By ANDREW NAKASHUK OCTOBER 24, 2022
Published in The Hill Times
Nunavut is nearing the end of a long territory-wide land use planning process with broad implications for Canada and the world. It is vital that we complete it.
After 15 years, the Nunavut Planning Commission has started final public hearings and will submit a recommended draft plan early next year to the three entities that will consider it for approval: the federal and Nunavut governments, as well as Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which ensures the Nunavut Agreement is implemented.
Across Canada, land use planning has been challenged by diverse interests and a vast range of environmental, economic, and social conditions. Our experience in Nunavut can be even more challenging because of its sheer size—it is one-fifth of Canada’s land mass—and its varied interests.
No other jurisdiction in the world has attempted this exercise on such a scale.
We often have different views on the scope and content of this first-generation plan. Emotions can run high. Regardless of the challenges, land use planning is essential to Inuit, our communities, governments, organizations and industry; it matters to the land and all living things; it matters to all of us as we seek to protect the environment and develop resources responsibly and sustainably in the short term and for future generations.
Land use planning is much more than drawing lines on a map. It is about setting and achieving goals, identifying and living within limits of acceptable economic, environmental and social change. We must ensure the future is more than the result of a series of decisions about individual projects and activities. This plan provides an opportunity through an inclusive process to have essential conversations about difficult things.
An approved land use plan will support decision making with respect to environmental stewardship, sustainable resource and economic opportunities, and social benefits. It will serve as a filter and the entry point into the Nunavut regulatory system, avoiding single project-by-project reviews in the absence of a regional context. It will provide a structure and process to identify what is truly important. It will set out the framework for public and private investment, resource and environmental management, and progress as Inuit define it.
Planning needs to be understood as a continual process that must be monitored and reconsidered over time as circumstances, needs, and opportunities change, and when new information becomes available.
There is no magic formula for creating a land use plan. It is always a question of achieving an acceptable balance among differing views, values and visions. Compromise by all parties is essential. No one party will get everything it wants, but all parties should achieve enough to be satisfied with the outcome.
The planning process is both a challenge and an opportunity. We are challenged to see and understand different views, values and priorities from all perspectives. This gives us the opportunity to build a bridge and reach a consensus, find balance, and adapt and improve the plan over time to meet changing circumstances and events. Such events include community population changes, wildlife population and habitat changes, mineral and hydrocarbon demand and supply, and the impacts of climate change on the land and its use.
The last decade and a half of plan development has consumed resources and placed many demands on communities, regional organizations and other planning partners.
Now is the time for our collective efforts to come together and complete the Nunavut Land Use Plan. It is time for us to understand and commit to the necessary compromises that will finalize a plan for Nunavut reflecting the vision of Inuit and our communities.
Andrew Nakashuk, a former law enforcement officer who has lived in the communities of Iqaluit and Kimmirut, has been the chairperson of the Nunavut Planning Commission since 2016.