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Northern Affairs Canada rejects Baffinland’s proposed phase 2 expansion

Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal rejected Baffinland’s Phase 2 project proposal following a statement made by the minister on November 16.
Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal rejected Baffinland’s proposed Phase 2 expansion on November 16. NNSL file photo

Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal rejected Baffinland’s Phase 2 project proposal following a statement made by the minister on November 16.

“After careful consideration and consultations, the federal government is accepting the recommendation of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) that the proposal, in its current form, should not proceed at this time,” Vandal wrote in his statement.

Back in May of this year NIRB submitted a not reccomend decision to Northern Affairs Canada, a recommendation the federal government is following.

“The federal government is not in a position to unilaterally impose new or varied terms and conditions that not have been considered by (NIRB) or impacted parties - that goes against the spirit and intent of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, which sets out specific Inuit rights related to lands and resources,” said Vandal.

Reasons for the federal government’s rejection include a number of concerns identified in the NIRB process, these include potential adverse effects on marine life, freshwater, and possible negative impacts on Inuit culture, harvesting, land use and food security in the territory.

“We are disappointed by the Minister’s decision,” said Brian Penney, CEO of Baffinland.

“The minister’s decision has immediate and significant implications for the current Mary River operations and our workforce of 2,500 people. We look forward to immediately meeting with the (Qikiqatni Inuit Association) and the Minister to discuss a path forward,” he added.

Vandal encouraged Baffinland to apply for a new project and to consider any new commitments in a public setting and stressed the need to trust in the NIRB process. A sentiment also echoed by the Government of Nunavut.

“While the GN recognizes that Baffinland’s proposed expansion project would provide socio-economic benefits to Nunavummiut, Minister Vandal’s decision reflects the concerns brought forward in the Reconsideration Report and Recommendations provided by NIRB in May 2022. We recognize the existing operations at Mary River, as well as the need to protect our lands and waters,” said David Akeeagok, Nunavut’s Minister of Economic Development and Transportation.

Nunavut MP Lori Idlout welcomed the decision to reject Phase 2, saying that it shows the federal government is able to listen to Inuit in ways it hasn’t before.

“It’s a step toward reconciliation because Inuit felt ignored throughout the whole process. For them to be heard from both (NIRB) and the Minister is very important,” said Idlout.

She adds a lack of clarity from Baffinland’s part during the NIRB process was also a major reason for the rejection.

“Throughout the whole NIRB hearing process a lot of hunters and trappers organizations and stakeholders felt ignored, they have tried to get clarity from Baffinland. So many times responses could have been more sincere, but (Baffinland) weren’t being enforced by NIRB, there was a lot of concern from us,” said Idlout.

Inuit being vocal in their opposition, particularly from North Baffin hunters and trappers organizations have also been an critical part of the decision outcome.

“I honestly think that if ‘it wasn’t for our advocacy, if wasn’t for Inuit standing together that they would probably would have approved it.”