Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Fisheries and Oceans
Issue 10 - Evidence - September 23, 2009 - Morning meeting
INUVIK, Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 9 a.m. to study on issues relating to the
federal government's current and evolving policy framework for managing Canada's fisheries and oceans (topic:
matters related to the Canadian Coast Guard and fisheries in the Western Arctic).
Senator Bill Rompkey (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: I will call the meeting to order.
We are the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans studying two things — the fishery and the Coast Guard. We
would like to hear people tell us about both of those topics.
We have done a trip through the Eastern Arctic and made a report on that and we have also just completed a study
on Nunavut fisheries. Now, we are travelling to the Western Arctic and hearing from people on both of those topics.
We will then be going on to Alaska later today to talk to the Americans about how their Coast Guard works with our
Coast Guard, and how their fisheries in the future might compare to our fisheries, and so we are interested in both of
I want to introduce the senators who are here with us — Senator Cook is from Newfoundland and Labrador,
Senator Greene Raine is from British Columbia, Senator Hubley is from Prince Edward Island, and Senator Cochrane,
who is vice-chair of the committee, is also from Newfoundland and Labrador. You can see that all of us are coastal
people from one coast of Canada or the other, and we are very interested in visiting this coast and seeing how life is up
here and how work and work experiences are as well.
Before I start with the witnesses, I want to outline the day so that we are clear. We are going to hear this morning
from the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board, the Gwich'in Tribal Council and then the Sahtu Renewable Resources
Board. After lunch, we will hear from the Inuvialuit and the Sahtu Secretariat.
We are open to a town hall meeting at 2:30 this afternoon, which really means that anybody who wants to talk to us
can, and we are hoping that people in the community or from nearby communities will come and give us their personal
experience and views.
After the town hall meeting, we depart the hotel for a visit to DFO, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and we
will be leaving for the airport at five o'clock and going on to Juneau. That is the lineup for the day.
I would first like to welcome the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board, represented by Amy Thompson, who is the
executive director, and the Gwich'in Tribal Council, represented by Mary Ann Ross, who is the vice president, and
Mardy Semmler, the lands manager.
We would ask you to give us your presentations first, and then we will go to questions.
Mary Ann Ross, Vice-President, Gwich'in Tribal Council: Good morning. I am the vice president of the Gwich'in
Tribal Council. I would also like to introduce Mardy Semmler beside me, who is our lands manager. Lawrence Norbert
is in the audience. He is our acting chief operating officer and communications adviser.
I would like to welcome the Senate committee to the Gwich'in Settlement Area and hope that you have a very good
session while you are here and safe travels.
First of all, who are we?
The Chair: Would it be easier if we had some of the lights down? Is that possible?
Ms. Ross: Just to draw your attention to the slide show, who are we?
The Gwich'in Tribal Council, GTC, was established in 1992 with the signing of the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land
Claim Agreement, GCLCA, and is the Aboriginal organization that represents the Gwich'in participants of the
Gwich'in Settlement Area, which is the GSA, and all Gwich'in participants in the Northwest Territories, Canada and
The GTC established designated Gwich'in organizations within each of the four Gwich'in communities of Fort
McPherson, Inuvik, Aklavik and Tsiigehtchic in the GSA that represent each of their Gwich'in participants at the
This is the map of the GSA and then the Gwich'in communities. There is Inuvik, Tsiigehtchic, Fort McPherson and
The GTC has established the lands, resources and implementation department within the GTC Aboriginal
organization to ensure that provisions of the land claim agreement are being implemented. The mandate of the lands,
resources and implementation department is to administer, manage and implement the provisions under the GCLCA.
This includes the right to participate in decision making concerning the use, management and conservation of the land,
water and resources.
Regarding Coast Guard and maritime issues, specifically the role of the Coast Guard, the GSA is not within the
marine environment. However, Tsiigehtchic, Aklavik and Inuvik are within the GSA and have concerns with regard to
navigable waters. Specifically, the Coast Guard is to ensure the residents of Tsiigehtchic, Aklavik and Inuvik have safe
travel routes marked appropriately for travel between the communities and the coastal area of Shallow Bay, Shingle
Point and Herschel Island so they may continue their traditional harvesting activities of fishing and hunting along
rivers and coastal waters.
Concerning Canada's Northern Strategy, the GTC is in support of Canada's Northern Strategy and sovereignty of
the Arctic waters but would like to be more involved in decision making with regard to projects and programs,
including economic opportunities and benefits, that involve all waters throughout the GSA and/or where decisions
may impact Gwich'in rights as per the land claim agreement.
On the issue of climate change, the GTC is in support of continued research of the environment to track changes
that may be attributed to climate change, and requests increased participation to build local community capacity. The
GTC reminds the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that the Gwich'in Council International is very involved
with climate change and adaptation.
Fisheries co-management and integrated management. How is DFO ensuring that waters that flow from upstream
sources are not contaminating downstream waters, fish and fish habitat, including water quality and quantity that flow
through the GSA, including the Mackenzie and Peel Rivers which eventually flow into the Beaufort Sea?
Fisheries species including inconnu, which is coney, whitefish, Dolly Varden char and herring are important fish to
the Gwich'in and continued research of these species are important to ensure the long-term existence and health of
Fish habitat studies should be continued throughout the GSA, the N.W.T., Yukon and Canada to ensure upstream
sources are not contaminating downstream waters that the Gwich'in use for traditional and cultural purposes such as
fishing and wildlife harvesting.
Scientific research and community-based monitoring. DFO is responsible for enforcement of federal regulations, the
federal Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Water, fish and the wildlife that use the waters are of
major importance to the Gwich'in culture.
Community-based monitoring programs are required to ensure fish, fish habitat and water quality are not being
impacted by upstream and local sources. Resources, including funding and training, are required to develop these
community-based monitoring programs.
The GTC recommends that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans conduct joint research programs with other
federal departments and the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board that are responsible for water, water quality and
wildlife studies. This includes all-encompassing research projects being completed rather than piecemeal with each
federal department conducting their own individual projects as this will not only save resources, but build capacity at
the community level by having participants become involved in complete watershed studies, including the fish and
wildlife that use these areas.
The N.W.T. water strategy. The GTC is a member of the N.W.T. Aboriginal steering committee assisting in the
development of the proposed N.W.T. water strategy. How is DFO going to be involved in the implementation of the
proposed N.W.T. water strategy?
That concludes our presentation.
Amy Thompson, Executive Director, Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board: Good morning. I am the executive
director for the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board, GRRB, and previous to being the executive director, I was their
I am from Inuvik, from this area, but I was raised in Halifax and have the background of working for Fisheries and
Oceans at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.
I would like to start the presentation by giving a bit of background. I know Mary Ann went into this.
We have a land claim in the Gwich'in Settlement Area. It was signed in 1992. The agreement covers over 56,000
square kilometres and the communities highlighted on the map there, as Mary Ann indicated previously in her
presentation — Inuvik, Aklavik, Tsiigehtchic and Fort McPherson — each have their own renewable resource
The Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board was established under the land claim as a public board to be the main
instrument for wildlife, fisheries and forest management within the Gwich'in Settlement Area. Our mission is to
conserve and manage renewable resources within the Gwich'in Settlement Area in a sustainable manner to meet the
needs of the public today as well as in the future.
We do operate using co-management under the land claim, and I would just like to highlight that this is a really
good example of government working with Aboriginal peoples.
On the board itself, we have appointed board members. We have members from the Government of the Northwest
Territories, the Gwich'in Tribal Council, Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and then we have a
staff of six. Within our staff, we have a fisheries biologist and a wildlife biologist as well as a renewable resource
manager. The communications position is vacant right now, but we have an office manager and then my position.
Just to highlight some of the key responsibilities that we hold under the land claim, a lot of our work is concentrated
right now on management planning. We have powers to build and approve management plans, and approve
designation of conservation areas and the listing of endangered species. We also have a research capability to work
with government and responsibilities to establish consultation policies and provide advice to government.
For management planning, one of the issues I would like to bring to your attention is that of the Dolly Varden char.
It is a resource we have been working with for the past 15 years.
We participate on a Rat River working group. This group is managing the char population in the Rat River and
members include our office — our chair is actually the chair of that group as well — fisheries joint management
committees, Aklavik Renewable Resource Council, Fort McPherson Renewable Resource Council, Aklavik Hunters
and Trappers Committee and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
This group in the past, when populations have declined, had instituted a voluntary closure on the population which
was successful and had full community support and compliance. I wanted to highlight that as a really good model of
how we can manage local natural resources.
Another initiative we are taking for the Dolly Varden char is we are working on developing an integrated
management plan for all the populations west of the Mackenzie River, and those are our attempts to precede the
COSEWIC, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, process. They are considering listing Dolly
Varden, and the Species At Risk Act has a responsibility to acknowledge any existing plans, so those are our efforts to
have that in place ahead of time.
We are also working to make sure that we have traditional knowledge incorporated into these processes, and again,
it is a great example of effective integrated management of a shared local natural resource, and DFO should continue
to work with the GRRB on these types of initiatives.
We strongly support community-based monitoring programs. DFO should continue to work jointly with the GRRB
on these types of projects and note that resources and training are required to develop these programs.
With COSEWIC, specifically to the listing, the status report on Dolly Varden char, we had some concerns with the
process and that they need to acknowledge that there are existing land claim agreements in place, and we need to be
engaged more and ensure that effective consultation is taken prior to the status report distribution. We also need to
ensure that there is enough traditional knowledge included in these reports.
We do conduct our own research.
The Chair: Excuse me, is everybody familiar with COSEWIC? Yes?
Ms. Ross: We do conduct our own research and we do this in partnership with renewable resource councils and the
local Fisheries and Oceans Canada office. In some of our more recent work, we put together a traditional knowledge
report for the Rat River char, and we did a five-year assessment of the Travaillant Lake population. We are also
working on putting together a systematic method to identify research priorities with our communities and other
Gwich'in organizations, and we recommend that Fisheries and Oceans Canada work with us as well when they are
developing their research priorities, national as well as regional.
Last year, we completed a gap analysis of research within the Gwich'in Settlement Area. This report is available for
download on our website. It includes recommendations for areas that should require more research.
We also have a role in reviewing applications for research from DFO as well as the Aurora Research Institute, and
we have our own wildlife studies fund that funds research within our area and which falls under our mandate.
Again, we feel DFO should continue to work with the GRRB on collaborative research projects, and I would like to
note that we have a really good relationship with the Inuvik area office. We work closely with them. However, the
DFO science office is located in Winnipeg, the Central and Arctic Region, and the scientists who do work in the
Gwich'in Settlement Area report to the Winnipeg office and not to the DFO Inuvik office, so we feel that sometimes
there is a little bit of miscommunication there. We feel a DFO science position located in Inuvik would help reduce this
concern that we have. That person could work with our communities and be a liaison person between the Winnipeg
and Inuvik offices.
Again, DFO should consider the GRRB's research priorities when setting national and territorial priorities.
We consult regularly with the renewable resource councils and produce, develop and draft rules and procedures for
consultation. The reason we develop these is we want to make sure that we are doing the best we can with consultation
with the communities in the Gwich'in Settlement Area.
The specific topics included in these policies include research, wildlife and habitat management, which includes
fisheries, limiting harvest, traditional sharing and advice to government. We began developing them last year in
November and we hope to have them approved at our upcoming October board meeting.
Just to note, DFO was included in providing comments on the policies as well, and these policies outline how we
worked closely with different organizations and how we should be consulting, so we would like to request that DFO
consider these when they are looking at consulting with the GRRB or Gwich'in institutions.
Another area that we wanted to highlight to the committee is the Fisheries Act renewal. If this does go back for
renewal, we would like to ensure that the GRRB is fully recognized and respected for our legal arrangements that are
under the land claim agreement for fisheries management.
Again, funding, we do operate under a fixed budget and, with increasing demands, we need to seek outside financial
assistance, so it would be appreciated if DFO would continue to consider the GRRB when developing strategies for
fisheries management and research in the GSA.
Some of the specific issues that you outlined are maritime issues and the role of the Coast Guard. The Gwich'in do
have a right to be involved in marine harvesting in the Inuvialuit area and we just wanted to note that.
There is an integrated oceans management plan for the Beaufort Sea. We have an observer seat on the regional
coordination committee and our interest in that is looking at making sure that there are no changes to fishing rights as
well as the migratory and anadromous fish species that occupy both regions.
There are marine safety needs within the Gwich'in Settlement Area, such as boating fatalities. For climate change,
we are going to face a lot of implications for natural resource managers in Canada's North, and we need government to
lead some work that will provide understanding of these implications, such as adaptation strategies.
For Canada's Northern Strategy, we are content with the commitments, but we again would like to ensure that the
GRRB is consulted on the strategy and included in the commitments for the strategy.
Regarding the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project, we were involved in this through the joint review panel hearings as
an intervener, and our interests are just ensuring sustainability and conservation.
That concludes my presentation.
The Chair: How extensive is — extensive is probably not the word. How is local knowledge appreciated and
included and respected as opposed to science? What is the relationship? Is it given the consideration you think it should
Ms. Thompson: I would like to go back to the example with the Rat River char. In that situation, I think it is
respected. We developed that working group from community concerns with fish populations, and we are working on
including the traditional knowledge in the report. We are working on a report to document the traditional knowledge
that we want to be included into any of the regulatory processes.
But in that process, every year we meet and at that meeting there is representation from each of the main user
communities, and from that meeting, we make recommendations on how we would like to manage the population for
the upcoming season.
Then from that, we do community consultation. We will hold a public meeting with each community to give an
opportunity for community members to raise their concerns, and then we take that into consideration.
The Chair: How does it work with the above?
Ms. Thompson: With science specifically? I see that as being maybe one of the disconnects. I think DFO is putting
together a report to collect all of the existing traditional knowledge available, so that is one initiative that I think is
good, but I cannot think of other ones off the top of my head.
The Chair: This is an issue all across the North really. I know something about Labrador and the same thing applies
there. There is traditional knowledge and then there is science. Not just in Labrador but in the other Eastern provinces,
there is local knowledge and then there is science, and that balance has always interested me and how we are dealing
Are we dealing with it adequately? Can you comment a little more on it? You use the word ``disconnect'', but is the
disconnect being connected?
Ms. Thompson: I think we are working closer towards it but there still needs to be work there. We have a close
relationship, like I mentioned, with the Fisheries and Oceans Canada office here in Inuvik, and they respect the local
knowledge and try to work closely with the communities.
With the Winnipeg office, I do not see them working so much on obtaining priorities from communities, but that is
one of the things I wanted to try and work with them on, and maybe this Senate committee can help make that happen
We are working hard on identifying specific research priorities from the community and maybe that is a way we can
try to communicate with the Winnipeg science office. But right now, we are not really distilling that information back
and forth as much as we should.
The Chair: The other question I had was about CanNor, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency,
and your relationship with CanNor and your expectations from CanNor and your use of CanNor. I have been struck
by the fact that it is there, and you said you supported the Northern Strategy.
CanNor is an important part of that Northern Strategy, it seems to me, and a lot of the former programs of INAC,
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, have been devolved to CanNor and there are other programs there too for
economic development and so on.
Do you see this as a prime resource for you to access funds to do the things you want to do? Are you sufficiently
involved with the CanNor process? Do you expect to make use of it, and if so, how?
Ms. Thompson: We are not familiar with the process.
The Chair: I see. Primarily, it is for economic development plus it is for the implementation of the Northern
Strategy. As I understand it, it corresponds to the same kind of process on the Atlantic coast, ACOA, the Atlantic
Canada Opportunities Agency, and the Department of Western Economic Diversification. CanNor is in that same
class and it is there to implement the government strategy and for people to take advantage of.
I just wondered how you expected to take advantage of it. Perhaps, if you like, you could get back to us on that,
have a look at it and give us some more information as to how you see it because I think that is very interesting, very
important for the Arctic.
Senator Hubley: Thank you and welcome. It is great to see you and it is a pleasure to be here.
I have a supplementary to Senator Rompkey's question. I noted that, on your board, you have a wildlife biologist.
What is your total capacity for doing scientific information within your community and how do you liaise with the
head office in Winnipeg?
Ms. Thompson: Currently, our capacity is not very large since we are in the process of filling a fisheries biologist
position. We have one but they are not starting until January, but once that position is filled, we will have somewhat of
a capacity to do our own research.
We have done numerous projects in the past but our concentration right now is really on fisheries management and
getting management plans and those into effect first before we concentrate more on research.
I see a relationship maybe growing with the Winnipeg office since the person we will be filling that position with is
currently working on finishing her master's degree in the Winnipeg DFO office, so it may be improving in the future.
Senator Hubley: I am wondering if you might share with us what the community's feeling on climate change is. We
certainly hear a lot about climate change, but sometimes it is viewed a little differently in the communities. Some may
feel that it is just a natural cycle, and I am wondering, within your community, how climate change is viewed.
Ms. Thompson: From meetings that I have attended and different conferences specific to climate change in which
community members have participated, I have heard lots of concerns about the changes they are seeing, even within
the last five, ten years. So it is, I believe, a big concern to them.
Senator Cochrane: Good morning, and I must say I am pleased to see three women at the table. It is lovely.
Amy, I am also pleased that you took the initiative to go outside and become a biologist and to come back and work
for your people. I think that is very important. I hope that this is going to be the trend, because you people really know
what your people want and then you can come back and whatever you do in regard to your work, you can relate to
that more so than probably somebody from the outside. So I commend you.
Mary Ann, in your presentation, you recommended that DFO conduct joint research programs with other federal
departments. Can you give us a sense of what is happening now, and what problems you see with regard to the way
that research takes place now?
Mardy Semmler, Lands Manager, Gwich'in Tribal Council: I can comment. Basically now, funding is allocated to
each of the different federal departments for research and so then each research team has their own programs that they
want to conduct research on. Each federal department will do what is under their mandate.
Then you get researchers coming in at different times of the year to do different programming so the community
sees people on a one-off kind of situation over the course of the year.
But if they worked collaboratively together with other federal departments and were put together like watershed
studies or complete — I guess what we are trying to say is if there are complete studies, like all-encompassing studies
and not just individual studies, then maybe the funding could be stretched a little bit further. We could get more
community capacity developed for people at the community level, and more understanding at the community level of
what everybody is doing, rather than just seeing people coming in one-off.
They do consultations for this and then they come back. Another department will come in and do consultations for
something else and so on, and people are just getting tired of meetings every two weeks or something from different
If they worked together collaboratively, it would save costs if you are coming in all at once, save time for the people
at the community level and, on top of that, bring more understanding for the whole series of studies that they are
doing, that they could work together. That is basically what we are trying to recommend.
Senator Cochrane: Do you see that happening? Is it going to happen?
Ms. Semmler: Well, not really. It is not happening because, like I said, each federal department has its own mandate,
right? Environment Canada is responsible for the air and water, and then DFO is responsible for fisheries and habitat
management, and the wildlife divisions are responsible for wildlife studies, so each different federal department is
doing different studies under their own mandates.
Ms. Thompson: I think a good example too is with water quality and quantity studies. At our office, as I mentioned,
we go to the communities and talk about research priorities, and that is one that always comes up as a concern.
I did some research in trying to figure out who is responsible for water quality and it seems there are so many
different departments that have responsibilities there, and the concerns at the community level are not being addressed.
INAC has a responsibility there, then there is the Water Survey of Canada and Environment Canada as well. There
are all these different departments, and one suggestion that we were looking into but, then again, would require
resources is to try to coordinate a regional meeting to get all of the bodies together to discuss that issue with members
of the community, and then people could identify at the meeting, well, that is our responsibility, we can deal with that.
Senator Cochrane: That is different. That is a difficult issue. Let me talk about the Mackenzie pipeline.
The Chair: INAC is supposed to be the lead department on the Northern Strategy, so is INAC doing coordination
with other departments? Is that happening or not?
Ms. Ross: I just want to say thank you to Mardy for answering that question. Mardy works as a lands manager, so
she does hands-on work in these areas. I oversee the department so I am not fully involved with all of the processes;
currently, we just hired a director of lands, resources and implementation, but he is now on duty travel, but if he were
here, I am certain that he would also answer the questions.
I want to divert from your question and move over to something else that you brought up previously about
traditional knowledge. The Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute has a traditional knowledge policy, and the GNWT,
Government of the Northwest Territories, currently developed their own traditional policy, and we also conducted a
traditional knowledge study for the Mackenzie Gas Project prior to this. It took almost a couple of years to develop
For a long time, science never really appreciated the traditional knowledge of Aboriginal peoples, and I think it is
coming around to that now, and I am glad to see that.
In regard to CanNor, I think it would be good if they came to Inuvik. I understand that they have just recently set
up offices in Yellowknife and Iqaluit, so it would be good for them to come and share, tell us what their roles and
responsibilities are, and how they can help us with the process.
I think Amy touched on the number of meetings that have taken place in the community, and certainly the joint
review panel has taken more than its fair share because it is a lengthy process.
I agree with us working together to share within these meetings to go to the communities because we are
overburdening our people. I know that we have our own processes as well, and we want those processes to be number 1
in our communities because we are doing our own self-government process.
We have to consult with our communities and sometimes we are overshadowed by all of these other groups, so I
think it is important that we all work together or else we will not have the audience in our community.
The Chair: Let us just continue to focus on the whole idea of coordination. As I understand it from the briefing
notes, INAC was to be the lead government department on the Northern Strategy for coordination purposes.
What I hear you saying is that you had to deal with all sorts of different agencies and that is true all across the
country, to one degree or another, but the North is a special area and a special entity.
Would the idea of a Department of the Arctic make any sense if somehow either INAC provided a coordinating
strategy or the government put in place a Department of the Arctic? Would any of that make some sense?
I am just trying to explore ideas as to how things are coordinated so it makes it easier for you because you have a lot
of different organizations too. You have the tribal councils and other structures and it becomes very complicated after
a while. What do you think of that?
Ms. Semmler: There was discussion with a working group for the development of an N.W.T. research facility based
up here in Inuvik or in the GSA or the ISR, Inuvialuit Settlement Region, to coordinate research done in the Western
Arctic area and the marine environment but, obviously, that funding went to the East and we basically got piecemeal
to upgrade the facilities up here. The whole issue behind that was to try to have a coordinated centre up in the
Mackenzie Delta area.
The funding that we got was for sure a new facility for the research centre and then other piecemeal dollars to put to
upgrade other facilities within the regions. I do not know how and where they are going with the new facility, and how
they are going to evolve that into, hopefully, a Western Arctic research centre for coordinating all the research activity
in the Mackenzie Delta and the marine environment.
Senator Raine: Following up on that, could you just explain the facility you are talking about? Just explain further
this facility. Is this under the Gwich'in management or is this DFO?
Ms. Semmler: No, it is under the GNWT now because it is the Aurora Research Institute main facility, and that is
where all the research licensing goes through. They are the conduit to do all the research licensing within the N.W.T.,
so all the applications go through them.
Everybody who is going to be conducting research in the Northwest Territories goes through the Aurora Research
Institute and they distribute it for review and then it goes back to them. You provide your comments and then it goes
back to them.
The facility they are using was built in the early 1960s, and basically it has outlived its lifetime and they are looking
to upgrade to a newer facility. The vision prior to them giving the funding for a new facility was an all-encompassing
facility so that researchers could also have a space to go and coordinate with other research groups.
It is always a concern, like I said, that everybody is doing their own research, so if you have one centre that
everybody goes through, it would be easier on everybody, and you would have one place rather than everybody going
through their own different department.
Senator Raine: Do I hear the conduit for coordinating the research that is done in this traditional territory here is the
Aurora Research Institute?
Ms. Semmler: Yes.
Senator Raine: And you would really have it somewhere in that conduit that you have input and some kind of
control over what gets studied so you could do watershed-based research rather than piecemeal?
Ms. Semmler: I guess that is one point, but like I said, all the research is so ad hoc. I could get 30 research
applications in one week, and then nothing for a couple of weeks, and then another swarm of them.
So who is working together? Are they working together doing their research or are they just doing their own
individual interests, and not even interests from the communities that we want studied, but their own interests from
their universities and what they want to study.
Senator Raine: Could you set priorities and have a proposal call that goes out to the research world saying this is
what we will approve studies on?
Ms. Semmler: I guess when Amy touched on the gap analysis, they received funding from CIMP, the Cumulative
Impact Monitoring Program, and to do the gap analysis, to see what was studied and then now what is needed, so
maybe that is a start. We have to start pushing what is needed and what has to be ongoing.
Senator Raine: I think, as a committee, we can certainly say it is very impressive what you are doing here, and I think
most of us believe that the more localized the decisions can be, the better it is going to be for the environment and for
The Chair: One thing we have to focus on in the report is the diverse research that is going on and the overall
coordination, not just of research but of projects and so on. It seems to me that it is scattered all over and there must be
some way of bringing it all together and having you set some priorities.
Senator Hubley: Do the same issues apply when you are gathering traditional knowledge, or is that more of an
organized community-based reaching-out application? Are there gaps in that process as well? Just tell us how you do it.
Ms. Thompson: There are two things here. There is traditional knowledge within the Gwich'in Settlement Area
organizations that we do on our own, that we see as a priority that would come from the community concern, and I
think that process is good. Then there are also researchers and university students who want to do research and collect
traditional knowledge so they go through their Aurora Research Institute process as well. But, in addition, they need to
get permission from the Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute, GSCI, that Mary Ann mentioned before that has the
traditional knowledge policy through the GTC. Before they get granted their application, the GSCI needs to approve it
and they need to have an ethical review and consent forms developed and questionnaires reviewed.
There have been instances where our office has been really involved in helping students develop their questionnaires,
as we have seen them and they did not seem to really fit with what was ideal, so then all of the organizations would
work together with those researchers, and it worked well in those instances.
But for us, the GRRB, we do not necessarily get all of those applications unless they are also doing something with
wildlife or fisheries, so those applications go through the designated Gwich'in organizations. The renewable resource
councils that we work closely with do not see them either. We have requested that we get all applications just in case
some of them include wildlife or fisheries management or research.
Ms. Semmler: The Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute I think is the only Aboriginal organization in the
Northwest Territories that has its own TK, traditional knowledge, policy, and I have shared it with other Aboriginal
groups for them to look to in developing their own TK policy — because it is always an issue on how it has been
collected and how it has been used. A lot of Aboriginal organizations that are established now do not have their own,
so kind of like a recommendation. We are happy to share our policies with other Aboriginal organizations so that they
can look to developing their own.
Another issue that we have with regards to research within the GSA — not only the GSA, I guess it is all over — is
that when they conduct their research and complete their projects and go back to the rest of Canada, we never hear
back from them. They never come back to explain what they have completed, what they have found and
recommendations for further future studies or what else we could do to assist in ensuring that the environment and the
land are being carefully being looked after and carefully monitored.
Senator Hubley: When they are given permission to do a study, would that be something that you might include,
that this is one of the requirements?
Ms. Semmler: It is a requirement, but how do you follow up when they are out there all in left field and who knows
where they have gone after they finished their university study in conjunction with another federal department. You
could try to track, but a lot of it is information that is not really relevant to us up here anyway.
Like I said, they do their own studies to get their master's degrees and stuff like that so they are developing their own
Senator Hubley: Own ideas.
Ms. Semmler: Yes, exactly.
Senator Hubley: Yes, it kind of crossed my mind that they have an agenda, they are coming with an agenda. Perhaps
they have already decided what the answers to their questions are.
I am not sure how studies are conducted, but I think it would be prudent on your part to be careful of a lot of that
information, to make sure that it does reflect what your peoples' thinking is. That is my only comment on that.
Senator Cochrane: The Mackenzie pipeline, there are many communities that are involved in this. I want to know
what percentage of the main pipeline would the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, APG, own. Who are the members of the
APG and are there Aboriginal groups that have yet to decide whether or not they are going to participate?
Ms. Ross: Currently, our chair of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group is our former president of the Gwich'in Tribal
Council, Fred Carmichael, and I think 33 per cent would be the ownership and all of the members are from the major
regions, the Gwich'in, the Inuvialuit, the Sahtu and I believe — I am not exactly sure but I think the Dehcho are
coming on board as well. They have had some difficulties, but I am really not clear on that right now. So those are the
Senator Cochrane: When do you expect the joint review panel to release its final report?
Ms. Ross: Well, that has been a difficult thing to pinpoint. They oftentimes say this date and then they change it, and
I am sure you are aware that even the chair trumped the minister on when the report would be due, which was kind of
going over his head. That is how I saw it.
Apparently, some time in December we are hoping, perhaps January. It is often changing, so your guess is as good
Senator Cochrane: Tell me, what are the implications of this group on commercial shipping along the Mackenzie
River and into the Beaufort Sea? What will happen to the commercial fishing?
Ms. Ross: Well, we know that there are going to be large pieces of equipment coming up so I am sure it is going to be
There is no commercial fishing. We just do harvesting. Around this time of year, August, people are fishing to make
dry fish and smoked fish and split fish, but there is no commercial fishing.
I was out at a camp last year, I will give you an example of what I experienced. There was a huge NTCL barge
travelling by the camp and it was loaded with everything, heavy equipment, containers, all sorts of things. It took a
while for it to pass and it had to detour around the buoys because of the build-up of the sand in areas, so that is a
problem right there.
Oftentimes, boaters have to divert around big sand bars because of the sediment that is building up over time, and
oftentimes they move as well with, I guess, the flow of the water and then the ice. When the ice breaks up, it moves out
so it kind of moves things around.
Senator Cochrane: I was talking about the commercial shipping. I think I said commercial fishing, did I not? I meant
Would this pipeline construction result in more ship movement and barge traffic? You said you have seen some of it.
Will there be more?
Ms. Thompson: I think the larger pieces of pipe will probably be shipped by boat. I think over time, they will start
I will give you another example. We are building a school in the centre of the town. I spoke to the contractor of
Dowland's yesterday and they are bringing up about 60 trucks full of building materials. He needed a storage facility
right away to store this so we allowed him to store on one of our properties in the industrial area.
You can imagine 60 vehicles coming up the highway with building materials and the highway is always under repair
because of the wear and tear that these vehicles have on the roads.
We travel to the smaller areas, to Tsiigehtchic or to Fort McPherson, or we go down the Dempster Highway as well,
so it is not an enjoyable trip when you are running over potholes. There is quite a bit of wear and tear, and I can
imagine that there will be a lot of transportation by boat, by vehicle as well.
Ms. Semmler: I know under the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project, they have identified using the marine shipping
route to transport their modules for the facilities here and for the building of the pipeline, so that would entail dredging
in the river in the east channel. There are concerns with regard to the impacts of the dredging and, not only that, of the
big barges going by in the small river where people are going to their traditional harvesting areas or their camps on the
river and concerns about what it may do safety-wise. Not only that, the waves after the big boats go by there in the
small rivers are quite large so there is erosion and then just the dredging, so I make that comment.
Senator Cochrane: So it is going to really affect the whole area?
Ms. Semmler: I do not know how it is going to affect it but I know it is a concern. From dredging, yes, I am sure
there will be effects.
The Chair: Generally, do you feel that you have enough input into the development of the pipeline? It is going to
affect your life one way or another. Are you apprehensive about it? Do you see it as a positive thing? Generally, how do
you feel about the coming of the pipeline?
Senator Cochrane: Honestly.
Ms. Ross: Well, I think it has been a long time. Certainly, I am sure my grandparents sat at the table and provided
many comments to the Berger Inquiry, and a lot of our relatives have sat there and we are their grandchildren, so we
are sitting here now. So you can imagine, it has been a long time.
Sometimes I think it feels like a pipe dream, like it is close but so far away that you can almost touch it but you are
not sure. It has been a really long process.
We believe in controlled development so we will have our say in processes that will happen. We are concerned about
the environment. We are concerned about our people, but the thing is that a lot of our people have moved away from
People are going back. I can see that because we do have a Gwich'in harvesters' assistance program that is
constantly in demand. There are more part-time harvesters than there are full time, but because of the economic
downturn, we are seeing a trend where there are more people harvesting now, so that is a concern.
But certainly we will benefit from it, and we need the benefits to continue on in the future to build up our wealth so
that we are taking care of the future children; we are not just thinking about now, us, our present, but we are thinking
about the future generations to come. We need to have the financial resources to put together the programs and
services that they are going to draw on.
We want independent people. Certainly, through our self-government process, that is one thing that we keep saying.
For a long time, government has made Aboriginal people dependent on them for financial resources, to live through
income support, which is like welfare, housing, all of those things. I can see now that a lot of the younger generation is
more educated, more self-sufficient, owning their own homes and I think we need to promote that within our own
Aboriginal governments, and if we have the resources there, we can help them.
The Chair: I hear you saying that you think you are going to benefit from this.
Ms. Ross: Yes, we will benefit, definitely.
The Chair: But you have concerns. It is a mixed blessing in a way.
Ms. Ross: Yes, it is a mixed blessing. I think all development is a mixed blessing. It is great to have these things, but I
know that there are going to be impacts, certainly on the social side.
We are dealing with issues now with a lot of drugs in our community, and there is really not much development
going on right now, but the drug trade seems to be flourishing, which is too bad, because we have a lot of great people
here who can do a lot of great things, but if they are dependent on that drug, what are they go going to do but ruin
themselves and their families?
So yes, there is the good and the bad side of it but we also have done a lot of research. We have just completed our
Mackenzie Gas Project Social Economic Impact Fund and we are waiting for the government to kick in the money so
that we can start implementing social programs to help our people.
Our own people have said to us, do not wait for the government, get started on it. So we have to find the financial
resources to get these things going.
We have a wonderful wellness centre just 15 kilometres outside of Inuvik where we can put on many programs, and
the people who have gone through programs there love it out there. They say it is good to be there. It is close to the
land. They feel at peace and they come out feeling a lot better.
The thing is, we need to continually have programs out there so that people can continually get the help they need.
The Chair: Now, land claims was supposed to provide control for you. Do you feel that you have adequate control?
I understand the mixed blessing but do you feel you have adequate control mechanisms?
Ms. Ross: I think so. I think Aboriginal governments have come a long way over the years. Often, way back in the
days when our grandparents were fighting for our rights, certainly they had a lot of struggles and I think the land claim
has helped us advance ourselves.
In this area, you are going to be speaking to two of the strongest Aboriginal governments in the North, the Gwich'in
and the Inuvialuit. Oftentimes, we are looked at to be the lead people. We often lead the way in many areas and I am
proud of that, and we do have strong leadership.
Senator Cook: You need to help me understand some of the things that I heard in your report. I want to try to focus
on why we are here. We are here to look at the role of the Coast Guard and its responsibility and we are here to look
after your waters.
You have a co-management board. Maybe you can write down these several questions. I would like to know how
you are funded. I see you have a fishery-forestry biologist, a wildlife biologist. I assume they are from the government,
but you also have your own independent biologist. I would like to know how you found them.
You have an independent research capability you have worked on, and you are saying that your powers need to be
acknowledged and respected by government. So is there a gap there?
You exercise your powers using co-management, which I think is wonderful, and DFO is part of that group. Then
you go on to say that the board has an independent research capability and there is a biologist as part of that group, so
is this the person you are talking about that you have not put in place yet?
You are saying that DFO should work with you to identify joint research priorities to avoid duplication. From your
presentation, there are a lot of people in this mix and nobody seems to be coordinating the results or anything. At some
point in time, there has to be a leader, and for me personally, I think it has to be the people on the land who live here.
I heard or read in your presentation that decisions would impact on Gwich'in rights. I would like to hear an example
of what decisions could be made that would impact on your rights, given that you are all part of this management
board, if you could not resolve it there.
I hear that research is being done and lots of it by lots of people, but it is not coordinated. Who do you see as the
coordinator? I know you have lots of summer students doing research projects and you never hear from them again,
but is it possible to write something in? Do they have to get a licence or something or other for them to go out and do
Your co-management board works by consensus. I assume it is the consensus of the people around the table, so if
you have a dispute, how do you resolve it? Do you have a dispute mechanism?
How robust is all this research? I see it as fragmented except for, from my own perspective, this board as an
independent research capability and as DFO. Then I saw that DFO should respect these policies, so I am trying to
simplify it in my head.
If you have this board and you all sit at a table, I would think that you would resolve these kinds of things with each
other, and if not, what are the stopgaps that we can put in place or offer that would bring that about?
You need a more integrated approach to science and yes, you do. You do not want two people examining the same
thing or place or whatever. How do you see that happening?
I think the board has the right mix of people there, but there has to be a mechanism for accountability and
responsibility, and if I hear you correctly, that seems to be the loose link.
The United States has disagreed on how to divide the Beaufort Sea, and it includes a section of your settlement
claim. In July, the U.S. placed a moratorium on all commercial fishing in the Beaufort Sea, and I guess the Arctic
region, if you want to call it that, and it includes that disputed zone. Are you aware of this? If so, what are your views
on this and what should Canada be doing? Is that important?
Now, you will have helped me tremendously if you —
The Chair: There are a lot of questions there.
Senator Cook: I know, but I am only here for a short while, trying to understand that which you have lived all your
lives, and your people before you.
The Chair: Why not start with the last one?
Ms. Semmler: I think a lot of the issues and questions that the Senator has brought up have to do with the renewable
resources board, so Amy can answer 95 per cent of them, but yes, the disputed area is in the ISR, it is not part of the
Gwich'in settlement region. So you can pose that question to the Inuvialuit when they come to the table this afternoon.
Senator Cook: Maybe I could kind of bring them together. Would the start be to ensure a strong relationship with
DFO? Are you telling me that there are gaps in your relationship with DFO and your council? I see them as a member.
Ms. Ross: Earlier, when Mardy talked about the reports not coming back from the scientists themselves, I was at the
North Slope Conference in Whitehorse a few years ago and the Inuvialuit have that process and I certainly enjoyed
being there. It brought together all of the scientists who were doing their research in that area, and they provided a
report back, and I thought it would be wonderful if we could develop that type of forum where scientists come together
once a year or every other year.
I know sometimes research can take a few years to complete, so they certainly have that process and that is
something I talked to the GRRB about at the last regional RRC, renewable resource council, meeting which was held
in Aklavik. Once a year, the renewable resource councils come together for their annual regional meeting, and certainly
I posed that question to the GRRB at the time.
But any process that you set up always needs money to fund it. So that is something that you have to think about. It
is great to say yes, we will work together and we will do all of this stuff together, but where is the money going to come
from to do that? So that is important to think about. The bottom line is where is the money coming from to do these
Certainly, it is a great process. I really learned a lot when I was there and I often thought about going back again,
but sometimes you cannot be everywhere all the time.
Ms. Thompson: I would like to state that our board is a public board so we act in the public interest, and our board
members are appointed from those different organizations. They do act in the public interest, and our Fisheries and
Oceans members specifically, they are retired from Fisheries and Oceans and I work very closely with them to try to
deal with some of these issues that we have.
As I mentioned, I think we are moving in a positive direction and working together better, but there still are some
gaps. I see most of them just being working together and the coordination part and trying to come up with joint
We develop our own priorities for research but then I believe there are national priorities all across Canada that are
developed that are more generic for how different regions are to do their research. When I look at those, I see there
being a big gap in what our priorities are, but I also acknowledge that they need to encompass the whole nation, so that
is one issue.
Then does the Central and Arctic Region work on their own research priorities for their biologists, and how can we
work together with them more effectively to make sure that we are working together and coming up with common
priorities? They do work in our area on important issues that we find we are concerned with, one being the Rat River
char situation that I explained.
We do work very closely with them and a lot of the researchers who are doing the work in the Rat River are coming
from Winnipeg and they do work with us and we appreciate that. They have to go through those processes and we have
input in those processes for application review as well.
As for the biologist question, at our office, we hire our own biologist. The fisheries biologist will be working with us
but then there are other biologists who work with our office from outside.
Senator Cook: Do you share information?
Ms. Thompson: Yes, we share information. Everything that we do, we have an obligation to make sure that anybody
who requests it has access to it, for research.
Senator Cook: As I understand your presentations, I think you have a board that is adequate at first look to do the
job for you that you would like to have done. The gap might be the implementation and the coordination of the
activities within the board.
If it is possible to strengthen the board, then I still see Environment Canada or Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the
people who are responsible for the governance of the land like you are under your land claims, to pull it together.
You receive no funding for your board?
Ms. Thompson: Sorry, I forgot that one. We receive implementation money from INAC. Each year, it is a little bit
over $700,000, so it is not too much.
I should note, we are able to fund some of our research internally sometimes through our wildlife studies fund that I
mentioned. When we were established, we took an amount of money and invested it, and the money that we generate
from the interest on that is used to put out a call for proposals for research. A lot of times what happens is there are
outside researchers coming in, but we make sure that whoever we are funding is in accordance with our mandate.
Sometimes our own biologist would apply for that fund as well, so that is a source of money but again it is not a lot.
In the last couple of years, we have had only $80,000 to distribute for funding.
Senator Cook: So you would favour a more integrated approach and adequate funding to support your needs, but
more so when you set your priorities. You can set your priorities 20 pages long if you like. You are going to have to
pick and choose but you must make sure you get enough money to do priority 1 or 2 that you settle on.
The Chair: Before we close, could you comment on the proposed road to Bathurst Inlet? Could you tell us where you
stand on the proposed road to Bathurst Inlet?
Ms. Semmler: The proposed road to Bathurst Inlet is outside of our area and we would have no issues or concerns
with it now. Economic opportunities maybe, if we set up in Yellowknife or something like that, but because it would go
north from Yellowknife through the mining country and then up to Nunavut.
Senator Raine: I see that, with respect to the Coast Guard and the marine safety needs within the Gwich'in
Settlement Area, for emergency response situations we have been reviewing this quite a bit with the Coast Guard and it
sounds like there could be some gaps here, and you mentioned boating fatalities. Is this a big problem? Obviously, one
fatality is already big.
Ms. Ross: Yes, we had some terrible accidents, fatalities, because of boating incidents that have happened, so it is a
really big concern. We have had a few drownings just down by our river here, a couple of youth had died, so it is
related to water. Yes, it is a concern.
Senator Raine: Are there any programs here? I know there are Coast Guard auxiliary people in various communities
and also Ranger programs in various communities. Do you have youth programs that get youth involved in search and
rescue, things like that?
Ms. Ross: I do not know about the search and rescue aspect of it, but I think now there is more programming that is
coming out. Certainly there are restrictions on operating a boat. You have to have a licence now. Yes, there is some
programming coming out.
Senator Raine: Do you think there is anything that the Coast Guard can do to help?
Ms. Ross: Oftentimes, we see them just docked down by the river. I do not know, we do not see them other than
when they are docking at the river or passing through, so I do not know.
It would be good if they could do something to help. If they are going to be here for a while, they could probably try
to put on some sort of programming.
Senator Raine: Water safety training, things like that?
Ms. Ross: Exactly.
Senator Cochrane: I want to go back to Amy. Does INAC fund your biologist?
Ms. Thompson: The funding we receive from INAC includes all of our positions, so it does include our biologist.
Senator Cochrane: That is what I wanted to clarify.
The Chair: Thank you very much. You have been very helpful to us. It is good for us to get your point of view.
There are a lot things happening, and it is kind of scary. It is on your land and it is going to affect you, so it is
important for us to hear from you and to try to relate your concerns, if we can, and reflect them in our report.
We are not a decision-making body as you know, but we do issue a report; we will send you a copy of that, and we
do send that report to the government, and the parliamentary rules are such that they reply within 90 days, or are
supposed to reply within 90 days.
We are pleased that they are going to be replying to our report on the Eastern Arctic on October 9, and that is good
to know. We are anxious to see what they say about what we said. We will be issuing a report on the Western Arctic as
well, and we will send you a copy of that and hope that we can be of some help in reflecting your views, so thank you
very much for being here.
Senators, our next witness is Jody Snortland Pellissey, executive director of the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board.
Jody, we would appreciate it if you give us your presentation, after which we will go to questions.
Jody Snortland Pellissey, Executive Director, Sahtu Renewable Resources Board: Thank you for the opportunity to
present to you today.
My name is Jody Snortland Pellissey. I have recently married so I am getting used to using that last name.
The Chair: Tell us a little bit about yourself before you start.
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: I have recently married a beneficiary of the Sahtu claim. We have a five-year old daughter
who is a beneficiary to the claim, so I am very passionate about talking on behalf of the Sahtu beneficiaries.
I ended up in the Sahtu by way of southern Alberta. I am a rancher's daughter, so a little bit of a different lifestyle,
but very much the same in that it is small-town life and I am very lucky to live where I live.
My background is in environmental science and I have been the executive director for the past eight years.
I will give you a little bit of background on the Sahtu region as well as the Sahtu board. Unfortunately, the Sahtu
Secretariat was unable to be here this morning. Ethel Blondin-Andrew and Howard Townsend will be presenting to
you this afternoon so I expect they will speak a bit more about the Sahtu at that time.
The Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement was settled in 1993, and as a result of that, our
board was created. We also are a co-management board.
This will sound somewhat repetitive of Amy's presentation this morning with the Gwich'in Renewable Resources
Board as our land claims are similar.
The Chair: When was the Gwich'in settled?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: In 1992.
The Chair: Gwich'in in 1992, Sahtu in 1993?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: So very similar land claims, the difference being that the Metis are also included in our land
claim and it is a different area, a much larger area.
We are dealing with approximately 283,000 square kilometres and we have five communities in our region, Colville
Lake, Fort Good Hope, Norman Wells, Tulita and Deline. For most of the year, we are a fly-in region. We have
availability movement-wise by plane or by boat and we do have a winter road three months of the year. Of course, that
is dependent on the climate and how it is for the winter.
Although we have a very large region, we have a small population.
The Chair: Before you go ahead, could you explain to us Dene-Metis? Who are the Metis?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: The Metis people are settlers, trappers or otherwise, who came in and settled down with
Dene women and now therefore are considered Metis and are part of the N.W.T. Metis Nation.
The Dene people are the Aboriginal First Nations people who reside in the Sahtu.
The Chair: So they are together, it is a united land claim, Dene-Metis?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: Yes. I would like to point out the significant features of the region. It is a very diverse
region. We have the Mackenzie Mountains, the Mackenzie Valley and barren lands up in the northeast corner. As well,
we have Great Bear Lake which is the largest lake fully within Canadian borders.
As I was going to mention, although it is a very large region, we have quite a small population. We have fewer than
3,000 people residing in the Sahtu Settlement Area.
The Sahtu Renewable Resources Board is a co-management board and our responsibilities are shared between
federal and territorial governments and Aboriginal beneficiaries and elders. We also act in the public interest. We are
an institution of public government.
Our board has a legislated mandate through the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement but
we work independently from government. We are the main instrument for wildlife and forest management in the Sahtu
and wildlife includes animals, birds and fish by definition.
Our board has valuable experience in elder-youth participation, public consultation, northern wildlife research
based on community priorities, and the effective integration of traditional knowledge and ecological management.
Our mission statement is to protect, conserve and manage all renewable resources in the Sahtu Settlement Area to
meet the needs of the public today and for future generations. How we explain this in the communities is that how we
use the animals, birds and fish and the forest today will affect what is available for tomorrow, for the future.
Our resource management responsibilities are quite varied. All of our powers and responsibilities are found in
chapters 13 and 14 of the land claim agreement. They are very similar to the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board in
that we review and approve management plans for wildlife populations and habitat. We establish policies and propose
and approve regulations for commercial harvesting and commercial activities related to wildlife.
It is important to note that, in the Sahtu region, there are no commercial fisheries existing today, but we do have
commercial activities related to fishing lodges and other wildlife outfitting in the mountains. Most of the fishing lodges
are around Great Bear Lake.
Our board is also responsible for approving the designation of endangered species in conservation areas. We are
responsible for reviewing proposed developments and providing comments relating back to wildlife and wildlife
habitat, and we regularly consult with our principal stakeholders, especially renewable resource councils.
The Chair: When you say include, do you have absolute control? Is it yea or nay?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: It is not yea or nay, no, but they do have to consult with the board and the board has to
approve of it.
If the board is not comfortable with a designation, then the organization does have to come back to the board to
make sure that we do end up with the support of whatever conservation area or endangered species. To date, there
have not been any concerns by the board on any designation that has been made.
I mentioned the renewable resource councils. Our renewable resource councils are in each community in the Sahtu.
They are the local wildlife management boards. They are there to encourage and promote local involvement in
conservation, wildlife research and management, to provide harvester assistance and to provide access to grass roots
The renewable resource councils have an advisory relationship with our board. Sahtu concerns, issues and findings
from renewable resource councils and our board are combined into recommendations for the appropriate organization
or government. This approach facilitates local input and consultation.
Renewable resource council responsibilities are established through the land claim agreement. However, it should be
noted that due to insufficient funding and lack of local capacity, RRCs are often prevented from fulfilling their own
An example of this, Fisheries and Oceans Canada provided the Deline Renewable Resources Council with a boat to
patrol Keith Arm, which was greatly appreciated, but unfortunately, the council does not have the dollars available to
hire staff to be able to man the boat. So local capacity is not always there and the funding is not always there to train
those local people.
The Chair: Could you just explain the renewable resource council?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: The renewable resource council is established through the land claim agreement. They are
the local wildlife managers, so in the Sahtu, we have five community renewable resource councils; each community has
one. They were formerly known as the hunters and trappers associations, HTAs.
The Chair: They are not a board, are they?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: No, they are a separate organization from the board. They have an advisory relationship
with our board.
The Chair: Advisory, okay.
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: Yes. It should be noted that training opportunities have been offered to the community
RRCs in the past by Fisheries and Oceans and other government agencies but often this training is very technical and
The Sahtu, Dene and Metis are stewards of the land, observing changes to ecosystems over lifetimes. The
communities have expressed a strong interest in monitoring land use activities to allow them to know what is
happening and to further develop their understanding of the changing environment.
Our recommendation to Fisheries and Oceans would be to work with communities, co-management boards and
government to identify monitoring priorities and aid in the development of a regional monitoring initiative.
Now, following the list of items that you were interested in hearing about, I will speak to some of them now.
The Coast Guard. Two items that the board felt were important, besides the navigable waters, are contingency plans
for fuel spills in the Mackenzie River. Last summer, near the community of Wrigley, there was a fuel spill. A barge ran
aground and there was a fuel spill.
We felt that there was a poor response by the Coast Guard as communities downstream were not notified of the
spill, and it took several weeks for clean-up of that spill. In fact, environment and natural resources, the Government
of the Northwest Territories agency, were the first to respond to the spill and were the ones who in fact informed our
board and the communities of the spill.
During this time of decreased development and decreased barge traffic, we thought that this would be an opportune
time for contingency plans to be developed.
The enforcement of commercial traffic is specific to Great Bear Lake in that one of the fishing lodges, Plummer's
Lodge, has a fuel barge that annually crosses the Great Bear Lake and there is no Coast Guard representative there to
check to make sure that that fuel barge is fitting all the requirements that are necessary to cross the lake. There are
community concerns about possible spills and leakage of that barge. It is a fairly old barge.
I would also like to point out the small boat traffic. As I said, we are a fly-in region so we are quite dependent on
small boat traffic. It is now a regulation to require a licence for boats that are over 10 feet long. Most boaters are not
aware of this ruling.
We understand that customs is responsible for this licensing. We feel that Fisheries and Oceans, customs and quite
likely the Coast Guard, that amongst those agencies there should be some kind of program to let local boaters know
that this licence is required and how they go about obtaining the licence as well as boating safety and those sorts of
The Chair: Is it customs or the Department of Transport? Maybe we could ask for some advice on the licensing.
Would senators agree if we asked somebody to come to the table and clarify the licensing, please, whichever person
is best suited to do that?
Mike Hecimovich, Area Director, Western Arctic Area, Central and Arctic Region, Fisheries and Oceans Canada:
Customs administration for Transport Canada is responsible for small vessels, and I think you are referring to
operator proficiency, the new program, and it does not apply actually to North of 60. It is a South of 60 program.
Boating safety is an essential element of boating, and I believe the boating safety officer at Transport Canada is
working up in the North but it is not a requirement for people North of 60 to have these cards. In South of 60, it is a
requirement now for people to have these operator proficiency cards, so it is a different thing.
The plates or the numbering on the boats, again, that has always been there; that is the function of Transport
Canada and is administered by the customs office, they keep records for it.
The Chair: So it is business as usual with just the plates?
Mr. Hecimovich: Yes, just the numbering.
The Chair: That is still with Transport Canada?
Mr. Hecimovich: That is with Transport Canada, yes.
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: I will just point out too that, although we are here for Fisheries and Oceans, the water is
very important. As you can see, we have caribou who cross the river regularly and moose as well, so water that has not
been contaminated by fuel spills is important for all of our wildlife species, including fish.
I will speak specifically now about Great Bear Lake. As I mentioned earlier, it is the largest inland lake in Canada. It
is considered the ninth largest lake in the world.
We have George Kenny down here in the corner. He caught this monster lake trout in the middle of July this year,
so it is an example of the trophy-size lake trout stocks that we have on the Great Bear Lake.
This trout weighed 84 pounds and the girth of that fish was 34, almost 35 inches around. It is important to note that
George said he caught a larger one last summer but he let that one go.
The Chair: The one that got away.
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: This one had been caught in his net. He was going to release it but it had been in the net too
long so he did bring it in.
There are no Fisheries and Oceans offices in the Sahtu settlement area. They are based out of Hay River,
Yellowknife and Inuvik. Our board feels that the lack of Fisheries and Oceans biologists and liaison officer positions is
detrimental to our fisheries management in our region. Given the extent of our freshwater resources, these positions
warrant serious and timely consideration.
The board relies upon support and advice from each of our government partners, thereby ensuring appropriate
input from each agency. As I say, with the fresh waters that we have in the Sahtu, we do not have any marine
environment where we are at but the freshwater fisheries is very large and we do not have any Fisheries and Oceans
personnel in our region. We are looked after by both the Yellowknife and Inuvik offices, so they are pretty busy with
the offices and the areas where they are closest, and so we do not often see any people on the ground.
I was asked to point out — this may be a Coast Guard issue — that on the Great Bear Lake, there are no
navigational aids and there have not been any since 1976.
Senator Raine: Do you need some?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: The community has asked, particularly in Keith Arm. Keith Arm is the arm that is — I am
going to go back here quickly. Keith Arm is the big arm there that the community of Deline is settled along.
Back in 2005, the Great Bear Lake watershed management plan was completed. This plan was developed with the
community of Deline, our board and territorial and federal government agencies, including INAC and Fisheries and
Oceans Canada. It was a great process in developing this management plan but now we are at the implementation stage
and that requires dollars and capacity, both local and scientific.
Currently, the plan is being reviewed to determine whether it will be included in the Sahtu land use plan. The
watershed management plan was developed to be then implemented in the Sahtu land use plan, but at this time, there
are concerns being raised about inappropriate and unapprovable terms. If these terms are deemed unapprovable, then
the management planning process may need to be reopened to revise the plan, so this is something that Fisheries and
Oceans and other federal agencies need to be aware of.
I do believe that Fisheries and Oceans has been part of providing comment on the Sahtu land use plan.
One of the responsibilities of our board is that we are able to establish a committee in respect of Great Bear Lake if
required. In the past, a Great Bear Lake advisory committee did exist. It has sort of faded into the background over the
past few years. It consisted of representatives from the community of Deline, Fisheries and Oceans, ENR and our
board, ENR being the territorial government agency.
I would see that advisory committee needing to be implemented again if a commercial fishery was ever established
on Great Bear Lake, although with research that has been done by Fisheries and Oceans, it does not appear that Great
Bear Lake could withstand a commercial fisheries.
We do see the Great Bear Lake advisory committee or some sort of fisheries advisory committee as an avenue for
regional monitoring and research initiatives in the Sahtu. It could be a way for Fisheries and Oceans and other agencies
to work together on fishery-related topics.
In the Sahtu Settlement Area, there are special harvesting areas that have been identified through the land claim
process. Since 1997, there has been a difference in opinion between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Sahtu
Secretariat about the interpretation of the section that establishes the special harvesting areas.
The clause reads:
Persons who are not participants may not have access to such areas in (a) for the purpose of harvesting wildlife
where such harvesting would be inconsistent with the special harvesting by participants.
The difference in opinion lies in whether or not the harvesting by residents and non-residents is actually inconsistent
with the special harvesting of participants. Fisheries and Oceans believes that there is no inconsistency and so the
harvesting by a resident and non-resident can occur, and the Sahtu Secretariat is of the opinion that it is up to the
beneficiaries to determine whether or not there is an inconsistency, if that occurs.
In October 2002, the Sahtu Secretariat indicated that there would be no referral of this clause to the Sahtu
Arbitration Panel, who would normally be the ones to sort out these issues of land claim interpretation, and they felt
that the referral would not happen until an establishment of minimum needs levels would occur.
Our board was responsible for conducting the Sahtu Settlement Harvest Study. We completed that in December of
2005 and with that the calculation of minimum needs levels. This difference of opinion still exists and our board has
completed the requirements, so it needs to be settled one way or another as to how that clause is to be interpreted.
Some other concerns that we wanted to note — we are under the same feeling as the Gwich'in Renewable Resources
Board that we require meaningful consultations with renewal of the Fisheries Act, and further to that, that our board
should be engaged for all DFO-related items.
There are several items listed there in a row — collection of harvest statistics, increased migratory species in Sahtu,
contaminants and climate change. These are areas of research that have been identified by renewable resource councils
and our board as high priority in the Sahtu region.
Hydroelectricity. The Government of the Northwest Territories is focusing on a long-term commitment to
developing hydroelectric resources through the draft N.W.T. hydro strategy executive summary.
The Northwest Territories has more than 11,000 megawatts of hydroelectric potential with more than 10,000 of
those associated with the Mackenzie River. We wanted to remind DFO that this is a plan in the works and we are
hoping that they are planning to ensure that fishery resources, commercial traffic and the Coast Guard are not affected
by any kind of hydroelectricity project that may be implemented.
I heard you ask the question earlier with the Gwich'in about the Bathurst Inlet port and road, so I will include that
now. The board continues to follow that situation. Our concern lies with, if a road is built, it would affect our caribou
herds that migrate through that region up to their calving area and their calving area may well be affected. Their
calving area is not protected and calving areas are very sensitive to any disturbance or development. So that is our
main concern with the Bathurst port and road.
Senator Hubley: Could you go back to the map and show us exactly where that road is going to go, please?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: I can try. We are here, so Kugluktuk is over in this area, Coppermine, so I am not exactly
sure where it would start, but it would come up from here. The road would not come into the Sahtu Settlement Area
but it will come down through here into where the BHP and Diavik diamond mines are and down here into
The Bluenose-East caribou herd calf over here on the east side of Bluenose Lake and then migrate down along the
east side of Great Bear Lake so they could very well be affected during construction and with road traffic.
Senator Cook: I have a question related to this. Your settlement area consists of two districts.
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: It consists actually of three districts. Those are lines that were established, they were not
formally established through the land claim but through the implementation plan of the claim. Because of the region
being so large, they broke up the region into districts for government reasons.
The final note I will make is that, with inadequate funding, we have inadequate programming. It is very difficult for
our board to look at new programs on fisheries or other wildlife issues when our region is still struggling to deal with
core issues of adequate funding and lack of capacity to deliver on programs. It appears to us that things still are being
controlled from Ottawa as opposed to delegating authority to the North, and we are regularly hearing issues about
reduced ability or inability to deal with current issues by federal agencies, and so we need to work together to sort out
what those issues are and how we can all work together to make it better.
It looks as though we are coming here asking for a handout. Somewhat, yes. We always need additional funding.
Our board is funded the same way as the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board. We receive our core funding from
INAC and we receive just a tiny bit more than they do, about $750,000 a year.
It is very difficult to manage an organization, fund research and regularly consult and attend meetings on our own
dollars when they are quite limited.
With that I say mahsi cho, and I again thank you for the opportunity to present to you today and I am open for
The Chair: Thank you. Just a comment before we go to questions. Your last comment was in line with a lot of other
testimony that we have heard so still the administration of the North is from the South. One of the interesting things
for us is to look at how we might be able to move the administration of the Arctic actually into the Arctic. So that is
just a general comment.
Senator Cochrane: In regard to your land settlement agreement, that is 16 years? You have seen a lot of changes
since that time and you have expressed some of the concerns that you have. Are there a few serious concerns that you
have in regard to the land settlement agreement that you signed? If you had your time back, what in particular would
you have in that agreement that you did not have?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: Well, there are a lot of things, I suppose. Again, I note that I have only been in the region
for 10 years so I was not privy to the thoughts of the people who were negotiating the land claim at the time that they
were settling it. If I had been, I certainly would have, in my interest for the renewable resources board made sure that
funding requirements were sufficient, and for the renewable resource councils and local wildlife managers made sure
that their mandates were clearer to the region, and as well, that funding was available to them.
The idea of the special harvesting areas, if that had been sorted out sooner, it would have helped the region move
forward from these interpretation issues sooner.
Senator Cochrane: I should not say this but I will. Are you the spokesperson? Is this what you are hearing from the
whole range of people who are involved with this land claims settlement?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: When I am speaking today, I am speaking on behalf of the Sahtu Renewable Resources
Board but I speak on behalf of the Sahtu beneficiaries. Items that I indicated are probably more board related than
beneficiaries' ideas. It is a difficult question for me to answer.
Senator Cochrane: I am sure. I am sorry to put you on the spot. I did not mean to do that.
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: I apologize.
Senator Cochrane: My second question is about the oil spill. My understanding is when there is an oil spill, it is the
transporter who is responsible for cleaning up the oil spill. Did that happen?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: Yes, it was cleaned up by NTCL, Northern Transportation Company Limited; I do not
know if I have it quite right there but NTCL. There are a lot of acronyms here in the North.
They did clean up the spill but the response by the Coast Guard to be there to ensure that the clean-up happened
was deemed slow.
Senator Cochrane: Were people in the community called in to help? That is the first thing.
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: Pardon me?
Senator Cochrane: Were people from the community called in to help?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: I am not certain about that because the spill actually did happen outside of our region near
the community of Wrigley, but it is the first community that is upstream from our region.
Senator Cochrane: How did your community learn about this spill?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: We were told about it from the superintendent of our region by environment and natural
resources, which is a territorial government department. Their environmental protection officer had been informed and
the superintendent in turn informed our board.
Senator Cochrane: How long did it take to clean up?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: That I am not sure.
Senator Cochrane: You do not know. Okay. What would you like to see happen in the future if there is a future oil
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: Just a quicker response to the spill, and hoping that spills do not happen, first of all, and if a
spill does happen, that communities are informed as soon as possible so they know about it.
Some of the communities do draw their water from the Mackenzie River while others draw from side rivers, so it is
important for the communities to be aware as soon as possible, and if it were to happen in the Sahtu region, yes, that
community members would be involved in the clean-up so they could feel as though there was actual ownership in that
it was cleaned up to their standards.
Senator Cochrane: How long did it take the Coast Guard to respond?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: My understanding is that it was several days before the Coast Guard was on site, but I am
not certain on that. I could not give you an exact day.
Senator Hubley: Do you have supplies within your area to address the first response to an oil spill? Do you have the
resources to do that?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: People resources or the actual —
Senator Hubley: Both, material and people.
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: In each of our communities, no, we would not have materials. We would have personnel
that would be able to handle it.
I should say, though, out of Norman Wells, where the Imperial Oil or the Esso lease is, they are prepared for spills
and such because of their situation with the pumps and the refinery that is there.
But the smaller communities along the river, I would say no. We would have personnel available to help in a
situation, but not trained and certainly no materials.
Senator Hubley: They would not be part of the Coast Guard auxiliary then or the Rangers program?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: We do have Canadian Rangers units in the communities but not a Coast Guard auxiliary,
as far as I am aware.
Senator Raine: I am just trying to digest all this. Are you monitoring at all what is happening in the oil sands in
terms of any impacts because, eventually, the water coming from those huge projects comes into the Mackenzie River
Are you monitoring that or are you concerned at all with what is happening or do you think they are doing a good
job on cleaning their effluent?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: It is certainly a concern that has been raised by all the communities, particularly the
communities along the river, about the water that is coming as you say from the oil sands eventually.
Our board is a part of the development of an N.W.T. water strategy as a referral agency. We are a very small
organization so, for the most part, we are monitoring, keeping an eye on it, but there is no specific research or anything
that our board is doing.
Senator Raine: The water strategy that is being developed now will have input from all the communities?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: It is meant to, yes. It is being developed in conjunction with the N.W.T. and INAC water
Senator Raine: As you say, many of your communities get their water from the river so do they have treatment
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: Yes. Two of the communities on the river have a treatment plant and the other has a lagoon
where the water is and it settles out and is treated before it is brought into the community.
All the water is treated before it is brought into the community. That is dealt with through the municipal
Senator Raine: In terms of the Great Bear Lake commercial fishery, there was a commercial fishery there years ago
but the opinion of your group is that it is not sustainable and not advisable?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: As far as I am aware, I do not think there has ever been a commercial fishery there. There is
recreational outfitting, commercial activity like lodges, but not commercial operations where they are bringing in large-
scale amounts of fish.
Through research done by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, they recommended to our board that it would not be
sustainable for a large-scale commercial operation.
Senator Raine: You mentioned that fishing lodge transporting oil across on an old barge. Have you flagged this with
DFO and the Coast Guard, the authorities, to make sure that that transportation is inspected for the future?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: I am not certain. I know that the community of Deline has talked about it and probably at
great length with Fisheries and Oceans. I am not sure if that has happened with the Coast Guard though.
Senator Raine: Whose responsibility is certifying barges to be seaworthy for transporting oil?
The Chair: I would say Transport.
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: I should note that the Coast Guard does not go into Great Bear Lake. They are only along
Senator Cook: How big is your lake?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: How big is it? If I am right, it is about 35,000 square kilometres. It is the ninth largest lake
in the world. It is very big.
The Chair: What do you know about CanNor, and do you feel that it is going to be useful to you, and are you going
to be able to benefit from it and access it?
CanNor, as we understand it, is the new agency created for development in the Arctic, similar to the fund on the
East Coast and the West Coast. There is now one for the Arctic, and a number of functions of INAC have been
devolved to CanNor, plus it has special programs with funding for development in the Arctic.
Can you tell us about that?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: I am also not familiar with the CanNor agency or program. But if there is funding
available, I will take it.
The Chair: Could you take a look at it and maybe get back to us in writing with your reaction to it because it seems
to me to be a very positive step?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: Sure.
The Chair: I do not see any further questions.
Senator Cochrane: I have one small one. I would like to know what your relationship is with other settlement land
claims boards. You have a board, the Gwich'in have a board and Inuvialuit, whatever. What is your relationship? Do
you work together on common causes or programs or anything?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: I would say that we may be a big territory but we all work very closely together. As a matter
of fact, I called up Amy when I knew I had to come and do this presentation to ask her what she was going to talk
about, so we do work closely together, particularly on issues that are common to all of us.
Right now, we are involved in developing a management plan for the Bluenose caribou herd that are recently in
quite drastic declines, and we are working together with all the co-management boards that have been developed
through land claim processes. We also include non-land claim areas where required, and in particular, we also work
with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board so we try to work with all of the co-management boards as closely as
Senator Cook: Do you develop programs for your areas that you see would benefit your settlement areas? Have you
looked at programming?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: There is not any specific programming that we have put into place now. We rely on
programs that are developed through federal or territorial agencies and then support those initiatives, but I would not
say there is any specific programming that we have put in place ourselves.
Senator Cook: If there were a federal program offered, would you work collaboratively together or would you work
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: Oh, yes. No, we would work collaboratively where possible. It is a good way to stretch the
Senator Cook: That was my thinking.
Senator Cochrane: What are your views on the Mackenzie gas pipeline? Tell us about the views of your group on the
Mackenzie gas pipeline.
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: Our board was also an intervener in the joint review panel process. Our concern also is
conservation, a balance between development and the environment, a good balance.
There is concern by community members, specifically during construction. We see that will be when there will be
uncertainty for the wildlife and how that construction will affect them. But people are also happy to see a pipeline come
through. Economically, it provides for the future so it is similar to how the Gwich'in are handling it, with mixed
Because of the size of the Sahtu, it has been split in half and both parts of our region have signed on to the
Aboriginal Pipeline Group and are members of that organization.
Senator Cochrane: It is quite positive then?
Ms. Snortland Pellissey: Yes, I believe it is more positive than negative, certainly.
Senator Cochrane: Okay, that is good.
The Chair: If anyone in the room wishes to make an appearance before us this afternoon, we are going to have an
open mike session. If any individuals would like to make a presentation, we would welcome that.
Thank you for being with us and for being very helpful. You have confirmed a lot of things.
It is interesting that you talked to each other before you came and it is interesting for us to get that composite view
on things like the pipeline and so on. Thank you for being here and we appreciate it very much.
(The committee adjourned.)