Lands and Environment

Isuma launch boosts debate about Mary River project

IsumaTV is harnessing the power of new media to improve Inuit decision-making about Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River Project. Tonight, Isuma launches Nipivut Nunatinnii (“Our Voice at Home”), a new radio series broadcasting on community radio stations across Nunavut’s Qikiqtani Region. The series will examine the Mary River project, the environmental assessment that is currently underway, and the human rights implications for Inuit.
You can listen to the live broadcast tonight at 8 pm EDT here.
The radio series is part of Isuma’s Digital Indigenous Democracy (DID) project, which seeks to adapt new media technology to link Qikiqtani communities together to support Inuit decision-making practices:

Through centuries of experience Inuit learned that deciding together, called angjqatigiingniq [ahng-ee-kha-te-GING-nik] in Inuktitut – a complex set of diplomatic skills for respectful listening to differing opinions until arriving at one unified decision everyone can support – is the smartest, safest way to go forward in a dangerous environment. Through DID, Inuit adapt deciding together to modern transnational development – to get needed information in language they understand, talk about their concerns publicly and reach collective decisions with the power of consensus.

According to Isuma, support for traditional decision-making is critical for Inuit communities faced with the development of the Mary River project, one of the largest mining projects in Canadian history:

[The Mary River project] is a $6 billion open-pit extraction of nine major deposits of extremely high-grade iron ore that, if fully exploited, could continue for 100 years. The mining site, in the center of north Baffin Island about half-way between Inuit communities of Pond Inlet and Igloolik, requires a 150 km railroad built across frozen tundra to transport ore to a deep-water port where the world’s largest supertankers will carry it to European and Asian markets.

Isuma is bringing another novel contribution to major project assessment in Nunavut. The human rights implications of the Mary River project, including the Inuit right to free, prior, and informed consent, will be documented and presented by human rights lawyer Lloyd Lipsett. Standards of transparency set by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) will also be applied to the decision-making process. According to Isuma

The Environmental Review by Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB), and an Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreement (IIBA) negotiated by Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA), both require Inuit to be informed and consulted under terms defined by the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA), Canada’s Supreme Court and the indigenous peoples rights standards in Canadian and international law.

In February, 2012 Baffinland Iron Mines filed its Final Environmental Impact Statement with the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the co-management body mandated under Article 12 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement to “protect and promote the existing and future well-being of residents and communities of the Nunavut Settlement Region.”

Meetings to discuss the technical aspects of the Final EIS were held in Iqaluit  last week. You can find information about them here. Final hearings for the project are scheduled for July in Iqaluit, Igloolik, and Pond Inlet; go here for more information.

In the executive summary of the Final EIS, Baffinland states that the project will meet all regulatory requirements designed to reduce the negative impacts of the project, and enhance the positive socio-economic effects where possible. Significantly, Baffinland concludes that “the residual effects of the Project on the valued ecosystem component (VECs) of the biophysical environment will be not significant.”

Zacharias Kunuk goes live tonight at 8 pm EDT to discuss the Digital Indigenous Democracy project. Lloyd Lipsett will join Zacharias on May 9th at 8 pm to talk about the proposed Baffinland iron mine, the Nunavut Impact Review Board process, and human rights.

Digital Indigenous Democracy is a $1.35 million project financed by the Canadian Media Fund Experimental Stream. Project partners including Nunavut Independent Television (NITV), Municipality of Igloolik, Nunavut Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth (CLEY), Carlton University Centre for Innovation and Mt. Allison University.

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