Arguing the GNWT is carving up land it doesn’t have permission to in establishing the Inuvik Wind Farm project, Nihtat Gwich’in Council has issued a complaint to the Gwich’in Land and Water board.
Stating the government did not have the legal right to hand a portion of the Reindeer Grazing Reserve to Northwest Territories Electrical Corporation (NTEC) for the purposes of building the Inuvik Wind Generation Project, the July 30 complaint says the permit to construct the turbine and surrounding infrastructure is effectively null and void.
In spite of the strongly worded complaint, Nihtat Gwich’in Council president Jozef Carnogursky said the council was not opposed to the construction of a Wind Turbine — they were concerned about how the government went about permitting it.
“We’re having a disagreement with the GNWT with the process on amending what happens in that reserve. It was set aside for certain things,” he said, adding the decision can be traced back to the previous GNWT government. Carnogursky said Premier Caroline Cochrane had reached out to him personally and he was content with the current relationship. “Our position is there is a process that needs to happen to make changes to regulation.
“They just can’t do it by themselves.”
At issue is a question of whether the GNWT has the right to repurpose the land in the reserve. Nihtat argues that the reserve is governed by several pieces of legislation that were not adhered to — particularly the Reindeer Grazing Reserve Order, which sets aside the area for conservation.
It also overrules the act used to transfer the land to NTEC, in large part because the NWT is not considered a province. Provinces have direct ownership and authority over crown lands, but territories are simply tasked with “administration and control.”
Also pointed out in the complaint is other grazing reserve orders have provisions in place to allow for infrastructure development, but the Reindeer Grazing Reserve Order does not. It argues the GNWT would first need to amend the order to allow for the authority it has assumed.
Carnogursky noted treaty rights exist for a reason and the GNWT had an obligation to respect them, even if the project is benign.
“We have aboriginal treaty and land claim rights that need to be respected,” he said. “It’s in front of the Land and Water board and it’s now up to them to make a decision. So we’ll wait for that decision.
“It’s basically a question of law and that’s what we’ve asked the board to determine. Part of our rights under the land claim agreement is the right to be consulted on those types of things that might affect our rights, such as harvesting rights. If you’re going to infringe on them, there’s a certain process you have to go through.”
A decision by the Gwich’in Land and Water board is anticipated to be made by Sept. 10.