North

Nunavut Planning Commission marine meeting falls short of expectations

The Nunavut Planning Commission has been left with more questions than answers on how to balance the needs of industry, local communities and the environment when it comes to the territory's waterways.

'To be frank, I'm pretty disappointed with how this meeting went,' says Kivalliq representative

The Nunavut Planning Commission held a meeting Friday to discuss the impacts of marine shipping and cruise ships on the territory's waterways, but many felt they were left with more questions than answers. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The Nunavut Planning Commission has been left with more questions than answers on how to balance the needs of industry, local communities and the environment when it comes to the territory's waterways.

The Commission hosted its fourth technical meeting in Iqaluit on marine-based issues on Friday. The intent was to find solutions to key concerns, such as the impact of marine shipping and cruise ships on walrus, seals and caribou, as well as concerns for hunters and the stability of floe edges.

"The planning commission was looking for some analysis and some clear guidance and direction," said David Livingstone, the independent facilitator who ran the meeting.

"I don't think that was delivered — it certainly didn't meet my expectations," he said.

Livingstone and other participants said part of the paralysis at the sessions was due to a lack of meaningful participation from federal government agencies, many of which only took part via phone conference and offered few answers.

More coordination needed

'The planning commission was looking for some analysis and some clear guidance and direction,' said David Livingstone, the meeting's facilitator. 'I don't think that was delivered.' (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)
For the representative of the Kivalliq Wildlife Board the meeting failed to make progress on key issues raised by community groups, such as protection for caribou water crossings, walrus haul-outs and beluga calving grounds.  

"To be frank, I'm pretty disappointed with how this meeting went," said Warren Bernauer.

He said the board was hoping for more meaningful answers.  

"I feel like a lot of our core issues like re-routing shipping corridors near Coral Harbour, mitigating the impacts of shipping in Chesterfield Inlet and preventing icebreaking from disturbing floe edge hunting have again all been postponed to future meetings," said Bernauer.

He said the concerns he raised at the meeting are serious issues that have been brought up time and time again.

"I really hope the federal government can kind of step up and start to play a bit more of a coordinating role, more of a proactive role," said Bernauer.

Inuit organizations also raised concerns over the lack of information shared at the meeting.

Representatives from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. spoke about the need for a more coordinated approach and more information sharing on the part of the federal government.

"I share some of the feelings that are being expressed around the table — I was hoping for more discussion," said Steven Lonsdale, with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

Lonsdale said he hopes a fuller discussion will take place during the community consultations next March, which will go ahead without all the answers.

"In the absence of the data, the information that is present is the information that will go forward for the land use plan," said Sharon Ehaloak, executive director of the Nunavut Planning Commission.

Industry disagrees

'There’s lots of things that need to be worked out and they’re only worked out by people sitting around a table,' said Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)
The dissenting voices in the room were the industry representatives.

"I think the land use plan needs to be more principled rather than specific restrictions," said Michael Zurowski, with Baffinland Iron Mines.

Zurowski said any issues that arise over the use of a marine area can be hammered out between companies and community groups directly.

He added that as far as Baffinland is concerned, the Nunavut Impact Review Board process meets the needs of both community and industry and no additional protections for waterways in the territory are necessary.

Fisheries minister makes appearance

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo, who was the chair of the Nunavut Planning Commission prior to being elected as Nunavut's MP this past October, made a surprise appearance at the meeting.

He stressed the importance of finalizing the land use plan.

"It provides certainty for industry and for everyone involved," said Tootoo.

"There's lots of things that need to be worked out and they're only worked out by people sitting around a table like this and having a discussion on the issues," he said.

Tootoo did not stay to take part in the meeting or to answer questions.

About the Author

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.

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