Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement
On August 22, 2008, the Government of Canada announced the completion of an Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement and $8.3 million in funding to support the Agreement’s plans for environmental conservation and economic development in Nunavut.
The agreement, negotiated between the Government of Canada, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and four regional Inuit associations, allows for the creation of three new National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) on Baffin Island to protect local species and habitat – including a population of bowhead whale that has been assessed as threatened in Canada.
The agreement also allows for co-management by Environment Canada and the Inuit of the three new, and ten existing protected areas in the Nunavut Settlement Area and expands economic and employment opportunities for affected communities.
The Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement fulfills the Government of Canada’s commitment under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement to address conservation area-related issues that could either provide benefits or have a negative impact on the Inuit.
Specifically, this agreement addresses obligations identified in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement associated with the eight existing Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBS), the two existing National Wildlife Areas and the three new proposed National Wildlife Areas administered by Environment Canada in the Nunavut Settlement Area. These include:
- Cultural Resources Inventories, which are Inuit oral history projects and archaeological projects, place studies and traditional ecological knowledge interviews, will be used in the development of interpretive materials for each protected area;
- the creation of an Inuit Tourism Providers Fund that Inuit may access for training related to environmentally friendly tourism services, for assistance in purchasing equipment, and to develop a tourism providers’ mentoring program;
- training young Inuit for careers in wildlife conservation through career mentoring and student employment;
- employing Inuit as field assistants in research and monitoring programs related to Environment Canada’s protected areas;
- compensation for accidental, defence, or illegal kills of Polar and Grizzly bears in Environment Canada’s protected areas by permit holders;
- training for Inuit from communities adjacent to new National Wildlife Areas on how to effectively conduct ecotourism businesses in the protected areas, and assistance in developing and marketing these businesses.
Co-management committees composed of both local and federal government members will be responsible for the management of each of the protected areas in the Nunavut Settlement Area. The committees will act as stewards of the area, with responsibilities to review permit applications and to develop the area management plan, among other duties.
One advantage to this system is the inclusion of critical Inuit traditional ecological knowledge in the development of any management plan. This is a significant step forward in terms of community-based management of natural resources and will result in more comprehensive management of these internationally significant areas.
By fostering new means of economic development, such as ecotourism, the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement will help to diversify the Inuit economy, confirm the ecotourism value of Migratory Bird Sanctuaries and National Wildlife Areas and assist Inuit to adapt to evolving socio-economic conditions.
Recent increases in Arctic cruise ship tourism, ecotourism, cultural tourism and adventure tourism present opportunities for Inuit to establish locally-owned and operated businesses whose potential clientele would have National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries as their destinations. Examples of services to be offered include guiding, outfitting, cultural interpretation and sculpture and art sales.
The Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement provides for the preparation of Cultural Resources Inventories. The inventories will support the development of interpretative materials and management plans for the 10 existing and three proposed protected areas in the Nunavut Settlement Area, and will identify Inuktitut place names for these areas. This initiative may include oral history studies, archaeological surveys, place name studies and traditional ecological knowledge interviews. The resulting information gathered is important for the effective co-management of Migratory Bird Sanctuaries and National Wildlife Areas.
The Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement also provides for the development of interpretative materials that can be used by local tourism providers. Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. will ensure the proper balance of interpretative products throughout the 12 communities. Expected products include an Inuit Tourism Providers’ Guide, tourism audio and visual materials that explain the nature and value of the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries and National Wildlife Areas from an Inuit perspective, community and area-specific displays, Inuktitut place name identifiers, and literature for community tourism centres and other outlets.
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