The Issue: Censorship
We Say: Free the information

It’s been a rough week or so, as far as information dissemination is concerned.

It should be a no-brainer that more transparency and more public access to information that is meant to be public – that’s why they call them ‘public’ hearings – can only be of benefit to all Nunavummiut. This is especially true when it comes to something as delicate and important as the hearings being held on Baffinland’s proposed phase two expansion to its Mary River mine project.

That’s why it was something of a shock when the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) denied Nunavut Independent Television Network (NITV) the right to rebroadcast footage of previous rounds of regulatory hearings that had been held in January and February.

The main reasons NITV was even asking for this permission was to help Iglulik residents catch up on information they may have missed, what with disruptions due to a major fire that saw the community’s Co-op store destroyed. The broadcaster also aimed to better inform individuals who may have had other constraints on their time, like a full-time job.

Zacharias Kunuk, founder of Isuma TV and board member for NITV, called out NIRB for its restrictions, saying, “We know we are being censored. We want to find out who is censoring us.”

While intrepid internet searchers can track down previous broadcasts online at Isuma’s website, one would have to hope the clouds, both literal and online, are co-operative that day with Nunavut’s continued spotty internet service.
Because of those well-documented difficulties, it’s even more imperative that every opportunity to share information that affects all Nunavummiut be harnessed.

Add to that the struggles associated with pandemic restrictions severely limiting the number of people able to attend the hearings in person, and you’ve got a perfect storm of secrecy.

On April 10, NIRB responded to NITV lawyer Tess Layton, stating, “The panel continues to be in decision-making, with two hearing sessions having been completed in November 2019 and January-February 2021 and the third session upcoming.

“The board’s policy with respect to rebroadcast or retransmission has remained the same, that while the board is engaged in decision-making, the board will not consider requests for rebroadcast or retransmission of the proceeding associated with the assessment.”

It’s a shame, given the fact that we are in unprecedented times where flexibility is required of us all to do our jobs and keep one another safe, that the board was unmoved to change its stance.

NITV resumed broadcasting the hearings on April 14, which unfortunately was the last day they were able to go on, before a positive Covid case was identified in Iqaluit, suspending the discussions once more.

“Our audience wants to hear what is happening,” said NITV executive director Lucy Tulugarjuk, in an April 14 news release. “We will continue to stand up for Inuit rights to be informed. NITV continues to object to NIRB’s restriction on the right to rebroadcast, which limits Inuit access to the hearings, and urges NIRB to reconsider that position.”

Equal access to information is the hallmark of a just and compassionate society. There’s no justification for NIRB to obstruct, in any way, Nunavummiut who want to be better informed.

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