Inuit org, Ottawa, set to unveil expanded national marine park in Nunavut waters

By Nunatsiaq News - August 14, 2017

On Monday morning in Pond Inlet, the president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, P.J. Akeeagok, and the federal environment minister, Catherine McKenna, are set announce they’ve agreed on new expanded boundaries for the long-awaited Lancaster Sound National Marine Protected Area, the Globe and Mail reported Aug. 10.

The waters of Lancaster Sound, as seen from the deck of the Coast Guard research vessel Amundsen in 2010. (Jane George / Nunatsiaq News)
The waters of Lancaster Sound, as seen from the deck of the Coast Guard research vessel Amundsen in 2010. (Jane George / Nunatsiaq News)

The enlarged version of the proposed national marine park will cover areas located near the eastern entrance to Lancaster Sound, known now as Tallurutiup Imanga in Inuktitut, over which Shell Canada once held leases permitting them to explore for offshore oil and natural gas.

Shell, in June 2016, turned those leases over to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, who then turned them over to the Government of Canada.

The addition of that marine territory helps increase the size of the proposed protected area to around 131,000 square kilometres, an area much larger than the 44,500 square kilometres that the Conservative environment minister, John Baird, proposed in December 2010, the Globe and Mail reported.

The QIA had also wanted other marine areas, including the waters of Admiralty Inlet, and an area extending past the south coast of Cornwallis Island around Resolute Bay, added to the Lancaster Sound marine protected area.

The agreement on the national protected area’s new boundary now paves the way toward the completion of an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement between Ottawa and the QIA.

Under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, governments must sign IIBAs with Inuit organizations before they can legally create protected areas, national parks and national historic sites.

It’s likely that a Lancaster Sound IIBA would guarantee Inuit hunting rights within the protected area’s boundaries, create Inuit employment and contracting opportunities and give Inuit a strong voice in management of the area.

Once the marine protected area comes into legal existence, likely through the passage of a bill in Parliament, oil and gas exploration will be permanently banned in the area, although Inuit will continue to harvest marine mammals and fish.

Joe Savikataaq, Nunavut’s environment minister, will also attend the Pond Inlet announcement ceremony on Aug. 14. A parallel event will be held at the Museum of Nature in Ottawa.