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Solidarity with Inuit blockade at Baffinland Iron Mine

Pond Inlet protest in solidarity with hunters' blockade
By: 
Michelle Robidoux

February 6, 2021

On the night of February 5, hunters from Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay, Nunavut, set up a blockade to protest expansion of the Baffinland Iron Mine at Mary River, about 160 km south of Pond Inlet. The Oakville, Ontario based mining company wants to double production of iron ore, including adding a railway to transport the ore. Inuit have raised concerns about the damage the expansion would inflict on mammals they rely on for survival – in particular, the impact of the railway on cariboo herds, the contamination of seal holes from iron ore dust and the driving off of narwhal due to noise from ships transporting ore from Milne Inlet port.

Below is a transcript of a call February 5, 2021 via satellite phone by hunters involved in the protest, broadcast on Facebook live by Marie Naqitarvik.

Speaker 1: “It is due to Qikiqtani [Inuit Association] – QIA’s action on the Mary River Phase II project we are protesting at Mary River. QIA has treated us Inuit haphazardly. Hunters are not considered, communities are not considered, Inuit are not considered, and are only given the means to remain silent. And so we are taking extraordinary action here at this airport and road, because we should not be treated in this way anymore. When there is so much money involved, our land, our descendants, our children’s children and beyond will only see the destruction. It is because of this we act. Even when the people of Pond Inlet said no, apparently one single yes from the mayor is all that counts. This is very wrong. We do not want to do this, but are left with no other path. We have not been heard. Yes, if you are listening – perhaps some are listening…

Speaker 2: “I’m here with my dear brother Tom. We are hunters. We came here from Pond Inlet, and others have come from Arctic Bay. We are here at Mary River. We have blocked the airstrip, we have blocked the road. We have a fire going as a demonstration. The transportation of iron ore has been halted. I am trying to inform people of what we have observed. In recent years our wildlife, especially in our area, our marine animals have dwindled. And our organization that is supposed to represent us, only listens to Baffinland and says yes. We can no longer stand still. We act out of love for our descendants, our children, the wildlife we hunt, and for what our ancestors endured. They worked hard, they survived hunger to bring us to this day. You must know that we aim to continue our culture and way of life as we want a good life for our descendants.”

Speaker 1: “My last comments – we have closely examined the surrounding lands. It is extremely unsightly and red for a great distance. This is an incredibly massive amount of land we’re already losing, and they want to extract yet more. It is extremely undesirable. Thank you.”

Marie Naqitarvik: “Those are hunters who have started a protest of Baffinland. For our children, our descendants, for our wildlife, our land. They are there to protest to try to stop phase 2 of Baffinland. They’ve begun protesting. Thank you for watching. Please share this, we want everyone to hear those that have blocked air and road traffic at Baffinland. It’s a peaceful protest that has started. It has started, please share. Thank you for watching and listening.”

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Embedded Video: 
Baffinland Blockade – subtitled by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril