Mary River Project Mitigation
To "mitigate" in the case of a development project, means to take action to reduce the negative effects of change to the human or physical environment.. Because the Mary River Project is so big, this is real challenge for everyone. For Inuit, environment and wildlife impact mitigation focuses on avoidance. “How could we avoid significant impacts whenever and wherever possible?” Mitigation measures are almost like insurance in that parties do not want to pay a hefty price if something goes wrong.
Dealing with any developmental proposals such as the Mary River Project, mitigation is often lumped in with monitoring as monitoring can tell us when mitigation measure are or are not working. For example, if it is known (either through traditional or western sciences) or have been observed that seal dens are concentrated in one area along the proposed shipping route, then a recommendation would be to align the ships along the less populated areas of the sea during prime denning season. How seals behave and/or if they are showing less frequency and concentration in one area as before would then be monitored and evaluated for mitigation purposes.
Mitigation in relation to hunters means that hunters would be provided extra resources such as gasoline, food and access to shelters and facilities while hunting. These things would be accessible so that hunting activities are supported and that possible impacts to hunters in terms of having to travel further to find animals and thus needing more shelter/supplies are addressed.
With this kind of system in place, what keeps coming into mind from the Inuit point of view is the question of who decides on the what final mitigation measure will be used for environmental, social or wildlife impacts. This is why it is important for the parties that are working together in this joint project are making mutual decisions that do not push another party or parties off edge. Regulatory regimes should make decisions that incorporate Inuit concerns, issues and challenges with respect to mitigation. Similarly, Baffinland may be inclined to consider an approach that listens to the advice of Inuit as much as possible.
Of course, ultimate mitigation would mean that the project does not proceed at all. However, if the project is approved and the impacts will be inevitable, specific and detailed mitigations plans should be ready ahead of time so that they can be implemented as and when required. And if we are dealing with wildlife and the environment mitigation surrounding the project, who knows the wildlife and environment best are Inuit hunters and as such, should have a critical say and provide mitigation decisions based on their advice.
All stakeholders involved with the project have a role to play in mitigation. As Inuit, our role would be to offer the most knowledgeable Inuit who would provide the best guidance and direction to the monitoring and mitigation committees or working group that would eventually be setup. Inuit should also be involved in designing and working on the monitoring programs. Mitigation involves the behavior of being cautious and it is with this approach that the project, should it proceed, must be used.