The Nunavut Agreement is an agreement between the Inuit of the Nunavut Settlement area and her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. In 1990, the Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut and representatives of the federal and territorial governments signed a land claims agreement-in-principle. This document would establish the boundaries between the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. In 1993, the Nunavut Agreement was signed and adopted by the Canadian Parliament and received Royal Assent. The Nunavut Agreement is the largest land claim agreement in Canadian history and covers 1/5 of Canada’s land mass.
Article 5 - Wildlife
Within the Nunavut Agreement, Article 5 establishes the guiding principles, objectives and conservation principles of Wildlife within the Nunavut settlement area. The Government of Canada and Inuit recognize that there is a need for an effective role for Inuit in all aspects of wildlife management” (NA, 1993, p.28).
There are two objectives:
- The creation of a wildlife management system; and
- The creation of a system of harvesting rights, priorities and privileges.
There are four principles of conservation:
- The maintenance of the natural balance of ecological systems within the Nunavut Settlement Area;
- The protection of wildlife habitat;
- The maintenance of vital, healthy, wildlife populations capable of sustaining harvesting needs; and,
- The restoration and revitalization of depleted populations of wildlife and wildlife habitat.
Article 5 also establishes the following guiding principles related to wildlife management in Nunavut:
- Inuit are traditional and current users of wildlife;
- The legal rights of Inuit to harvest wildlife flow from their traditional and current use;
- The Inuit population is steadily increasing;
- A long-term healthy, renewable resource economy is both viable and desirable;
- There is a need for an effective system of wildlife management that complements Inuit harvesting rights and priorities, and recognizes Inuit systems of wildlife management that contribute to the conservation of wildlife and protection of wildlife habitat;
- There is a need for systems of wildlife management and land management that provide optimum protection to the renewable resource economy;
- The wildlife management system and the exercise of Inuit harvesting rights are governed by and subject to the principles of conservation;
- There is a need for an effective role for Inuit in all aspects of wildlife management, including research; and
- Government retains the ultimate responsibility for wildlife management.
The Nunavut Wildlife Act
The Nunavut Wildlife Act reflects the values and principles of Inuit and takes into account Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ), or Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Because of this, the act is especially relevant to Nunavummiut. The Inuit right to harvest and access to land for harvesting is protected within the act. Unlike other parts of Canada, Inuit do not need a license or beneficiary card to harvest wildlife. The act also sets out to protect and permit the designation of endangered or threatened species and the provision of special management areas.
Canada National Parks Act:
Polar Bears and their habitat are protected in Auyuittuq, Quttinirpaaq, Sirmilik, Ukkusiksalik and Qausuittuq National Parks. Under the Canada National Parks Act, Parks Canada provides protection of important maternal denning and coastal summering areas within the parks and prohibits wildlife harassment and hunting by non-Nunavut Inuit. Any quotas to Inuit harvest set through the direction provided in the Nunavut Agreement apply to the national parks. Impact and Benefits Agreements respecting each park have been signed between Inuit regional associations and Parks Canada and establish frameworks for cooperative management of each park. These agreements allow Polar Bear hunting in the parks by beneficiaries of Nunavut Agreement within the regulations and quotas set by the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board. They also include provisions related to emergency kill of Polar Bears, including prevention and safety, compensation, implications for the Nunavut Polar Bear quota, and a requirement to make reasonable efforts to preserve the hide and meat of any emergency kill for use by Inuit.