NIRB Baffinland Decision Recommends Digital Indigenous Democracy - press release September 25, 2012

The Nunavut Impact Review Board broke new ground for regulators in Canada this month. NIRB recommends using new media technology to inform, consult and connect Inuit communities in its Final Hearing Report on Baffinland’s Mary River Project released September 14, 2012.

The potential of digital media to improve public participation in oral Inuktitut was demonstrated to NIRB by IsumaTV’s Digital Indigenous Democracy [], a new web portal launched last May by Inuit filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk.

The website streamed live call-in radio shows, used Skype and collected video testimonies of Elders and Youth to promote region-wide community discussion in Inuktitut on the Baffinland development.

Kunuk delivered 22 call-in radio shows and 59 video consultations to NIRB’s Final Public Hearings in Iqaluit, Igloolik and Pond Inlet July 16-28. Kunuk’s presentation with human rights lawyer Lloyd Lipsett urged NIRB and Baffinland to use 21st century media to increase Inuktitut information and participation at the community level, to meet today’s constitutional and human rights standards of informed consultation and consent.

Digital Indigenous Democracy also filmed the Public Hearings and streamed Inuktitut audio from Igloolik and Pond Inlet live online to all Nunavut communities and worldwide.

NIRB’s September 14 Final Hearing Report to AANDC Minister John Duncan approves the multi-billion dollar Baffinland development with 184 wide-ranging Conditions that include a multimedia commitment to oral Inuktitut consultation and Inuit participation in four conditions:

-       To establish a project-specific web portal or web page to make monitoring and reporting information available to the general public (General Conditions item 12, p. 241);  

-       To consider the use of existing and innovative technologies (e.g. community radio station call-in shows, cell phones, video-conferencing, Skype, etc.) to maintain contact between workers on the job and families at home (Specific Condition #143, p. 289);

-       To make all reasonable efforts to engage Elders and community have community level input into monitoring and mitigative measures…informed by traditional activities, cultural resources and land use (Specific Condition #162, p. 295);

-       To continue to engage and consult with the communities…to ensure that Nunavummiut are kept informed about the Project activities…management and monitoring plans (Specific Condition #163, p. 296);

-        See attached Terms and Conditions for details.

“Inuit live in the modern world,” Kunuk says. “We need to be up to date, not left behind. 21st century media helps Inuit stay involved in what happens on our land. Thanks to NIRB for confirming Inuit rights to have our say at the community level.” 

The next phase of Digital Indigenous Democracy will propose a sustainable model of ongoing consultation and participation for Inuit through modern media tools that allows Baffinland and other major developments to meet NIRB Conditions for informed Inuit participation using innovative technology.

Digital Indigenous Democracy is a community-based new media initiative by Igloolik Inuit organizations Isuma Distribution International and NITV, co-directed by Zacharias Kunuk and long-time collaborator Norman Cohn, with support from Dr. Frances Abele, director of Carleton Centre for Innovation, Dr. Ian J. Mauro, Canada Research Chair at Mount Allison University, the GN Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth and an investment of $1 million from Canada Media Fund Experimental Stream.

For more information contact:

Zacharias Kunuk +1.867.934.8725 zkunuk [at] isuma [dot] ca

Norman Cohn +1.514.576.0707 cohn [at] isuma [dot] ca

Lloyd Lipsett lloyd [at] lklinternational [dot] com


For complete text of Digital Indigenous Democracy NIRB Intervention


To view Digital Indigenous Democracy multimedia:


Nunavut Impact Review Board Final Hearing Report, September 14, 2012

Mary River Project, Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. File #08MN053


Terms and Conditions related to IsumaTV Digital Indigenous Democracy


General Conditions, Item 12, (p. 241). The Proponent shall establish a Project-specific web portal or web page as a means of making all non-confidential monitoring and reporting information associated with the Project available to the general public.


Specific Condition No. 143

Category: Livelihood and Employment – Employee family contact

Responsible Parties: The Proponent

Project Phase: Construction, Operations

Objective: To enable and foster connection and contact between employees and family members.

Term or Condition: The Proponent is encouraged to consider the use of both existing and innovative technologies (e.g. community radio station call-in shows, cell phones, video-conferencing, Skype, etc.) as a way to ensure Project employees are able to keep in contact with family and friends and to ward off the potential for feelings of homesickness and distance to impact on employee retention and family stability.

Reporting Requirements: To be developed following approval of the Project by the Minister


Specific Condition No. 162

Category: Culture, Resources and Land Use – Public consultation

Responsible Parties: The Proponent, Elders and community members of the North Baffin communities

Project Phase: Construction, Operations, Temporary Closure / Care and Maintenance, Closure and Post-Closure Monitoring

Objective: To ensure the ongoing and consistent involvement of Elders and community members in developing and revising monitoring and mitigation plans.

Term or Condition: The Proponent should make all reasonable efforts to engage Elders and community members of the North Baffin communities in order to have community level input into its monitoring programs and mitigative measures, to ensure that these programs and measures have been informed by traditional activities, cultural resources, and land use as such may be implicated or impacted by ongoing Project activities.

Reporting Requirements: To be developed following approval of the Project by the Minister


Specific Condition No. 163

Category: Culture, Resources and Land Use – Public consultation

Responsible Parties: The Proponent, North Baffin communities

Project Phase: Construction, Operations, Temporary Closure / Care and Maintenance, Closure and Post-Closure Monitoring

Objective: To involve communities in the development and evolution of management and monitoring plans.

Term or Condition: The Proponent shall continue to engage and consult with the communities of the North Baffin region in order to ensure that Nunavummiut are kept informed about the Project activities, and more importantly, in order that the Proponent’s management and monitoring plans continue to evolve in an informed manner.

Reporting Requirements: To be developed following approval of the Project by the Minister.




25 September 2012


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    Is it possible for First Nations to hold a festival worthy of the name in Québec’s metropolis?

    The Montreal Frist Peoples Festival asks the question a press release distriburted this morning as the Partenariat du Quartier des spectacles (the PQDS), a paramunicipal body that administers a major program in support of events in Montreal’s downtown core cultural district, decided to cut off all grants to the Festival for the year 2014.

    The PQDS claims that the First Peoples Festival lacks sufficiently innovative programming. This is a surprising attack on the Montreal event that has very successfully and continually transformed itself over the years. Since it moved its activities to the Quartier des spectacles, it has offered a brand-new formula that richly highlights First Peoples culture, art and diversity.

    First Peoples Festival is a First Nations’ multi-disciplinary festival, an event unique in its genre and presented yearly by the Terres en vues/Land Insights society for the last 24 years.

    Last year, the festival succeeded in balancing its budget without a deficit although the very day its program was launched, June 18 2013, the PQDS announced a drastic $50 000 cut to the Festival’s budget. This year the festival was been hit with a great blow that could prove to be fatal.

    The festival states that this new obstacle is a test of the commitment of city of Montreal and government stakeholders to make a place for First Nations culture in Quebec’s metropolis and to associate these with the many commemorations set for city’s 375th anniversary in 2017.

    Festival organizers are demanding that those granting funds to the PQDS, the City of Montreal first and then the government of Québec, must take action without delay to reinstate a funding for First Peoples Festival within a structure that can allow it to develop and thrive.

    Moreover, the festival is questioning the very way funding is delivered by the PQSD. Organizers believe that it is high time, as ethical choices, corruption and fair practices are in the spotlight in Montréal during the ongoing Charbonneau Commission, to review the governance of this paramunicipal body that oversees such important budgets.


    Source: Land Insights


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  • DID in the News!

    uploaded by: Cara Di Staulo

    channel: Isuma News

    On Their Terms: A Digital Project to Give Inuit Say in Developers' Arctic Ambitions

    BY Elisabeth Fraser

    A new project in Canada’s north is attempting to bridge the digital divide facing Inuit communities. In doing so, it hopes to give them a say as developers move to take advantage of their resource-rich land.

    Digital Indigenous Democracy (DID) is an effort to bring the community empowerment of new media technology into remote low-bandwidth indigenous communities in Nunavut, across Canada, and around the world,” says Norman Cohn, an award-winning Canadian filmmaker who is also the project co-director, with partner Zacharias Kunuk, an Inuk filmmaker.

    The idea is to provide high-speed Internet access to Inuit living in northern communities, where extremely low bandwidth access makes surfing the net a slow and cumbersome task. “These people, who most need access to these networks, have the worst cost-per-bandwidth in the civilized world,” says Cohn.

    Life in the Northern communities where Canada’s Inuit live can be challenging. Traditionally, the Inuit are a hunting society. However, nowadays both global warming and opposition from animal-rights groups are negatively affecting the hunt. There are high levels of poverty, substance abuse, and suicide. There is a housing shortage, and high levels of family violence, as well as chronic health problems like diabetes. The remote and vastly scattered locations of these villages carry distinct challenges as well, including sky-high prices on basic goods. Most places are hard to access from the south, accessible via boat during the summer, or by expensive flights year-round. And, despite federal investment to improve bandwidth access in these communities, the Internet remains very slow.

    Just how slow is it? “Most people can remember how the Internet was when they first tried it out five or ten years ago, and how much faster it is now,” explains Cohn. “Use of the Internet we take for granted right now is only possible because our bandwidth has increased by hundreds of thousands of times, and at a low cost. Those speed increases have not impacted northern Inuit communities. Their Internet is among the slowest and most expensive … There is a digital divide, certainly in the Canadian North, as much as in Bangladesh.”

    Canada’s Inuit are one of three Canadian Aboriginal groups (the others are the Métis and First Nations). They are somewhat unique amongst Indigenous peoples in North America, because they have negotiated a self-governing agreement with the federal government of Canada. Whereas Canadian and U.S. First-Nations people often live on government reserves and receive government assistance or a special tax status, Inuit are by and large self-sufficient.

    Cohn says the project is essential to help Inuit protect their rights in a new age of resource extraction. “The origins of this project are in the evolution of two enormous world developments. The one is the evolution of new media technology and its potential for social networking and political change, which we’ve seen in the Middle East,” Cohn says, referencing the Arab Spring. “And this intersects with the evolution of global warming, which has created an increase in natural resource development in the Canadian Arctic.”

    Digital Indigenous Democracy has been financed and tested around a specific giant mining development (the “Mary River Project”) by the Baffinland company.

    “If (the development) goes forward in its full capacity, it would be the largest mine ever in Canada,” says Cohn. DID was created in the context of Baffinland’s ongoing environmental review process, which involves consultation with local stakeholders. These talks have produced an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement, as required by law under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

    “Our project was proposed and financed to test out this technology as a way of improving Inuit communities’ ability to participate in the decision-making process of such an enormous development that will impact these communities forever,” Cohn says. “So, we had a compelling technological concept for equal justice, but we also had a compelling urgent need for that project to take place as soon as possible.”

    Started in April 2011 via Canada Media Fund financing, Digital Indigenous Democracy went live one year later, in April 2012. It runs on the ISUMA TV platform, created by Cohn and co. in 2008. The multimedia website features photographs and government information documents, as well as audio and video recordings, in English and in Indigenous languages like Inuktitut.

    In addition to putting forward local content, in the form of radio programming, films and documentaries, and community news,DID has played an active part in the local consultations involving the Baffinland project. A series of radio call-in shows allowed locals to ask experts questions about the development, and Baffinland feedback collected via DID has been complied into a report, which will be presented in the next round of public hearings, tentatively scheduled to take place in mid-October.

    Lloyd Lipsett is a human rights lawyer who has been participating in the public consultation process surrounding the Baffinland project. He took part in radio call-in shows the DID group organized in Igloolik, Nunavut, to answer questions and inform locals about the Baffinland project, in English and Inuktitut.

    “If you want the people to be confident that the mine is benefitting them, they need to have the information to make that judgment. It’s important to recognize that the movement towards transparency in the (extractive industry) is really picking up steam,” says Lipsett, who notes the Canadian government has announced it will pass binding regulations ensuring mining companies have greater disclosure towards various levels of government, something the United States and European Union have already done.

    Canadian constitutional law and international law now explicitly confirms Indigenous people have the right to be informed and consulted about any resource development that impacts their lands and their communities. According to Lispett, the new approach towards consultation offered by DID is a benefit to locals and developers alike.

    Most human-rights interventions involving extraction projects happen after development has started, when things are perceived to be going badly. “Getting involved in public hearings before the project has taken place; you are taking a proactive approach,” says Lispett. “You’re dealing with all the different stakeholders, including the company itself. To talk to them in a proactive, forward-looking manner, is much more constructive then pointing your finger after, and saying, “You’re doing this wrong, you’re violating this right, or that right…We’re offering you suggestions as to how you can develop this mine in a way that is respectful to people.”

    The economic stakes are significant, too."The wealth in the arctic is enormous,” says Cohn. “It’s sort of like the new Congo, but suddenly much more accessible than it ever was before. “The world has changed since King Leopold went into the Congo, but only if technology helps people take advantage of those changes. (DID) is the only way Indigenous people will get a real fair seat at the negotiating table, dividing up what everyone agrees are trillions of dollars.”

    Frances Abele is a Professor of Public Policy and Public Administration at Carleton University. She is familiar with the project. She touts the community-building aspect of DID. “If you haven’t been to the North, it’s very hard to picture just how far apart everything is,” she says. “To allow people to speak to each other in real time is a really powerful change in order to have people talk about their common interests, and politics.”

    “The local radio has been very, very, important for a long time, it’s the main way that people find out what’s going on, and they listen to that every day,” says Abele. “The genius of what Norman and Zacharias are doing is that they’ve been able to build on that network to create these communities.”

    Mark Airut is the manager of the Igloolik radio station, now run by ISUMA since last May. He is Inuk, and echoes Abele’s praise for DID. “I think it’s really great, lots and lots of people are now following us, and now they listen to our radio all over the world,” he says. He says since ISUMA took over, the station’s workers have gone from being voluntary to paid staff, and many locals say ISUMA radio is now all they listen to. “We’re doing our best work on educational stuff,” says Airut. “It’s really successful.”

    Currently, Cohn estimates the project is two-thirds completed. “Our website will play at high speed in what will eventually be ten indigenous communities,” he says. ISUMA has been hooking people up since the spring, and will continue to do so during the fall.

    Underlying the entire project is the principal of open data and transparency as a tool to combat inequality. “Indigenous people see these developments as the only chance they have to get out of poverty and into the 21st century,” says Cohn. “If all the people involved are sharing in the exploitation of the resources, then it’s not pejorative. If the people involved are being exploited, then its pejorative … Today, you cannot get away with that level of inequality unless it’s hidden from public view.”

    Cohn believes DID can be a powerful tool to give Indigenous people their fair share of the pie. “If people have those tools, you cannot deny them those rights,” he says. “These communities are sitting on mountains of minerals, of gold, of uranium.” He sees a future for this project in Indigenous communities throughout the world, and notes it is in developer’s interest to properly inform and consult, or risk huge lawsuits down the road.

    How much the Inuit will eventually profit from the Baffinland development remains to be seen, but Cohn is hopeful. “Indigenous people are not genetically impoverished,” he says. “If everyone owned the land they were living on, Inuit people could quite very well be rich,” he argues. “Why are Inuit peoples more like Palestinians than Saudi Arabians? In 2013, you can’t do that to people, unless you’re doing it in the dark.”

    Elisabeth Fraser is a freelance Canadian journalist. She lives in Montreal.

    Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.


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    uploaded date: 30-09-2013