As Nunavut leaders applaud the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in favour of Clyde River and Jerry Natanine July 26, saying Inuit rights to deep consultation have been reaffirmed, the Clyde River Hunter and Trappers Organization is already asserting those rights.

photo courtesy Shari Fox Gearheard
The community of Clyde River celebrates a win at the Supreme Court of Canada July 26, after the country’s highest court sided with the hamlet in its case against Petroleum Geo Services et al. For the territory as a whole, the decision reaffirms Inuit rights to deep consultation and the Clyde River Hunters and Trappers Organization is putting that to the test.

The court decision revoked the National Energy Board’s authorization for a trio of companies to conduct exploratory seismic testing in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait.

“The Clyde River decision reaffirms Inuit rights to proper consultation,” Premier Peter Taptuna told Nunavut News/North via e-mail.

“The GN (Government of Nunavut) maintains that it’s important for any regulatory process to conduct full diligence and consult with communities and our people prior to any activity. This government supports responsible development, and that includes making sure all information in any regulatory process is forthcoming so that communities can weigh in on potential benefits and impacts.”

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson took it one step further.

“I hope that this ruling will help ensure that Nunavut is given control of our offshore as devolution negotiations continue,” he said in a news release.

“This ruling reiterates what the Inuit have said for years – as a coastal people, they should have a say in projects that occur in their offshore waters and target the rich resources there as their traditions, food sources, and livelihoods are all inextricably linked to the marine areas in question.”

Patterson is similarly pro-development and said in his news release he “was heartened to hear Jerry Natanine, former mayor and current community leader for Clyde River during his July 26 press conference reiterate that Inuit are still open to discussing the project, as long as scientific proof of the effects of seismic testing are presented to the community in order for them to make an informed decision, and proper compensation is offered for wildlife that is disturbed.”

Taptuna said devolution is “broader than the Clyde River case.”

“We look at the overarching perspective. The government is in the middle of negotiations on devolution and these negotiations should be carried out in good faith,” he said.

“By that, we mean consulting with the GN prior to making federal decisions that directly impact Nunavut. The Clyde River Supreme Court case decision reaffirms this position.”


Deep consultation requires participant funding

But Clyde River has a more immediate and pressing concern.

As previously reported in Nunavut News/North, the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB), with $2.6 million of federal funding, has begun an Oil and Gas Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for Baffin Bay and Davis Strait to inform potential development in those waters.

The federal effort was officially handed off to NIRB in February, and kicked off with information sessions in all Baffin communities from April 20 to May 13. The process is expected to take two years.

Natanine, currently the chair of the Clyde River HTO, wrote a letter dated Aug. 4 to Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Carolyn Bennett and NIRB chair Elizabeth Copeland requesting participant funding.

Natanine asks the feds for $35,000 to host community workshops to document community concerns, consultant and legal fees to help review draft scoping documents and travel fees for legal counsel and consultants to attend scoping workshops.

The letter says more participant funding will be required for the later phases of the review for similar reasons.

“We have yet to determine what our costs will be for these later phases of the review,” states Natanine.

Recalling the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision that Inuit are owed “deep consultation,” he goes on to say: “The Supreme Court of Canada has also repeatedly stated that deep consultation often requires the Crown to provide funding to aboriginal groups to allow them to participate in environmental reviews and licensing processes.”

Natanine concludes his letter by stressing that if the HTO does not receive participant funding by September, it will be “unable to meaningfully participate in the scoping phase of this review.”

“Scoping is, in our opinion, one of the most important stages for indigenous participation, especially when ‘deep’ consulation is required. Scoping is when NIRB will determine what issues will be addressed through the SEA.”

He adds that if the HTO cannot participate meaningfully in the scoping phase, it will be unable to participate meaningfully in the later phases.