Annual management plan implementation update 2021-22

Sirmilik National Park

The Sirmilik National Park Management Plan (2016) 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 (the Baffin IIBA), and the Parks Canada Agency (PCA) mandate. In accordance with the Baffin IIBA, SNP is cooperatively managed with the Sirmilik Joint Inuit/Government Park Planning and Management Committee (JPMC).

This Annual Implementation Update provides a status report on PCA’s progress in implementing the key strategies and objectives of the management plan.

Four Parks Canada staff standing in a snowy landscape with mountain scenery
Together we stand as stewards of the land. From left to right: Carey Elverum, Terry Kalluk, Brian Koonoo, and Tess Espey (June 8, 2021).

Table of contents

Covid-19 Response

On March 18, 2020, Parks Canada closed all Nunavut sites to visitors, including researchers and business license holders, under a Superintendent’s Order. For SNP, this Order was in effect for most of the 2021-22 fiscal year; it was reopened to visitors on July 1, 2022, although services and facilities remain limited. Please note that these prohibitions do not and will never apply to Nunavut Inuit, whose free and unrestricted right of access to all PCA sites in Nunavut for the purpose of engaging in rights-based activities is provided in the Nunavut Agreement.

The COVID-19 global pandemic had significant impacts on PCA’s Nunavut Field Unit (NFU) operations in the 2021-22 fiscal year. Notably, the entire field season and most of the planned travel and in-person meetings were canceled. This significantly impacted activities related to community engagement and outreach, ecological integrity monitoring, cultural resource monitoring, and cooperative management. While work on many of the guide’s key strategies and objectives were delayed, progress was made wherever possible as described below.

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.

  • Communication product about SNP for Inuit: Due to COVID-19 public health measures, many field-related and in-person programs designed specifically to increase Inuit and community connections to SNP and to facilitate knowledge sharing were put on hold this year. Inuit continued to exercise their right to access the park for traditional activities as per the Nunavut Agreement. On June 1, 2020, the Field Unit Superintendent issued a restricted activity permit to allow non-Inuit parents of adopted Inuit dependents to access the park for the purpose of escorting their children into the closed area with other Inuit so that they could learn and participate in traditional activities.

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

  • Joint Park Management Committee (JPMC) meetings and Inuit feedback: The Sirmilik JPMC held five teleconferences this year, three of which achieved a quorum (January 11, February 10, and March 30, 2022). In addition to formal meetings, PCA staff also contacted Sirmilik JPMC members individually by phone, email, or letter seven times throughout the year to provide updates and seek advice on various park matters (June 7, 2021, June 24, 2021, July 12, 2021, December 13, 2021, January 26, 2022, February 10, 2022, and February 16, 2022). Inuit also participated in an on-site project at Sinaasiurvik between July 23-26, 2022 (details under Objective 1.4).

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

  • Inuit business growth: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SNP and all other PCA sites in Nunavut were closed under a Superintendent’s Order throughout 2021-22. As a result, there were no businesses providing services this fiscal year.
  • Community training and capacity building: PCA was able to safely host a Wilderness First Aid Course between March 14-18, 2022 in Pond Inlet while respecting all public health measures. Local Inuit guides and outfitters were invited to participate so that they could be prepared to apply for an Inuit Business License in 2022-23.
  • External funding opportunities: PCA met with staff from the Canadian Northern Development Economic Agency (CanNor) on February 15, 2022 to discuss economic impacts of COVID-19 in High Arctic communities and to identify potential funding programs to address lost revenue.

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

  • Interpretive programs: Due to restrictions related to COVID-19, only one interpretive program was conducted in the 2021-22 fiscal year. The Annual Bird Festival was held on Facebook between July 12-21, 2021, reaching 55,981 users. This event shared information on traditional egg harvesting and the use of bird sightings by Inuit as key indicators for safe travel on sea-ice.
  • On-the-land gathering: PCA is collaborating with the community of Arctic Bay to construct a multi-use cabin at Sinaasiurvik, along the shores of Elwin Inlet as part of a “Gathering Place” for hunters, visitors, park staff and other users. Between July 21-26, 2021, PCA staff, elders, and youth traveled to Sinaasiurvik, a place of cultural significance and historic Inuit value. Members of the Sirmilik JPMC from Arctic Bay worked together with PCA staff to collect oral histories about the site. Their visit was shared on Facebook and had a reach of 13,432 users.
  • Ecological Integrity Monitoring: On September 18, 2021, Inuit Knowledge Working Group (IKWG) member Elder Elijah Panipakoocho traveled to the park with youth assistant Joey Irqqaqsaq to make observations on the park’s ecosystem as part of the ongoing pilot project to include Inuit Traditional Knowledge in the park’s ecological integrity monitoring program.

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.

  • Diverse visitor experience offers and facilities: The identification and promotion of visitor experience opportunities in SNP is ongoing. Between 2020-2021, work was advanced to establish a multi-use cabin at Sinaasiurvik, a hiking trail on Borden Peninsula, and cruise ship and aircraft landing sites in the park. Further investigation and on-site assessments will continue in the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
  • Cruise ship access sites and guidelines: Work related to the identification of cruise ship landing sites, and the subsequent development of guidelines for passenger access, is ongoing. The SNP Management Plan (2016) recommends three specific locations as cruise ship landing sites (i.e., Qaiqsut, the valley north of Qinnigtut, and Amakadlak); however, the project team does not agree that these locations are the most appropriate. Instead, the project team recommends the following sites for further assessment: 1) Tay Bay - Bylot Island; 2) Sirmilik Glacier - Bylot Island; 3) Canada Point - Bylot Island; 4) Mala River - Borden Peninsula; 5) Dufour Point - Bylot Island; and 6) Ikkarlak Glacier - Borden Peninsula. PCA staff met with the Sirmilik JPMC and the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) on February 10, 2022 to further discuss the report’s recommendation, and additional input will be sought as work continues throughout 2022-23.

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.

  • In-community tourism participation: As SNP was closed to visitors in 2021-22, there were no tourism activities or visitor experiences offered within the park or communities of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay. Inuit continued to exercise their rights of access uninterrupted as per the Nunavut Agreement.
  • Parks Canada presence in Arctic Bay: PCA currently maintains a continual staff presence in Arctic Bay.

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.

  • Public safety and education programs: There were no public safety incidents in SNP this year. Work to review and update the NFU Public Safety Plan is anticipated to continue in the 2022-23 fiscal year. Further, PCA staff are continuing to develop educational programming specifically promoting the safety of local community members.

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.

  • Mechanisms for regular knowledge-sharing: In 2021, PCA moved forward with a “Gathering Place” proposal, which will involve the development of multi-use facilities at three sites in SNP, including Sinaasiurvik. The park sites will be used to facilitate regular exchanges and opportunities to share knowledge between Inuit, the scientific community, and the Sirmilik JPMC. The previously mentioned Annual Bird Festival serves as a mechanism to engage the communities of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay in the research occuring in the park.

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.

  • Sensitive ecological and cultural site monitoring: There is currently no program in place to monitor ecologically sensitive areas in the park; however PCA staff intend for information from the ecological integrity monitoring pilot program to be reviewed by the Inuit Knowledge Working Group (IKWG) and used to inform the park’s next State of the Park Assessment (SoPA) process. This pilot project was continued as much as possible in 2021-22 despite public health restrictions and staff shortages. In addition, annual cultural resource monitoring was conducted at Sinaasiurvik on July 24, 2021 and at Qaiqsut on July 30, 2021.
  • Ecosystem indicators and remote sensing assessments: Tundra monitoring took place in July 2021. Glacier monitoring was not possible because of the pandemic.
  • Inuit involvement in research: In 2021, research teams were only able to conduct field work in August, and were required to limit their contact with community members in order to conform with public health measures. Nevertheless, dialogue continued virtually between PCA and community members about possible or ongoing research collaborations in a number of different areas (e.g., lake and pond health, fox harvesting and satellite collars, murre egg contaminants, lemming monitoring, etc.). Research permit applications were all reviewed by the Sirmilik JPMC.

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.

  • Southern Canada outreach and education programs: Unfortunately, COVID-19 prevented staff from participating in outdoor trade shows in Montreal, Vancouver, or Toronto. However, between July 10-21, 2021, Sirmilik connected with a local, national, and global audience virtually through the annual Bird Festival.
  • Iqaluit: PCA staff from the External Relations team attended a Carrefour Nunavut open house (Journée d’accueil et d’information) in Iqaluit on September 22, 2021, where they connected with about 25 people and distributed promotional materials about all of the PCA sites in Nunavut, including SNP.

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.

  • Permitting process: PCA is working with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) and Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) to develop a well-defined permitting process across all three organizations. Work to advance the project will continue in 2022-2023.

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.

  • Cruise ship programming at Qaiqsut: As described above (see Objective 2.1), work related to the identification of landing sites for cruise ships, and the subsequent development of visitor access guidelines, is ongoing and will continue through 2022-23. In 2021-22, site assessments completed by PCA recommended that Qaiqsut not be included as a potential cruise ship landing site, as the potential to damage cultural resources while managing high volumes of visitors was significant. PCA staff anticipate meeting with the Sirmilik JPMC to seek further input in Fall 2022.

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.

  • Licence of Occupation and agreement: Discussions on the License of Occupation and accompanying Operation and Management Agreement between PCA and Université Laval for Goose Camp is underway. In 2021-22, a draft Letter of Agreement and License of Occupation was prepared. Final signatures are anticipated in 2022-23.

Next steps

Parks Canada’s Nunavut Field Unit and the Sirmilik JPMC are looking forward to another successful year ahead. Key initiatives for the upcoming year include:

  • Finalizing the License of Occupation and Operation and the Operation and Management Agreement for Goose Camp;
  • Updating and reviewing aircraft and cruise ship landing sites with the Sirmilik JPMC and Canadian Wildlife Service, including making revisions to the visitation sites proposed in the Sirmilik National Park Management Plan (2016) as needed;
  • Reviewing the permitting process with Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA), Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), and Parks Canada for visitation to Bylot Island;
  • Conducting cultural resource monitoring, and assessing a future cabin site location for Sinaasiurvik and two other potential “Gathering Place” sites;
  • Collecting ecological integrity monitoring data, including tundra monitoring, completing the glacier mass balance monitoring transect (including addition new measurement sites at higher elevations on the glacier in the accumulation zone), and continuing to work with the Inuit Knowledge Working Group on the pilot project to include Inuit Traditional Knowledge in ecological monitoring;
  • Updating the Nunavut Field Unit Visitor Safety Plan; and,
  • Developing a radio talk show with a linked local Facebook post in collaboration with QIA in order to widely share information about SNP.

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