Tuktut to stay as is
No boundary change as park legislation introduced
by Ian Elliot
INUVIK (Apr 03/98) - The federal government has quashed an attempt by local organizations to move the boundaries of the proposed Tuktut Nogait National Park near Paulatuk to allow mining there.
Saying it would set a precedent that would unleash pressures to have park boundaries changed around the country, federal Secretary of State for Parks Andy Mitchell said the government will not listen to local requests to shift the western boundary of the park.
Mitchell introduced legislation to make the area a formal national park on Monday afternoon, just days after turning down a request from five local groups to review the boundaries.
In an interview with the Drum this week, Mitchell said he could not consent to a further review.
"A significant amount of public consultation has already taken place on this," he said from Ottawa.
"The parties signed on to this in 1996, and none of this is happening without extensive public input from those affected."
The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation supported the boundary change, forming a united front with five of the six other organizations which originally signed the agreement to make the area a national park: the Paulatuk community council, the Hunters and Trappers Organization there, the Inuvialuit Game Council and the GNWT. Parks Canada was the only group which said no to the request, which must be unanimous.
The proposal to move the western boundary to exclude a 414-square kilometre parcel would have reduced the area of the 16,000-square kilometre park by less than three per cent but would have opened the picturesque LaRonciere Falls and areas of the Bluenose caribou herd's calving grounds to development.
Darnley Bay Resources is interested in the area because it contains the last of four magnetic anomalies that could contain nickel and platinum. The other three lie outside the park.
The territorial government only announced that it would support the IRC and the other groups on Friday. Resource Minister Stephen Kakfwi said he was satisfied the caribou in the area would be protected if the boundaries were changed, and the project would bring much-needed employment and economic development to the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.
IRC Chairwoman Nellie Cournoyea reacted angrily to the news last week, and promised to resume the fight to redraw the boundaries in Ottawa.
Cournoyea has sent a two-page letter to Mitchell pointing to what she says are errors and omissions made by his office in reviewing the agreement, and says particularly that the park's western boundary was meant to be flexible when the park agreement was signed in 1996 to take future mineral exploration into account.
Mitchell responded that the area was tagged as having medium-to-high mineral potential when the national park deal was signed, and the local organizations that agreed on the boundaries knew that when they signed the agreement.
Cournoyea was calling for hearings on the process before legislation to make it a park was introduced and that, "these hearings be held in Inuvik to ensure that the people most affected by this decision have an opportunity to present their views."
Mitchell said such a review would not take place prior to first reading and said the Commons committee that reviews the legislation before it becomes law will decide where any hearings on the bill will take place.