‘Why lock the door?’: Nunavut television network in Arctic Canada wants to broadcast upcoming Baffinland hearings

Lucy Tulugarjuk, the executive director of NITV. ‘Inuit have the right to hear what is happening on Inuit land,’ she said. ‘Why lock the door to only limited people when you can have it accessible to all beneficiaries through TV?’ (NITV)

‘Inuit have the right to hear what is happening on Inuit land; it is our right,’ says NITV executive director

A Nunavut television network is asking the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) permission to broadcast its upcoming meetings about Baffinland’s controversial proposal to expand its Mary River Mine.

A motion filed to NIRB on Sept. 15 by Nunavut Independent Television Network (NITV) asks the board for the right to broadcast and rebroadcast the hearings, which resume in November.

Earlier this year, the board denied the television network, which runs Uvagut TV, permission to rebroadcast the hearings, saying it could “interfere, disrupt or distract from the board’s objective in conducting proceedings,” according to NITV, in an email to CBC News.

The extended Public Hearing for Baffinland’s Phase 2 Development Proposal is set to run from Nov. 1-6 in Iqaluit.

In addition, there will also be a hub for participants in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, and an audio/video Zoom link and teleconference option for remote participants.

Lucy Tulugarjuk, executive director of NITV, says the network wants to show the hearings both live and as a replay, so that more people, including beneficiaries, have access to the material.

“Inuit have the right to hear what is happening on Inuit land,” she said. “Why lock the door to only limited people when you can have it accessible to all beneficiaries through TV?”

‘It is in their hands’

The TV network was granted special permission to broadcast the hearings live in January and February, primarily because of travel restrictions imposed due to COVID-19. But in late March, after the TV network wrote to NIRB asking for permission to rebroadcast the footage ahead of the next round of public hearings, they were denied.

NITV says its current motion to the board “challenges this decision as vague and arbitrary and in violation of Inuit rights to meaningful participation and access.”

One reason the the board gave was that parts of the proceedings could be taken out of context.

Tulugarjuk disagrees, and said seeing the broadcast or rebroadcast, even just in part, likely won’t change someone’s mind.

“Everyone has their own thoughts,” she said. “[People] should have a chance to see it if they want to.”

It’s not clear when the review board will give its decision on whether NITV can broadcast the upcoming November meetings.

“It is in their hands,” Tulugarkuk said, and encouraged Inuit in Nunavut to “have your say.”

“Your voice is important,” Tulugarjuk said. “And, for those leaders who are elected to be in their seats, remember who voted for you. Let’s hope that at the end of the day, we are all considering Inuit voices.”

The hearing for Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation’s proposed phase two of its Mary River Mine is set to resume in November. (Baffinland iron Mines Corporation)

Three elders swore in a statement that they rely on NITV to get their information. They include Anita Uluttuuvak, Jayko Ootoowak and Madeline Ivalu.

Uluttuuvak, an Inuk from the Qikiqtaaluk region, and a Pond Inlet resident as of May, said in her affidavit that she’s affected by the Mary River mine.

She said that despite being “university educated, I have difficulty reading, comprehending and ingesting large volumes of written material,” according to the affidavit.

“Based on my extensive knowledge of Inuit culture, and the community in which I live, I believe that many of my community members prefer to learn and understand complex issues in the same manner.”

She added in the affidavit that she doesn’t find it practical for her to navigate to NIRB’s website and read “significant volumes of material” on the development proposal and hearings.

She also said that though the hearings are streamed online, internet access can be unreliable and expensive.

‘Transparent and accessible’

The motion was prepared by NITV legal counsel Tess Layton and Qajaq Robinson.

“Decision-making bodies like NIRB have to be transparent and accessible, especially to those whose rights are gonna be impacted,” Robinson said.

Robinson argued that if people only get the chance to watch the proceedings live, it’s more likely to result in “limited, piecemeal information accessed” as opposed to having the opportunity to watch the whole thing during a rebroadcast.

In an email to CBC, the board said it’s reviewing the motion and that it “will provide further guidance in due course.”

Karen Costello, the board’s executive director, said the board could not provide an interview as the board is “considering the motion and in overall decision making for the Mary River Phase 2 Project Proposal.”

-Written by Amy Tucker, with files from Cindy Alorut, Meagan Deuling

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: ‘If not this, then what?’ Nunavut Government in arctic Canada says economy needs controversial mining expansion, CBC News

Norway: From dirty coal mining to protected land, Norway expands national park on Svalbard, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Can the environment withstand Arctic Russia’s coal mining boom?, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Reducing emissions could create up to 3,000 new jobs in Arctic Sweden says mining group, Radio Sweden

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