A new chapter for the Canadian Heritage Rivers System in Nunavut commenced on July 9, 2019. It was on that day that the Government of Canada, the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated announced the signing of the Umbrella Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for Canadian Heritage Rivers in Nunavut (IIBA). This agreement is the first step toward sustainably managing Nunavut’s heritage rivers from an Indigenous perspective. The agreement formally recognizes the integral relationship that Inuit have with the land and waters of Nunavut. It also identifies key Inuit organizations as co-river managers with the federal and territorial governments.
Inuit have relied on the land, sea and waterways – and have been active stewards of the lands and water in and around Nunavut – for countless generations. For this reason, Nunavut has long been an active member in the Canadian Heritage Rivers program. Today, Nunavut is home to three designated Heritage Rivers; the Thelon and Kazan Rivers near Baker Lake, and the Soper River near Kimmirut. The Coppermine River, located near Kugluktuk, has been nominated to the system and will receive Heritage River status in the coming years.
The Government of Nunavut, through the Department of Environment’s Nunavut Parks and Special Places division, administers the program throughout the territory.
“The Government of Nunavut is committed to working closely with our partners: the Government of Canada, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Regional Inuit Associations, the Hamlet Councils, Hunters and Trappers Organizations, and communities adjacent to each Heritage River to uncover the full potential of the Canadian Heritage River systems in Nunavut,” said Government of Nunavut Justice Minister Jeannie Hakongak Ehaloak.
The settlement of the IIBA fulfills obligations set out in the Nunavut Agreement to negotiate an IIBA for any park or conservation area established in the territory. Canada will provide $6.7 million to Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Kivalliq Inuit Association, Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association for the implementation of the agreement. Funding will support activities such as Heritage River water quality monitoring, Inuit cultural camps for adjacent communities and the establishment of a business opportunities fund.
“The signing of this impact and benefit agreement will further ensure continued Inuit participation and leadership in land and water management within Nunavut. By signing this IIBA and by recognizing Inuit history, use and management of these Heritage Rivers, we are contributing to the implementation of the Nunavut Agreement while promoting and conserving lands and waters and maximizing benefits to Nunavut Inuit,” said Aluki Kotierk, President, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.
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