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Canadian Arctic planning commission set to create development map

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

The planning commission in Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut has begun to tackle the massive task of creating a single map to guide all future development in the territory.

The task is daunting — Nunavut is more than two million square kilometres in size. It's home to huge deposits of gold, diamonds, metals, oil and gas.

It's also where people have lived and hunted for generations.

Now all of that has to go on a single map, which will be colour-coded so everyone knows which activities are allowed to take place, and in which parts of the territory.

In Iqaluit on Thursday, a group of elders took a close look at the map and shared their knowledge of Frobisher Bay.

"We're really trying to think ahead for our future land use. People need to take this seriously and accept what we say," said Jeetaloo Kakki.

Consultations like these will take place in every Nunavut community, and even some in Nunavik in northern Quebec.

This is on top of more than 400 interviews which have been done over many years.

The reason for all the consultations and interviews is because even though there's a draft plan, more knowledge is needed for the final version.

"We have information about the places that were historically used and identified, but we need to know more about how important these individual areas are," said Jonathan Savoy, a policy specialist with the commission.

The Nunavut Planning Commission has been working on this plan for the last 10 years.

There has been controversy and arguments between the partners, but finally, there is some solid progress.

Speaking in Inuktitut, commission chairman Paul Quassa said once the draft is completed and it's approved by the federal aboriginal affairs minister, he hopes to have it in place in the next three years.

The new rules won't affect existing projects. But soon, there will no longer be any confusion about where people can drill and where they can't in Nunavut.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.