The Baffinland Mine is expanding without a permit and without oversight

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands) 2022-05-09 18:57

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise virtually in this place to raise issues I originally put forward in a question that was responded to by the same parliamentary secretary on the subject of the Baffinland mine in Nunavut.

I want to start by thanking the hon. member of Parliament for Nunavut for her leadership and guidance on this issue. I reflect, as I look at issues relating to the Arctic, that is Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon, on how out of it southern Canadians are and how easy it is to ignore the leadership of the Inuit on issues in Nunavut. Canadians probably know more about the Amazon than we know about the Arctic, and it is ironic that the concentrated urban populations of Brazil, such as Rio de Janeiro, are as far from the Amazon, and as unlikely to ever visit it, as Canadians in Toronto are to visit Nunavut. In both cases, it is a 3,000-kilometre distance, but I think Canadians are unaware of how critical our Arctic is to our global climate system. In the same way, the Amazon and the Arctic are both major global influencers on climate while they are also major victims of the climate crisis. The context in which I asked the question about the Baffinland mine was this. It is a mine that has been operating in sending iron ore to Europe. It ships the ore out from the Milne Inlet port. It is called a Canadian mining company if we look it up online, but it is owned by a European company based in Luxembourg, ArcelorMittal, and by a Texas-based company from Houston. It is now applying to double production to 12 million tonnes a year and build a 110-kilometre railway from the mine site to the port site.

This is a major expansion. The hon. parliamentary secretary, when she answered my question, seemed to think I was asking for a prejudgment of the decision of the Nunavut Impact Review Board. I was not. I was pointing out in my question that satellite imagery, plus eyewitness accounts from Inuit hunters on the ground, show that the company has already started its expansion before it received a permit, which raises really large issues, and this is quite typical of projects right across Canada. Who is watching to make sure that conditions attached to permits are actually observed? What do Inuit hunters, in particular, do when they think a large transnational corporation is deciding to jump the gun and not waiting to see if its project actually gets approved? We know from CBC News that in 2017 the Baffinland mine had already signed contracts with contractors to assist in the building of the railway, not waiting for approvals. The iron ore mining company has already influenced and contaminated food supplies, including Arctic char and throughout the food chain. There are deep concerns. As a matter of fact, that is how I first learned about this project. There was a brave blockade in mid-winter, in the land of no sun whatsoever and deep frigid temperatures. In February 2021, the blockade by Inuit hunters from Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay is what made me wonder what on earth was going on that people would be so brave as to sit down and block the Mary River airstrip in protest against what they saw happening, the contamination and the increased shipping threatened by phase 2 of this project, and what it would mean for the narwhals. When we look at it, and the more I ask this, the more I am deeply concerned that the Inuit leadership—