The Journal of Canadian

Wilderness Canoeing

  FALL 2003











In this issue

Front Page


Labrador Tragedy

Robert Service

Fall Packet


From the Editor


Back page




Ottawa, in August, initialed an agreement that would allow the Inuit of Labrador governance over a territory almost half the size of New Brunswick, to be called, Nunatsiavut, which means 'Our beautiful land' in Inuktitut.

The agreement, 26 years in the making, calls for a one-time, $140-million payment to the Inuit. That's in addition to $115 million for annual funding for education, health and social programs.

The Inuit will own almost 6,000 square miles of land and will have limited resource and management rights over 28.800 square miles in Labrador, but Nunatsiavut will not be a reserve, which means the Inuit will have to pay federal and provincial taxes.

The 5,300-member Labrador Inuit Association, the last Inuit group in Canada to negotiate a land claims settlement, will spend several months selling the agreement to its membership. A ratification vote on the agreement is expected next spring. With an agreement-in-principle initialed last week, the Labrador Inuit Association is looking toward ratifying the agreement.

Labrador Inuit will begin to inform the public about the land claim, and  are being trained right now to explain the agreement to the 5,500 Labrador Inuit.

Theyíre hoping to see a final agreement done in the next 13 months.


In August, community of Kangirsuk the the east side of Ungava Bay remembered Martha Kauki, her husband Joanassie Epoo and two of their children, Victoria and Jacob - all four now presumed dead after the Canadian coast guard recovered Kaukiís body and the familyís overturned canoe August 21.

Friends, family and acquaintances travelled from across Nunavik and southern Canada to attend the ceremony - so many people that local officials moved the service from Kangirsukís Anglican Church to the local school to accommodate them all.

Kauki, a revered interpreter and Makivik Corp. board member, her husband and their two teenage children were last seen near Aupaluk Aug. 15. They were on their way back to Kangirsuk after attending a wedding in Kuujjuaq.

When their canoe never arrived home, a week-long search and rescue ended after an Air Inuit plane discovered the familyís overturned canoe and Kaukiís body about 10 miles off the northern tip of Labrador. The other bodies were not recovered. The area experienced high winds, rain and fog for much of later August.


Quebecís new premier, Jean Charest, officially announced the creation of Pingualuit Park on Aug. 28 during a ceremony in Makivik Corp.ís head office in Kuujjuaq. Pingualuit Crater, aka Chubb Crater, is the centerpiece of the new park. The crater is a perfectly circular lake that was formed by a meteorite more than 1.3 million years ago. It is more than two miles wide and 800 feet deep, and is renown for the purity of its water.

The agreement between Nunavik and Quebec promised a budget of  $5.7 million for start-up and $3.9 million for operating costs over the next five years. It was also the culmination of more than 30 years of anticipation for Nunavik, which has been pressing for regional park development since the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was signed in 1975.

The new park, which is expected to be operational by the end of this year, will be run by Inuit through the Kativik Regional Government. This means local Inuit will keep all traditional harvesting rights within the park.

Charest said he hopes the new park will serve as a model for the development of other parks in the region. Four other park projects are currently under study in Nunavik and he believes the creation of more parks could encourage eco- and adventure tourism in Arctic Quebec.


A canoe party of eight young women travelling by canoe who were rescued not once but twice in one day last week on the dangerous shoes of western Hudson Bay.

First, the canoeists, from a YMCA-affiliated camp on Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan, had to be rescued from a polar bear. Then they needed yet another rescue after they were stranded offshore by tides not far from Arviat, their final destination.

Last Thursday, the group set up camp at the mouth of the south fork of the McConnell River, 30 miles south of Arviat.

Police said that at 2:30 a.m. a polar bear entered the camp, tore down a tent and then broke into the food supply. The eight canoeists stayed in one tent while the polar bear circled around. They had a shotgun with them, but didnít want to shoot the bear in the dark. It turned out the shotgun was rusty, and its owners low on experience.


The scared women tried to fire emergency flares at the bear, with little effect. So they called the Arviat RCMP detachment via satellite phone, asking for help. At the time, they believed they were five miles south of Arviat.

When rescuers werenít able to locate the camp three miles south of Arviat, they contacted the women via satellite phone and learned that they did not have a Global Positioning System device with them and did not know their exact position.

The officers continued to search and finally located the camp 30 miles south of Arviat after both parties had lit flares. When rescuers arrived on the scene, the polar bear, a young seven-foot-tall male, was sitting on one of the tents. They managed to scare the bear away using 30 mm rubber bullets and Thunderflashes - a kind of pyrotechnic or firework.

The group left to continue the journey to Arviat via canoe, but found the headwinds and tidal waters on Hudson Bay too difficult to navigate, and again, called for help.

Arviatís search and rescue teams brought the tired canoeists back to Arviat overland on ATVs.

The previous week, a group of male canoeists from the same camp had also abandoned their canoes due to the tides.RCMP officers say most non-residents canít imagine the enormous tidal action in the lower Hudson Bay and are unprepared for it. Before the tide goes out, sometimes to a distance of three km, canoeists must head to shore and stay there or risk being caught in the tidal flats.

As for the bears, police say the canoeists should have carried wildlife scare cartridges that produce a noise when shot over the head of a polar bear. Maps are also of little value in the flat landscape of Arviat, compared with GPS devices.


They werenít affected the August outage, which threw Ontario and much of the eastern U.S. into the dark. But the blackout lent a new urgency to hydroelectric developments in northern Quebec - projects that directly affect Sanikiluaq.

Last August, Quebec released a document setting how environmental impact statements for the Eastmain-Rupert hydroelectric project should be conducted.

The 70-page package of directives left out any reference to Sanikiluaq and Nunavut, or to Inuit, although this project will alter the flow of rivers that empty into James Bay and Hudson Bay.

The $3.8-billion project, part of the controversial James Bay power development plan, would generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity when it is completed in 10 years.

As Quebec gears up to fast-track hydroelectric development, this means the Government of Nunavut will look at how it plans to honor its recent commitment to protect James Bay and Hudson Bay.


Shortly after Cree and Inuit signed deals with Quebec in the spring of 2002 that would pave the way for new hydroelectric projects, Sanikiluaq, fearing the effects of more hydroelectric development nearby, asked for the GNís help.

An agreement created a Nunavut-Hudson Bay working group. The GN has already given the group $55,000.

The need to update aging electric infrastructure and meet increasing demands for power means new hydro-projects affecting James Bay and Hudson Bay are more likely now then they were 10 years ago.

But time is short. Quebecís desire to speed up new projects means that the environmental impact statements on the Eastmain-Rupert project will be handed over next spring, followed by public consultations later in 2004. A final go-ahead order for the projectís start could be issued early in 2005.

When its two proponents, the Societe d'Energie de la Baie-James and Hydro-Quebec, complete their environmental impact studies, these will be submitted to a provincial evaluation committee (COMEX), which has three representatives from Quebec and two from the Cree Regional Authority. COMEX will then hold a round of public consultations with a federal review panel.

This federal body will then carry out its own environmental analysis of the project, and make its recommendations to the provincial administrator of the James Bay land claim agreement - which happens to be the Quebec environment department.

The GN can make sure a member of this committee is appointed from Nunavut to represent the interests of Nunavut, Inuit, and the people of Sanikiluaq.


 Fall 2003         Outfit 114 

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