“We’re trying to seize an opportunity”
An Inuit impact and benefit agreement for the proposed Tallurutiup Imanga national marine conservation area in north Baffin may be signed as early as March 2019, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association says.
“It’s a very aggressive timeline. We’ve never negotiated agreements at this speed,” QIA’s executive director, Navarana Beveridge, said during the regional Inuit organization’s board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at Iqaluit’s Anglican parish hall.
“There’s never been this level of interest from the Government of Canada, this much motivation and will, and the relationship between PJ [QIA President PJ Akeeagok] and Minister McKenna has been unprecedented,” she said.
The Liberal environment minister, Catherine McKenna, is also the minister responsible for Parks Canada.
“There’s really strong political will on both sides,” Beveridge said.
The Tallurutiup Imanga region is commonly known in English as Lancaster Sound, but QIA prefers that its designated Inuktut name be used.
It’s twice the size of the province of Nova Scotia and, once created, will become Canada’s largest conservation area.
Beveridge said that QIA sees the IIBA negotiations as an opportunity to ensure Inuit rights are recognized in the area of marine management.
For the federal government, the negotiations could gain international respect for Canada by strengthening sovereignty in the Arctic and displaying support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
So between now and next March, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association will develop—in talks with federal departments like Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada, and Infrastructure and Development Canada, as well as Parks Canada—both a management and implementation plan for the soon-to-be-signed IIBA.
“This will only take a year,” QIA president PJ Akeeagok told board members. “We’re trying to seize an opportunity.”
Earlier in the day he told Nunatsiaq News that the lands and waters of the marine conservation site mean more to Inuit than mere geography.
“It’s who we are as a people,” Akeeagok said.
To make sure Inuit in affected communities are part of the negotiations, earlier this year, QIA’s chief negotiator for the IIBA, Sandra Inutiq, consulted with residents of the five communities most affected by the agreement.
Those communities are Arctic Bay, Resolute Bay, Grise Fiord, Clyde River and Pond Inlet.
“The community visits were very successful and there will be more as we go forward,” Akeeagok said.
Negotiations for the Tallurutiup Imanga IIBA coincides with the federal government’s work on a new Arctic policy framework to replace the former Conservative government’s northern policy.
And they are also looking for ways to dole out a $1.5 billion Ocean Protections Plan fund.