Critics get their time at Nunavut land use planning hearings
Sam Alagalak was critical of many who had spoken over the previous week at the hearing
The final speaker at the Nunavut Planning Commission hearing in Rankin Inlet urged those present to disregard much of what they had heard during the week.
Much of the week was spent on presentations looking at land use options in the mineral-rich region.
Sam Alagalak, until recently the assistant chief operating officer at the Kivalliq Inuit Association (KIA), was the last to speak to the hearing on Friday.
In his three-minute allotment, Alagalak was critical of many who had spoken before him.
"We've heard too much from people who are more concerned about [the] economy and money," said Alagalak, speaking in Inuktitut.
He reminded Inuit that they are the keepers of their land.
"The KIA, NTI [Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.], the governments of Canada and Nunavut have not given you straight answers," Alagalak said.
"Disregard their briefings. You have to believe that it's in their heart [that] they are paid to represent their organization, unlike you."
After he finished his speech, Alagalak was greeted with applause.
Land use plan a legal requirement
Nunavut's land use plan is a legal requirement under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement between Nunavut and the Crown.
It's supposed to dictate what land will be protected and what land will be open for development across all of Nunavut. It divides the Nunavut Settlement Area into three parts: limited use areas, conditional use areas and mixed-use areas.
Earlier drafts of the plan, which has been in the works since 2007, were released in 2012, 2014 and 2016. The Nunavut Planning Commission (NPC) says the latest draft plan from 2021 was developed through consultations with all 25 Nunavut communities, hunting and trapping organizations, and Inuit organizations.
But during the hearings in Cambridge Bay earlier this month, participants from Taloyoak, including Jeannie Ugyuk from the Hamlet of Taloyoak, said they hadn't been consulted enough in person.
Taloyoak is working to create the Aviqtuuq Inuit Protected and Conserved Area, which would cover almost 90,000 square kilometres of ocean, rivers, lakes and land.
In 2021 Aviqtuuq also won an Arctic Inspiration Prize for Aviqtuuq's project Niqihaqut, which means "our food."
Niqihaqut would work to develop an economy based on country food, which would include a cut and wrap plant for preparing and distributing fish and meat.
Ugyuk criticized the KIA for its lack of attention to Taloyoak's efforts. She accused the KIA and NTI of using "strong arm tactics" in a desire to gain more control over Inuit needs.
Ugyuk's comments drew Peter Taptuna, a former premier, now with the KIA, to his feet several times to respond.
Taptuna advised Ugyuk to work more closely with the local KIA board member.
But Ugyuk said when she has tried that, "I felt I was not listened [to]."
The hearings ran from Sept. 12-15 in Cambridge Bay and Sept. 19-23 in Rankin Inlet. The hearings move to Pond Inlet for Oct. 24-27 and Iqaluit Nov. 14-19.
This week the Nunavut Planning Commission is meeting in Thompson, Man.
Caribou still a primary concern
Concerns raised during the hearings in Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet largely focused on mineral development, climate change and health of caribou herds.
Earl Evans, who chairs the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board, told the NPC last Friday that his management board is concerned about the future of the caribou herds and the culture and livelihood of Indigenous people.
"The herds of which we depend on are declining in size and often not available to use," Evans said in his presentation, noting that eight of nine northern herds are in decline.
This is a critical time for barrenland caribou, Evans said, and more population loss would cause hardship on many levels.
"There have to be compromises here," he said.
"We ask the government and industry to make their own compromises to ensure that there will be caribou for the future."
Land use planning is necessary, Evans said, and could be a valuable tool to protect land, water and caribou.
But he asked Nunavut's plan to offer some additional caribou protection measures including some key seasonal and year-round restrictions.
- An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the planning commission is currently holding hearings in Churchill, Man. In fact, they are in Thompson, Man.Sep 27, 2022 8:07 AM CT