Policy Issues

Mining in the
Slave Geological Province

Late last year Sheila Copps, Minister of the Environment, announced a four-person panel to review and assess a proposal by Broken Hill Properties (BHP) and Diamet to construct Canada's first diamond mine at Lac de Gras in the Northwest Territories. At the same time, knowing that additional mines, roads, and other paraphernalia of industrialism would likely be constructed in the region in coming years, Ron Irwin, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, announced a five-year environmental baseline study of the region. CARC had worked hard in 1994 to elicit ministerial commitment to both processes, and we congratulated both ministers for linking the two exercises.

What's happening now? There is good news and there is not-so-good news. The environmental assessment panel is moving ahead quickly and is doing a thorough job; but the regional study is still struggling to get off the ground.

The environmental assessment panel held meetings in northern communities earlier this year to "scope" the agenda of the assessment and to define "guidelines" for the proponent in preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS). In CARC's presentation in Yellowknife, we asked the panel to stress project monitoring and regulation and suggested firmly that traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) be taken seriously in the review. As well, we reminded all participants that both the NWT Chamber of Mines and the territorial govemment have predicted that four or more new mines are likely to be developed in the Slave Geological Province in coming years. CARC believes that rather than concentrate on the incremental impacts of each mine as it is proposed, we need to plan carefully for this regional development.

In addition, we need to question those who regulate industrial development and make decisions that determine the broader picture: the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND). CARC suggested that the panel provide DIAND with clear guidance on how it should participate in the assessment. The panel has done so.

BHP is likely to submit its EIS in July. The panel has asked DIAND to submit a comprehensive information paoper by August 1 and has given notice that the paper will be subject to questioning. Public hearings may begin as early as October. CARC will intervene in co-operation with other groups, including Ecology North, the Canadian Nature Federation, the World Wide Fund for Nature (Canada), and the Sierra Legal Defense Fund. We are also co-operating with Inuit and Dene organizations that are participating in both the BHP environmental assessment and the baseline study.

While the BHP assessment proceeds quickly, the environmental baseline study moves slowly. All stakeholders -- industry, aboriginal peoples, environmental and public-interest groups, government agencies and others-have been invited to participate in and to help pay for the study. Kevin O'Reilly, CARC's Yellowknife-based Research Director, represents environmental interests in the planning committee for the study, and CARC will press hard to ensure that the commitments made by Mr. Irwin to this environmental baseline study are fulfilled.

The Canada Oceans Act
Receives First Reading

by Leslie Beckmann

On Oceans Day (June 8th), 1995, the federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Brian Tobin, promised to introduce a Canada Oceans Act in Parliament. In the same speech, he referred to the efforts of CARC and the Canadian Nature Federation in advancing the debate on various marine conservation and sustainable development issues. On June l 4th, Minister Tobin came through, introducing the draft act in the House for first reading. The act, which was first promised in 1987 by the previous federal government, will accomplish three things:

  1. Consistent with international law, it will declare a Contiguous Zone (CZ) and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which will extend Canada's jurisdiction to 200 nautical miles (n.m.). Among other things, declaration of an EEZ will allow Canada to exercise environmental protection measures out to 200 n.m.
  2. It will consolidate most federal oceans responsibilities in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
  3. It will mandate and require that the federal government develop an Oceans Management Strategy (OMS) in co-operation with stakeholders. Further, it will allow the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to enter into co-operative management agreements with a wide range of individuals, groups, governments, and government departments. Finally, it will mandate the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to engage in marine data collection, surveys, research, and map-making.
It is this third capability that makes the Oceans Act so valuable. The multi-stakeholder process that will produce the strategy is an ideal opportunity for the CARC/CNF National Marine Conservation Strategy Programme. In addition to commenting on the legislation when it goes to parliamentary committee, we will be able to inject our views and policy recommendations into the strategy development process. This will provide an excellent means to ensure that Canada's oceans and coasts are managed in a truly sustainable fashion. It will also provide an opportunity to press the government again to support a long-time CARC priority -- the establishment of a permanent arctic research facility to gather urgently needed data about the arctic ecosystem.

Progress on a Marine Conservation Strategy --
The CARC/CNF Project

by Leslie Beckmann

The Summer / Fall 1994 edition of Members' Update introduced the CARC/CNF National Marine Conservation Strategy Programme, which had begun in the Spring of 1994. The goal of the two-year programme is to promote conservation and sustainable development on Canada's three coasts, and one of its key elements is a discussion paper on a National Marine Conservation Strategy. The paper is designed to stimulate debate by recommending ways to ensure adequate conservation of Canada's marine ecosystems and their resources.

Now, just over one year into our programme, we are well on our way to completing the discussion paper.

We gathered the contents of the discussion paper in several ways. First, we commissioned a series of three comprehensive overview papers (one for each coast) that detailed the biogeographic features, environmental threats, key stakeholders, and efforts to conserve the marine environment on each of Canada's coasts. The northem paper, prepared by Dr. H.E. (Buster) Welch, is reprinted in the accompanying Northern Perspectives.

Next, we organized a series of five workshops in St. John's, Halifax, Iqaluit, Inuvik, and Vancouver to ask those who live and work in Canada's coastal regions what needs to be done to ensure conservation and sustainable development on their coast. Finally, we conducted research on specific issues.

We expect that a draft of the document will be ready in July. The remainder of the two-year programme will be spent working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (see accompanying article on the Canada Oceans Act) to promote the implementation of our recommendations. An order fomm for the discussion paper will be placed in the next issue of Northern Perspectives. For further information, please call me at (613)241-7379.

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