Uvagut TV cannot rebroadcast Baffinland hearings, says Nunavut Impact Review Board

"Inuit have the right to know what is going on on their own land," said Lucy Tulugarjuk of Uvagut TV. "That was the purpose of building Uvagut TV … to inform Inuit in our language."

'I've been tapping my table wondering: do I obey or do I inform?'

Lucy Tulugarjuk is the executive director of Nunavut Independent Television, which carried the recent public hearings into Baffinland's controversial expansion at Mary River live on Nunavut cable television. A request to re-air footage from those hearings was denied by the Nunavut Impact Review Board. (NITV)

Public hearings for Baffinland's controversial proposal to expand production at its Mary River Mine were broadcast live on television earlier this year. 

But they cannot be rebroadcast ahead of the next set of public hearings set to begin April 12. 

The decision from the Nunavut Impact Review Board was revealed Tuesday in a letter addressed to Nunavut Independent Television and published to the board's public registry. 

The news disappointed Lucy Tulugarjuk, the executive director of NITV, which owns and operates Uvagut TV.

"Inuit have the right to know what is going on on their own land," she said. "That was the purpose of building Uvagut TV …  to inform Inuit in our language." 

Uvagut TV was granted special permission to broadcast the hearings live in January and February, primarily because of travel restrictions imposed due to COVID-19.

In late March, they wrote to NIRB asking for permission to rebroadcast the footage ahead of the next round of public hearings. They especially wanted to be able to show the footage in Igloolik, where a fire at the local co-op — which provides the hamlet's cable television services — meant people there weren't able to watch the hearings at the time. 

"With respect, promoting open justice can only assist the NIRB in meeting the objectives of the hearing," reads NITV's March 23 letter to NIRB. "Rebroadcast of the hearing in Inuktitut and English increases the likelihood that community members will understand and respect the recommendation of the NIRB when they are equipped with the ability to see for themselves that the NIRB operates fairly and with due process."

In the letter denying NITV permission to rebroadcast the material, Nunavut Impact Review Board chair Marjorie Kaluraq said the rebroadcast could affect the privacy of people who took part, none of whom anticipated the footage would air more than once. 

Kaluraq pointed out that written transcripts and, unusually, audio recordings of the event are already available. She also wrote "the rebroadcast of only one component of the board's process out of context creates an incomplete picture of the Court proceeding."

When asked to comment further, Karen Costello, the board's executive director, said only that their direction issued April 6, 2021 reflects standard practice while still in the decision-making process.

Tulugarjuk said she now has a decision to make. 

"I've been tapping my table wondering: do I obey or do I inform?"

She plans to consult with her board, which consists partly of elders, later this week. 

Precedent in the N.W.T.

Anne Crawford is an Iqaluit-based lawyer. She said she can't think of any reason why something that's already been broadcast can't be broadcast again, especially in the case of Igloolik. 

"There may be people who have a deeper level of interest than the kind of reporting that is done for the general public," she said. "The impact is much more specific for them than for members of the general public. And they should be entitled to hear all that detail."

It's common for court and quasi-judicial hearings to not be broadcast, but there is precedent. In 1998, Crawford, who was then the conflict of interest commissioner for pre-division N.W.T., presided over a public hearing into former premier Don Morin. The hearing resulted in Morin's resignation. 

Crawford ensured that hearing was televised. 

"I felt that remote communications for Indigenous communities should be inclusive and these communities should feel that they're given access to all the important details of a process that is going to be really significant and impact their communities in a significant way."

Tess Layton is a media lawyer hired by NITV to draft the original request. She takes issue with the notion the media will distort the picture of the hearings. 

"Frankly, I haven't come across a situation where the court has accused the journalist of not reporting something in a balanced and fair manner."

Joshua Arreak is the mayor of Pond Inlet. That community signed on in support of NITV's bid to rebroadcast the material. 

However, Arreak has no plans to pressure NIRB any further. 

"I think they're being cautious and I would respect that."