Annual management plan implementation update 2019-20

Sirmilik National Park

The Sirmilik National Park Management Plan identifies the long-term strategic direction and management goals for Sirmilik National Park (SNP). The plan is consistent with the Nunavut Agreement, the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for Auyuittuq, Quttinirpaaq and Sirmilik National Parks, (Baffin IIBA) and Parks Canada Agency’s (PCA) mandate to protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure their ecological and commemorative integrity for present and future generations. SNP is cooperatively managed with the Sirmilik Joint Inuit/Government Park Planning and Management Committee (JPMC) established under the IIBA.

This update is PCA’s 2019-20 annual progress report on the implementation of the management plan for partners, stakeholders, Inuit rights holders and the public.

A Parks Canada staff holds an American golden plover in her hands.
Bylot Island Research Monitoring - Sylvia Pewatoalook, Summer Student – Tagging a Golden Plover – July 1, 2019

Table of contents

Strategy 1: Celebrating the special connection between Sirmilik National Park and Inuit of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay

Objective 1.1: Inuit are encouraged to use the park with their families and to connect with the land through traditional activities.

  • Three programs established specifically to increase Inuit and community connections to SNP and facilitate knowledge sharing were implemented again this year, including:
    • An igloo building workshop led by three Inuit elders near Pond Inlet, on April 13.
    • The fourth annual Return of the Sun celebration on Bylot Island and community feast in Pond Inlet, January 29, and February 1, 2020;
    • The Festival of Birds programming on July 11 and 12, 2019 engaged 11 youth and an elder from Pond Inlet.
  • A radio talk show in Pond Inlet, to be developed and delivered in cooperation with Qikiqtani Inuit Association, was planned for late March but was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Objective 1.2: Inuit are effectively involved in park management decisions.

  • The Sirmilik JPMC had one face to face meeting on October 24 and 25, 2019 to review the past annual operations and discuss plans for the upcoming year, and one teleconference on December 11, 2019 to review research summary reports.
  • A JPMC meeting was planned for the end of March, 2020, however it was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Objective 1.3: Inuit participate in and benefit from economic opportunities arising from the presence of the park.

  • In 2019-2020, approximately 20 contracts were issued to Inuit for services pertaining to construction and maintenance, translation, interpretation and engagement/advice.
  • In February 2020, Parks Canada hosted a regional partners meeting to review external funding opportunities with potential to increase economic benefit to the communities. Parks Canada and regional partners attended two follow-up meetings in Pond Inlet: with the Hamlet of Pond Inlet on March 10, 2020; and with Mittimatalik HTO on March 11, 2020.

Objective 1.4: The stories and knowledge of Inuit are shared with all park visitors.

  • There were 311 park visitors in Sirmilik National Park in 2019-20. All interpretive programs and special events, including the igloo building workshop, dog harness workshop, Return of the Sun celebration and Festival of Birds are infused with Inuit stories and perspectives.
  • On July 30 and 31, 2019, six Parks Canada staff (four Inuit) and eight local Inuit boarded the Students on Ice vessel near Pond Inlet and provided traditional Inuit programming in and adjacent to the park to approximately 220 passengers.
  • In August 2019, staff facilitated a visit to SNP by a delegation led by the German Minister of Foreign Affairs. These visitors learned more about the park, climate change and Inuit cooperative management.

Strategy 2: Developing Sirmilik National Park’s visitor experience program

Objective 2.1: Parks Canada, the tourism industry and government partners will identify and promote visitor experience opportunities including an iconic arctic experience that will take place in the park.

  • In 2017, PCA began developing a multi-day hiking experience on the south side of Bylot Island to offer as an iconic arctic experience. Work on this project in 2019 included attempts to work out a smooth permitting and access process with QIA and the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) for access to Inuit Owned Lands (IOL) and Bylot Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary. After QIA established new IOL access permits and fees, new route options to avoid accessing IOL s were assessed. A route has not yet been determined.
  • PCA met with the JPMC and CWS on October 24, 2019 to discuss establishing cruise ship and aircraft landing sites.
  • In 2019/2020, PCA reviewed and made revisions to the park’s post-trip visitor survey. Text has been drafted and awaits translation and presentation to the JPMC. The revised survey was expected to be implemented in 2020 but has been delayed until next season due to the Covid-19 related park closure.

Objective 2.2: Tourism partners and the communities of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay support visitor experiences within the park, and offer visitor experiences in the communities that complement park excursions.

  • Parks Canada welcomed 311 visitors to Sirmilik National Park this year.
  • Pond Inlet had fifteen (15) cruise ships in 2019, one of which (Students on Ice vessel; 220 passengers) stopped in the park. Six Parks Canada staff members and eight local Inuit boarded the Students on Ice vessel near Pond Inlet and provided traditional programming during their visit.
  • Parks Canada staff supported other community cruise ship visits by providing visitor information to passengers, distributing park brochures, and conducting outreach activities on migratory birds.

Objective 2.3: All park users are able to undertake safe and enjoyable experiences as a result of effective visitor safety planning, prevention, and response in cooperation with partners.

  • There were no visitor safety incidents in Sirmilik National Park in 2019-20.
  • A Wilderness First Aid course for staff and community members was planned for the end of March in Pond Inlet, but had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Strategy 3: Increasing knowledge and awareness of Sirmilik National Park

Objective 3.1: Community outreach is enhanced to improve communication about research, monitoring and traditional knowledge.

  • On February 4, 2020, park staff participated in a community workshop with long term Goose Camp researchers from Centre d’études Nordiques to discuss ecological monitoring and collaborative activities.
  • The community events already noted, Return of the Sun, Festival of Birds, Igloo building workshop, and dog harness making workshop, are on-going mechanisms that facilitate communication, relationship building and the sharing of knowledge.

Objective 3.2: Knowledge of the park’s ecosystems, cultural resources, and Inuit history and culture is increased by research, monitoring, and the best practice of incorporating Inuit knowledge.

  • In 2019, Ecological Integrity Monitoring Program data were collected for field and remote sensing measures for the glacier ecosystem (mass balance and glacier extent) and tundra ecosystem (active layer, terrestrial productivity and subtle vegetation change).
  • As part of the Inuit Knowledge Ecological Integrity Monitoring Pilot Project, in June 2019, one Sirmilik Inuit Knowledge Working Group member from Pond Inlet, one hunter, three youth and Sirmilik National Park staff travelled into the park to make observations and record Inuit Knowledge related to glacier ecosystems. The Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay Inuit Knowledge Working Groups each had an in-person meeting in February 2019 and two conference calls to continue with the planning and implementation of this pilot project
  • Annual Cultural Resource monitoring was completed at Qaiqsut in August 2019. There was no recent evidence of decline in cultural heritage due to increased activity in the park.
  • Fourteen (14) PCA Research and Collection Permits were issued in 2019 for research conducted in Sirmilik National Park.
  • Four Inuit were hired as 4-month research technicians by Centre d’études Nordiques researchers at Goose Camp.

Objective 3.3: Park ecosystems, cultural resources, and Inuit culture and history outreach and education products and programs are developed, delivered, and promoted in cooperation with other organizations.

  • SNP will be featured as part of the Sub-Polar exhibit in the Montreal Biodome, when it reopens, post Covid-19.
  • The Festival of Birds in July included 2 day camps that were run in partnership with the Hamlet of Pond Inlet. Approximately 30 youth attended the day camps and participated in educational activies on birds.
  • Parks Canada is collaborating with CWS and community elders to improve the outreach kit on birds’ eggs. This kit is used for communicating the importance of SNP for bird populations, and Inuit knowledge about birds to community members and visitors.
  • Staff delivered a presentation on SNP to grades 7-12 students in Arctic Bay on October 10, 2019 and to Grade 10 students in Pond Inlet on October 28 (approximately 60 students total). The presentations focused on the park’s key features, monitoring activities, potential career paths with Parks Canada and annual community events.

Area management: Bylot Island

Objective 7.1: Parks Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association cooperate and coordinate their management of Bylot Island and simplify permitting and management.

  • PCA continued work from 2018-19 with QIA and CWS to facilitate permitting visitors to access a multi-day trail on Bylot Island that crosses through Inuit owned lands and the migratory bird sanctuary, but was unsuccessful. Further efforts to develop a well-defined permitting process across the three organizations will take place in 2020.
  • CWS reviews and co-signs Parks Canada research permits for projects taking place in the joint management portions of Bylot Island.
  • A co-chair of the Asungasungaat Area Co-Management Committee for Bylot Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary attended the October 2019 Sirmilik JPMC meeting to review annual permit reports and discuss joint permitting processes.

Objective 7.2: Facilitate visitor access and increase the visitor experience program and communication products related to Inuit activities, cultural resources and the rich environment on Bylot Island.

  • The target for this objectives specifies development of a visitor experience for cruise ships at Qaiqsut. However, this has not proved feasible for cruise ship companies with over 100 passengers because:
    • It can be challenging to land on the beach identified by PCA as the landing site;
    • The implementation of mitigations provided by PCA of having 10 people on site at a time are not feasible for a large number of passengers; and
    • The stream flowing through the site fluctuates in location and volume which can make crossing a challenge.
    Therefore, the interpretive experience being developed for this site focuses on Inuit use, and will be finalized in 2020 for smaller groups to visit the site by snowmobile in the spring.
  • A general cultural site guide training program was finalized in 2019 and details for Qaiqsut will be included once the interpretive experience has been developed.

Objective 7.3: Support the continued operation of the Goose Camp Research Facility while promoting the safety of people using the facility and ensuring minimal environmental impacts from the camp’s operations.

  • Discussions on the Licence of Occupation and accompanying operation and management agreement between PCA and Université Laval for Goose Camp is underway. In 2019, the Nunavut Field Unit Superintendent met with researchers from Université Laval to discuss the terms of the agreement. The development of the Licence of Occupation was a priority for 2019, and is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

Conclusion — Next steps

Parks Canada Nunavut Field Unit and the Sirmilik JPMC are looking forward to another successful year ahead. Plans for 2020-21 are being adjusted in response to the evolving Covid-19 global pandemic. Key initiatives for the upcoming year include:

  • Plan for and adjust business and work plans for 2020-2021 in light of Covid-19, including aligning with Management Plan and JPMC advice.
  • In collaboration with QIA, develop a radio talk show with a linked local Facebook post to convey the message of the purpose and existence of National Park, and to discuss the status of the park during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Complete the License of Occupation and Operation and Management Agreement for Goose Camp.
  • Work with JPMC and CWS to identify aircraft and cruise ship landing sites and review/revise the opportunities that the Management Plan originally identified as good for visitation.
  • Review the permitting process with QIA, CWS and Parks Canada for visitation to SNP.
  • Finalize the Guide and Interpretation Program for Qaiqsut.
  • Complete community consultation in Arctic Bay regarding the Sinaasiurvik Cabin and work towards completing the impact assessment.

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