Northwest Territories & Yukon (Inuvialuit Settlement Region)
Polar bears in the Northwest Territories and Yukon are found exclusively in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) and are co-operatively managed, or co-managed, under a framework set out in the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA). The legislative framework for polar bears in the ISR includes the Western Arctic (Inuvialuit) Claims Settlement Act, the Northwest Territories Wildlife Act, the Yukon Wildlife Act, the Canada National Parks Act and the federal and Northwest Territories Species at Risk Acts. All partners worked together to develop the ISR Polar Bear Joint Management Plan. The objective is to then adopt this ISR-wide plan under the federal Species at Risk Act and the Species at Risk (Northwest Territories) Act, as polar bears were listed as special concern under the acts (2011 and 2014, respectively).
Recently NWT and Yukon developed an administrative agreement to recognize an ISR-wide Southern Beaufort Sea (SB) polar bear tag that can be used in all portions of the SB subpopulation range in the ISR.
Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA)
After ten years of negotiations the Government of Canada and the Inuvialuit signed the Western Arctic (Inuvialuit) Claims Settlement Act (commonly referred to as the “Inuvialuit Final Agreement” or “IFA”) on June 5, 1984. It was the first comprehensive land claim agreement signed north of the 60th parallel and only the second in Canada at that time. In the IFA, Inuvialuit agreed to give up their exclusive use of their ancestral lands in exchange for certain other guaranteed rights from the Government of Canada. The rights came in three forms: land, wildlife management and money.
The basic goals of the IFA, as expressed by the Inuvialuit and recognized by Canada are to:
- Preserve Inuvialuit cultural identity and values within a changing northern society.
- Enable Inuvialuit to be equal and meaningful participants in the northern and national economy and society.
- Protect and preserve the Arctic wildlife, environment and biological productivity.
- The IFA gives the Inuvialuit the exclusive right to harvest polar bears in their settlement region.
Northwest Territories Wildlife Act
The Northwest Territories Wildlife Act sets out a comprehensive modern framework for the management of wildlife in the Northwest Territories. It ensures that wildlife management will integrate Indigenous rights and interests while contributing to the sustainability of northern wildlife. It will:
- Integrate and ensure recognition and respect for Indigenous rights in the wildlife management process
- Encourage conservation and stewardship or wildlife and habitat
- Enhance local control in the management of wildlife
- Promote harvester training to improve safety and wildlife conservation
- Permit better management of conservation areas
- Establish a framework for wildlife and habitat management planning and monitoring in concert with resource development, and
- Modernize enforcement provisions and increase penalties for offences.
Canada National Parks Act
Polar Bears and their habitat are protected in Aulavik, Ivvavik and Tuktut Nogait National Parks. Under the Canada National Parks Act, Parks Canada provides protection of important maternal denning and coastal summering areas within the parks. Hunting and wildlife harassment are also prohibited in the parks, though the IFA does allow Polar Bear hunting within the parks under quotas set through the process set out in the IFA.