Marine protected area in Canada’s eastern Arctic comes with $55M for Inuit communities, PM announces

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes an announcement about plans to create a new marine protected area in Nunavut Aug. 1, 2019. (Sara Frizzell/CBC)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Iqaluit, Nunavut, in Canada’s eastern Arctic on Thursday to announce $54.8 million for Inuit in five communities on Baffin Island tied to the completion of Tallurutiup Imanga as a marine conservation area.

The money will support Inuit-led initiatives that will protect the conservation area around Lancaster Sound — the entrance to the Northwest Passage.

It will create training programs for Inuit to take on conservation and research jobs, and look at developing fisheries in or around the conservation area.

Nearly $2 million from the agreement will go to help the five communities’ hunters and trappers organizations so they can participate in conservation efforts and wildlife management.

For the president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) PJ Akeeagok, this is what’s important.

“Inuit will have the tools, such as the jobs, the training facilities to be able to do the important work of being truly the eyes and ears of Tallurutiup Imanga,” Akeeagok said.

He said the ice and plentiful marine life in the area has supported Inuit “since time immemorial,” making it the “cultural heart” of the region.

Small craft harbours for two communities

The agreement encompasses environmental protections, cultural management and sustainable Inuit harvesting within the region.

Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Resolute Bay, and Grise Fiord are the five communities party to the agreement by the boundaries announced in 2017.

For two years, the federal government has been working with QIA, which represents Inuit who live on Baffin Island, to finalize how the area will be managed and how Inuit will benefit.

The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement requires all major developments in the territory to finalize an Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement (IIBA).

Marine conservation areas are protected by Parks Canada and the agreement promises the department will run at least one visitors’ centre for Tallurutiup Imanga in one of the communities.

A map of the proposed area for Tallurutiup Imanga, in light blue. The protected area borders five communities, all of which will receive infrastructure investments. (Qikiqtani Inuit Association/Government of Canada)

Alongside the IIBA announcement was $190 million of money coming from various federal departments.

The largest announcement was small craft harbours for Arctic Bay and Clyde River funded by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay will have work done on their harbours and Pond Inlet will get a regional training centre.

The centre is being paid for by numerous parties and includes $10 million from Baffinland’s Mary River mine IIBA agreement, also with QIA.

More than half of Canada’s protected oceans in Nunavut

Trudeau’s announcement finalizing Tallurutiup Imanga was paired with Canada’s plan to protect another 5.5 per cent of the country’s oceans in a protected area called Tuvaijuittuq.

While the government is figuring out how to protect what’s known as the last ice area, during a five-year feasibility study it announced a freeze of new activities aside from research

However, as of now Nunavut’s Impact Review Board, which manages development in the territory, has no upcoming development in the area north of Ellesmere Island and the closest community is Grise Fiord nearly 800 kilometres away.

And protected or not, Arctic ice is melting.

As for concerns about foreign interest in the area, a spokesperson for the prime minister said the protected areas strengthen Canada’s claim to disputed waters including the Northwest Passage.

PJ Akeeagok will stay on as the president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, after he was the only one to put forth a nomination for the position. (Steve Hossack/CBC)

While Akeeagok welcomed the IIBA he acknowledged in the past Canada had treated Inuit as “human flagpoles” for Arctic sovereignty.

Nunavut’s Premier Joe Savikataaq took a similar view. He called the IIBA a trade-off as Nunavut also needed development to survive.

“We’re pleased to be such a large part of Canada’s conservation efforts… we don’t mind contributing so much because we are a large part of Canada and I just want to remind the prime minister that we are part of Canada and we have to get some nation-building from Canada in the North.”

He said he supported the goals within the IIBA.

The Government of Canada press release says the IIBA could cover other protected areas in the high Arctic basin should they be formalized, which would include the interim protected area Tuvaijuittuq, but QIA says that would have to be negotiated after the feasibility study is complete.

If it is eventually finalized, it would bring Canada’s total marine protected areas to just less than 14 per cent of all of Canada’s oceans.

Fifty-five per cent of what’s protected would be in Nunavut.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Inuit groups in Canada to get over $161M for skills, employment training, CBC News

Finland: Forest protection well below target in Finland, despite UN obligations, Yle News

Greenland: Binding agreement on Arctic fisheries moratorium officially signed by EU and nine countries, Radio Canada International

Norway: Deal protects Arctic waters around Svalbard, Norway from fishing, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Island in northwestern Russia becomes nature reserve, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: U.S. government signs new land swap for Alaskan wildlife refuge road, Alaska Public Media

Sara Frizzell, CBC News

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