Land use agreement in sight for Nunatsiavut

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Executive council approves draft

Sarah Leo

The regional land use plan for the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area has been approved by the Nunatsiavut government’s executive council.

The land use plan — a lengthy document issuing clear statements on what Nunatsiavut lands are open to development and under what conditions — has been under discussion and negotiation between governments for years now.

A draft plan was originally scheduled to be completed by December 2008, three years after the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement was signed.

That deadline “was extended several times by mutual agreement,” states a news release issued by the Nunatsiavut government Thursday.

The final draft of the plan was brought forward by the regional planning authority this spring.

Making a few last edits, the leaders within the Nunatsiavut government gave it their OK this week.

The land use agreement will now be taken to the full Nunatsiavut Assembly, next sitting in September.

“I guess one of the big things with the plan is it gives us a clear direction on how things are going to proceed within the land claims area. The plan helps us to deal with economic, social, environmental needs of our people, along with our cultural needs, which is the basis of our land claims agreement,” said Sarah Leo, the newly elected president of Nunatsiavut.

Leo said the land use plan will guide decisions on proposed developments within the area of the Inuit land claim.

“How we’re going to deal with those developments and what’s going to go ahead and how we will take into account the traditional uses of the land, at the same time protecting our own resources like the habitat, the food that we harvest such as char and caribou, the seals, birds,” Leo said.

Protection of heritage

Inuit communities including Okak, Nutak, Zoar and Ailik have received special designation as “heritage communities” under the draft

plan.

In 2005, former premier Danny Williams delivered a statement of apology to former residents of Nutak and Hebron — communities that were forcibly closed in 1956 and 1959 respectively.

In 2009, the provincial government put forward $20,000 for a memorial to former residents of the communities.

“Limited development will be permitted in the heritage area designation for the sole purposes of maintaining the site, promoting geotourism and enhancing visitors’ experience of Inuit lifestyle and history,” the draft land use agreement states.

“It is envisaged that Hebron will be preserved, with the restoration and historic reconstruction of the Moravian mission buildings, homes, sod houses, tents, Hudson’s Bay Trading post, walkways, gardens, wharf and cemeteries taking place. Historic premises will be open to the general public and to tour groups and will include artifact exhibits relating to Inuit culture, traditions and ways of life. Development may include on-site accommodations so that tourists can experience life in a traditional Inuit community.”

The plan indicates other “special policy areas,” with considerations above and beyond the “general use areas,” of the land claim, noting restrictions on development.

An area known as Iron Strand, adjacent to the national park, for example, has a significant garnet deposit, but the tentative agreement states this area is to “should remain in its natural state” and open only to traditional Inuit uses.

“There’s also a special area designated around something that is really important to us and that is the George River Caribou Herd and their calving area,” Leo said.

While there are protected areas, she said, the government is open to new industrial development, including new mines.

“Any kind of development is going to provide some sort of economic activity to the region and obviously to the people in the region,” she said.

“In saying that though, we might have to be mindful of where we live and how much we rely on the resources within our area. We have to really ensure that if we, as a government, are going to approve any development, we have to make sure the needs of the people who rely on the land are met and what the land provides to us is protected.”

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Nunatsiavut Assembly

Geographic location: Labrador Inuit Settlement Area, Nutak, Hebron

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