Inuit seek full management of Tallurutiup Imanga, Canada’s largest protected area.
Posted on Dec 11, 2017
'This is about communities, we want communities to grow and to thrive,” says the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, which wants to oversee the ‘ecological engine’ of the Arctic.
As Canada prepares to establish what will become the largest protected area in the country — Tallurutiup Imanga — the Inuit communities that live nearby are aiming for full Inuit management of the region, which covers the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage.
“What we’re envisioning is for Inuit to fully manage and control the conservation area,” said Sandra Inutiq, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s chief negotiator for the Tallurutiup Imanga Inuit impact and benefit agreement.
“We’re the ones living there, we’re the ones that have the knowledge of the land and the waters and we’re the ones that will continue to be there,” said Inutiq, who was in Toronto last week for the Canada’s Oceans: Towards 2020 conference at the Royal Ontario Museum.
In a statement, Parks Canada said it “is committed to working collaboratively with Inuit to determine how best to manage the proposed Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound national marine conservation area.”
“Inuit will participate in the management and protection of the national marine conservation area and Inuit Qauijimajatuqangit (traditional knowledge) will inform future decision making,” said spokesperson Audrey Champagne.
The almost 110,000 square-km conservation area rich in biodiversity is considered the “ecological engine” of the Arctic. The area is home to up to 75 per cent of the world’s narwhal population, 20 per cent of Canadian belugas, the largest subpopulation of polar bears in Canada and some of the largest colonies of seabirds in the Arctic.
A map of Tallurutiup Imanga......It’s also home to about 3,600 Inuit.
For QIA the conservation area is about bringing economic opportunities to the people who have lived in the region for millennia and launched the effort to protect it more than 50 years ago.
“This is about communities, we want communities to grow and to thrive,” said Stephen Williamson Bathory, QIA’s director of major projects.
The governments of Nunavut, Canada and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association agreed on the boundaries of the conservation area this summer. Now the three bodies are in the midst of an 18-month process to develop a management plan, while the federal government and QIA negotiate the Inuit impact and benefit agreement, which must be finalized before the conservation area can be formally established.
These agreements typically include provisions that would give preference to Inuit for employment and contract opportunities and address Inuit harvesting rights and use of the region, said Williamson Bathory.
QIA is also keen to establish a new approach to governance in the region that prioritizes Inuit participation and economic interests, he said.
For Inutiq, it’s about “strengthening our rights as Indigenous people to really manage and control what happens to our lands.”
To achieve that goal, QIA is aiming to broaden negotiations beyond Parks Canada to include other federal departments that have an interest in the area, including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada and Natural Resources Canada.
The association is also consulting with five of the Inuit communities it represents that lie within the region — Grise Fiord, Resolute Bay, Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet and Clyde River.
Negotatior Sandra Inutiq says Inuit people must manage Tallurutip Imanga. "We?re the ones that have the knowledge of the land and the waters," she said. (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star)
Though, Parks Canada has not yet provided funds to QIA to support their participation in this process. Champagne said the two organizations are currently “finalizing the details.”
As part of its consultations QIA will discuss what capacities already exist within the five communities to manage the conservation area and what capacities need to be developed.
They are also looking for input on what infrastructure is needed to promote economic development and create opportunities for the next generation.
“There is very little economic opportunity and very high unemployment in our communities, we don’t have basic infrastructure like high speed internet, what we have is slow speed internet,” Inutiq said.
“We’re a coastal people but we don’t have anything to reflect that we’re a coastal people like small craft harbours, or harbours of any kind,” she added. “If we wanted small scale fisheries in the region, we wouldn’t have anywhere to land the fish and process them.”
While Inutiq has some concerns that the 18-month timeline will be difficult to meet, she is also excited about the opportunity the process presents.
“There’s so much opportunity with this proposed conservation area to really think about . . . what Inuit want and when we create this conservation area what ways do we see the governance piece. I think the legacy of that question is huge,” she said.
By: Ainslie Cruikshank