Editorial: Nunavut’s Radioactiv
"Nunavut is the largest and newest federal territory ofCanada; it was
separated officially from theNorthwest Territories on April 1, 1999 via
the Nunavut Act  and theNunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, 
though the actual boundaries had been established in 1993.
"The creation of Nunavut – meaning "our land" in Inuktitut (the Inuit
language) – resulted in the first major change to Canada's map since
the incorporation of the new province of Newfoundland in 1949.
"Nunavut comprises a major portion of Northern Canada, and most of the
Canadian Arctic Archipelago, making it the
fourth-largest country subdivision in the world."
Following a two-day public forum on uranium issues at Baker Lake
in June 2007, the Nunavut Planning Commission gave the go-ahead
for uranium exploration in Nunavut. Recently, a new NGO has been
created in Nunavut to provide a much-needed forum for informed
debate among the Inuit on the issues surrounding uranium mining.
Nunavut’s radioactive issue
Editorial, Nunatsiaq News, December 28, 2009
If the Nunavut land claims agreement actually worked the way its
starry-eyed backers promised it would work nearly 20 years ago,
there would be no need in Nunavut for a independent lobby group
to scrutinize uranium exploration and mining.
But the public institutions and Inuit organizations set up to make
the Nunavut land claims agreement work have so far failed in the
performance of one of the land claim agreement’s primary tasks.
That task is to encourage the sustainable development of
non-renewable resources: a form of economic development that
serves human needs while, at the same time, ensuring the
environmental damage caused by such development is kept to a
Because of a long series of foolish blunders, most committed
within the past 10 years or so, no reasonable person can now
claim that the environmental protection system laid out within the
land claims agreement is capable of inspiring public confidence.
So it’s no surprise that this past November, a small group of
Nunavut residents formed an independent pressure group called
This group’s stated objectives include the promotion of things that
the Nunavut land claim agreement is supposed to provide for:
community consultation, the protection of various imputed rights
and the dissemination of information.
The Makitagunarningit group portray themselves as a source of
“accurate information on uranium issues,” but this claim is
undercut by their rhetoric. This is an anti-uranium organization.
Their ultimate goal, clearly, is not to spread “information” but to
stop the development of uranium projects in Nunavut. The group
also appears to act as an Arctic subsidiary of Mining Watch
Canada, a well-known non-governmental organization based in
This is good, but not because of the particular position this group
holds on uranium mining. It’s good because it demonstrates that
Nunavut residents do not think with one mind on that and many
other important public issues. It demonstrates that Nunavut
residents are capable of thinking for themselves.
This group also has the potential to do useful scrutiny of Nunavut’s
shoddy environmental protection system. For example, they’re now
raising questions about the behaviour of a company called Uravan
Minerals Inc., which, they allege, is operating a exploration site
without a licence and in defiance of the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
Nunavut’s various land claim bosses and the lawyer-consultant
ventriloquists who do their thinking for them won’t like all this, of
But they brought it on themselves. Think back to 2007, when, in
response to angry complaints from Kitikmeot business interests,
Philippe di Pizzo was fired, without cause, as executive director of
the Nunavut Water Board. The board’s entire technical staff,
representing nearly all its actual brain-power, quit in protest,
crippling the organization.
This happened because di Pizzo’s staff rejected a water licence
application from the Miramar Mining Corp., likely delaying the Doris
North gold project. By caving in to powerful commercial and political
interests who wanted the project to move ahead fast, water board
members destroyed their organization’s integrity. And they have yet to
earn it back.
Consider also the Kivalliq Inuit Association’s (KIA) spineless response to
Areva Resources Canada, the company that hopes to turn the Kiggavik
property near Baker Lake into a collection of open-pit uranium oxide
mines by 2016. Instead of posing tough questions, the KIA gives them
congratulatory plaques for “community involvement.”
It’s no surprise that Areva is good at “community involvement.” In
2008, the Areva group, which does business in about 100 countries,
posted earnings of nearly $600 million US, based on global sales of
roughly $18 billion.
This is a company that can afford to buy all the public relations it
needs. But it’s unlikely even they believed the KIA could be suckered
As for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., this organization became a shareholder
in a new uranium exploration firm, called the Kivalliq Energy Corp.,
in a 2008 deal that NTI struck with the Kaminak Gold Corp. If this
project, still in its early stages, leads to a feasibility study, NTI
has an option to buy 25 per cent of the company.
Because of this glaring conflict of interest, NTI, therefore,
possesses no credibility on any environmental or health issue related
to uranium development. The organization cannot claim to represent
Inuit interests on these issues with any degree of objectivity.
So it’s no surprise at all that there’s now a new group out there
whose members think they can do better.