Judge serves temporary injunction against Nuluujaat Land Guardians on Baffin Island

Mary River iron ore workers permitted to leave.

Baffinland

A Nunavut judge granted an interim injunction against protesters in Mary River Wednesday. Photo courtesy: Shelly Funston Eleverum.


A Nunavut judge has granted the Baffinland Iron Ore mine a temporary injunction that will allow for their employees to leave the blockaded mine site.

A group of protesters has been blocking the mine’s airstrip and access road –halting production since Feb. 4 – and today’s court documents reveal some more about just who they are.

Court documents identify seven people as being on the site, and according to a press release from their lawyer –Iqaluit based Lori Idlout- they have named themselves the Nuluujaat Land Guardians.

Nuluujaat is the Inuktitut name for the Mary River area.

The affidavit names five of the seven protesters, listing Namen Inuavak, Tom Naqitarvik, Jonathan Pitula, Christopher Akeeagok and Andy Kalluk. The remaining two are simple listed as “Jane Doe” and “John Doe”.

Idlout told the court that she did not think the injunction was necessary, as the protesters have already agreed to allow the mine access to the runway once a week to change personal.

There are over 700 people on the Mary River site at any given time, and they usually work two week rotations.

The injunction is temporary, it will be revisited on Feb. 13 at 9 a.m.

Idlout asked the court for that time to read the over 400 pages of documents supplied by Baffinland lawyer Brad Armstrong.

The affidavit also claims the documents were still being provided as late as 10 p.m. last night, prior to this morning’s 9:30 a.m. hearing.

While Baffinland would like the entire protest to leave their mine, the protesters have agreed to allow for the runway to open for transporting people on and off the fly-in site, and that previously had allowed a vehicle through their blockade on the access road, to allow for medical supplies to go through.

The protesters also stated in the affidavit that they feel harassed while occupying the runway.

“The Plaintiffs interrupt their sleep and cause them to be sleep deprived by revving the engines, honking horns and generally operating heavy mining equipment creating a perception of threat during the night,” the statement says.

Nunavut was able to keep mines open by not allowing the fly-in miners access to Nunavut communities.

If you’re at the mine, you don’t go the communities, and vice versa. The protesters lawyer’s believe that since Mary River employees don’t have to do the two weeks of isolation that most Nunavut residents have to complete to return from the South, there is a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Wednesday’s affidavit states, “The Defendants are extremely wary when approached. Site personnel have been consistently bothering the defendants by approaching them and questioning them and marking off check lists. The Defendants have responded politely but feel at risk and would prefer that public health be a higher consideration.”

One of the things the protesters have asked for is a meeting with regional Inuit Association QIA –the effective landlord of the Mary River mine under the Nunavut Land Claim – and Nunavut Tunngavik, the organization that represents all Nunavut Inuit. APTN News contacted both QIA and NTI. QIA has promised a statement later in the day, and NTI did not answer prior to publication of this story.

Pond Inlet is the community closest to Mary River, a distance of about 160 km. Their Mayor and Community Council have also asked for NTI and QIA to come to the negotiating table.

In a letter released to media Wednesday, Mayor Joshua Arreak wrote, “Once an injunction is granted, the RCMP are likely to move quickly to end the blockade. It is in the interest of protecting protesters and making sure no harm comes to them.”

The letter shows just who Arreak would like to attend that meeting, and calls upon QIA President PJ Akeeagok and four other QIA members, Premier Joe Savikataaq and Pond Inlet MLA David Qamaniq, NTI President Aluki Koterik along with Vice-President James Eetoolook and an NTI lawyer, and two members of the local Hunters and Trappers Association.

He also asks for the meeting to include two elders from Pond Inlet, a member of the municipal council and another member of the Hunters and Trappers Association to join them at the table.

Video Journalist / Iqaluit

Kent has been APTN’s Nunavut correspondent since 2007. In that time he has closely covered Inuit issues, including devolution and the controversial Nutrition North food subsidy. He has also worked for CKIQ-FM in Iqaluit and as a reporter for Nunavut News North.