments no later than Nov. 4.