Land dispute causes development ban in Nunavut, Canada

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

The federal government has prohibited development on several parcels of Crown land in the southern region of Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut while a dispute continues between Nunavut Inuit and First Nations in the southern Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The Crown lands can’t be sold or leased for the next three years.

The Manitoba Denesuline and the Athabasca Denesuline in Saskatchewan have been negotiating their land claims in the region for over a decade. Their claims may include subsurface land within Nunavut.

The issue is complicated because there was never a straight line dividing Inuit and Dene, a Canadian First Nations group, in Nunavut’s Kivalliq region.

“In those days, boundaries were not a major issue. In history, lines are irrelevant. They just lived together and they worked together and used the same area,” said John Hickes, the chief negotiator for Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.

A map published quietly by the federal government last month offers a rare glimpse into a long closed-door process. It shows several patches of land in Nunavut, some of which touches the Manitoba border. That land could ultimately be managed by the Dene.

“The negotiations are sensitive,” said Benjy Denechezhe, a negotiator for the Manitoba Dene.

Denechezhe would not offer any more details, and could not say how much longer the negotiations will take.

When they do wrap up, Hickes said Nunavut Inuit can expect to gain about as much land in Manitoba as the Dene claim in Nunavut.

Talks are continuing with the Nunavut and federal governments. Those negotiations have not been made public.

The temporary ban won’t affect resource companies already working in the area.

However, some mining companies say they were surprised by the news — they said they were not notified of the ban.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.