An injunction barring the Nuluujaaq Land Guardians from the Baffinland Mary River iron ore mine has been extended while Nunavut Justice Sue Cooper reviews submissions from lawyers.
In a rare for Nunavut Saturday morning hearing, Cooper heard about two and half hours worth of arguments from Lori Idlout, lawyer for the guardians, and Brad Armstrong, lawyer for Baffinland.
The temporary injunction was granted on Feb. 10, the same day the protesters occupying the mine’s airstrip and access road left.
According to Idlout, the protesters made it back to Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay over land on the evening of Feb. 12. According to Armstrong, the mine is once again operating.
The hearing was an example of how Nunavut’s court system tries to provide service in all 25 Nunavut communities.
The judge was on a conference call from Arctic Bay, where she currently is because of travelling court commitments. The hearings were interpreted in Inuktitut, and people could call into the conference call from all over Nunavut to listen in.
Callers identified themselves as being from Igloolik, Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet and Clyde River, four of the closest communities to the mine.
Cooper warned the court that she was calling from the community hall in Arctic Bay, and could be interrupted if someone called the hall.
Armstrong argued that while the land guardians have left the site, they haven’t ruled out returning.
They left after the regional and territorial Inuit organizations – Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Nunavut Tunngavik – agreed to a meeting, which they did on Feb 12.
“They say that they will continue action on the land, unless they see progress in those meetings,” Armstrong told the court.
He continued to quote a press release from the Nuluujaaq Land Guardians, where they wrote, “They say they will not end their advocacy towards the Baffinland mine. The Guardians are committed to continuing action on the land, unless they can see progress in proposed meetings.”
Arguing that the injunction should be extended as an assurance to the mine that they can continue to operate.
“It is necessary to insure the company can continue it’s operations without interuption,” stated Armstrong. “It will tell the Guardians that they can not come back.”
Idlout argued that her clients have what they want, a meeting with QIA and NTI, and barring them was unnecessary, that the court should only use an injunction when absolutely necessary, and that her clients have been following court instructions already.
“On Feb 11, we received the written version of the interim order, for the defendants to clear the airstrip and tote road at the Mary River mine project,” Idlout told the court. “They are few in numbers and their resources are focused currently on meeting with Inuit organizations to advance their environmental goals and protecting Inuit rights.”
She continued to explain it is her clients belief that an extension of the injunction would be unfair.
“The timeframe to proceed with an interlocutory injunction is exceedingly brief, and will lead to procedural unfairness.
“The injunction should not extend beyond the period of the harm being alleged.”
Baffinland’s lawyer disagreed, saying, “We say that the injunction should stay. It provides certainity that Baffinland can operate, and it does not limit the rights of the defendants. The defendants have not promised that they will not block the project.”
Cooper did not give an immediate timeline as to when she would issue her decision.