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Appeal court upholds Nunavik Inuit Treaty rights

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Co-management regimes established under the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement ensure Indigenous Knowledge is informing the wildlife management decision-making process at every stage. © USO / istock.com

Nunavik Inuit achieved an important victory September 21, 2021, when the Federal Court of Appeal declared that Canada failed to interpret and implement the wildlife management decision-making process under the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement (NILCA) in conjunction with the honour of the Crown. This judgment is the first decision of its kind issued under the NILCA. Ensuring that Canada respects the process is critical to protecting Nunavik Inuit treaty rights. 

In 2012, the then Minister of Environment asked the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board (NMRWB) — the co-management board created under the treaty — to establish the annual total allowable take (TAT) and the non-quota limitations (NQLs) for the polar bear subpopulations. The NMRWB spent several years gathering extensive scientific data and Inuit Knowledge to inform its decision. The Minister varied the Board’s decision with respect to both the TAT and the NQLs. 

The Minister’s variance of the decision raised serious concerns, prompting Makivik to file for judicial review. 

The Court agreed the Deputy Minister and Minister both breached the honour of the Crown in failing to notify the NMRWB of their concerns regarding the Inuit Knowledge study and the Minister breached the honour of the Crown when she varied the NQLs without having raised any concerns about them after the NMRWB submitted its initial decision. 

Makivik will remain vigilant in its protection and promotion of Inuit Knowledge in all such decision-making processes. 

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