This case study analyzes the tourism industry in Torngat Mountains National Park, Labrador, Canada and further considers how it engages and collaborates with Indigenous communities who also inhabit the ancestral territory. The national park was offered to the Canadian federal government as a present from the Inuit (Nunavik and Nunatsiavut groups) in 2005. Since then, it has been managed by Parks Canada, a federal governmental body, offering visitors the ultimate nature experience while implementing practices that reinforce the park’s sustainability, viability and biodiversity preservation along with other environmental agencies. It is crucial to recognize that the national park is still home to the Inuit communities as they have a strong connection to the landscapes, culturally and spiritually, and are fully reliant on its natural resources. This case study aims to examine the successes or failures of collaborative management with Inuit groups and overall the relationships and impacts that interested stakeholders (governmental agencies,tourism associations) have on local communities.
The Torngat Mountains National Park (TMNP) is a 9,700 km2 land that holds rich history, culture and breathtaking landscape. It is located in Canada, stretching along the Saglek Fhojn in the south, to the northern tip of Labrador. The park also extends from the Labrador Sea in the east, to the provincial boundary of Labrador and Quebec in the west. The location is home to breathtaking natural treasures such as deep fjords, towering mounting peaks, and valleys. It also acts as a migratory path and habitat to various aquatic and land wildlife including seals, caribous, polar bears and whales .
The location has been home for the Inuit people of Nunatsiavut and neighbouring people of Nunavik for 8,000 years where they practiced traditional customs and practices such as hunting, fishing, and trapping. Various archeological features such as sod houses, burial sites, food caches, and aullâsimauet or settlement camps are present at TMNP, showcasing the rich history of Inuit traditions and culture. In preservation of the rich history of the location with Indigenous people, the park is under a cooperative management between Parks Canada and the Inuit Band..
The Torngat Mountains Base Camp and Research Station (TMBCRS) located along the borders of the park in Nunatsiavut lands acts as a gateway to the park. It has been an entry point for access the traditional lands for indigenous people. The base camp allows visitors from July to August to experience the park by providing a range of services, accommodation and assistance in the planning their expedition. In addition to that, it also acts as a research station for scientific and archaeological studies done for the park. The main goal of the national park is to showcase the beauty of the landscape while educating visitors with the history and stories of Inuit people, allowing them to experience their culture and tradition.
The Co-operative Management Board (CMB) is a multi-stakeholder body that is composed of members from the Nunatsiavut Government, Nunavik Corporation, and Parks Canada . It creates opportunities for other stakeholders to closely work with Inuit communities to educate everyone about their culture, heritage and the Torngat Mountains’ ecosystem . Moreover, it develops management plans highlighting the potential of multi-stakeholder work to maintain and enhance the National Park’s ecological sustainability . CMB results in ensured ownership [what is this?], promotes conservation and allows collaborative resource management in the area as well as inclusiveness in the decision-making process .
The official website of Newfoundland and Labrador Government states that the Inuit Land Claims Agreement involved the Labrador Inuit Association , the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada and it was signed in 2005, related to the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area outside the Labrador Inuit Lands and the Torngat Mountains National Park .
Later, as stated in the official website of the federal Government of Canada, in 2008, the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement also came into effect, legally declaring the formation of the National Park Reserve (Torngat Mountains National Park) . In accordance with these agreements the Nunatsiavut Government has obtained jurisdiction over Inuit culture, language, control over the local Inuit governments as well as the demarcated land mentioned in the agreement . The Comprehensive Land Claims Agreement’s goals and aspirations helped shape the way co-management is being undertaken as “ a real form of self-government” . As learnt in class these land settlement agreements are legal documents that are binding and important to the Inuit groups to provide long-term security over self-sustainability and governance rights . The Inuit groups in Labrador have gone through the extensively long legal process of protecting their land by establishing the National Park for environmental and cultural conservation and preservation purposes. Their goal is not to benefit financially from tourism, it is simply to have the inherent right to self-govern and access to their traditionally and customarily held land.
As mentioned earlier, the TMNP is handled through a co-operative management by Parks Canada and the Inuit groups. The co-operative management board is comprised of seven members representing different groups, giving these members the authority for the park. The seven-member board includes two representatives from Parks Canada and four Inuit representatives, two of them from Nunatsiavut and two from Nunavik through Makivik Corporation.
The Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, Memorandum of Agreement for a National Park Reserve in the Torngat Mountains and the Park Impacts and Benefits Agreement (PIBA), are three significant pieces of legislation that paved the way for the establishment of the park and its cooperative management. The terms and conditions that were approved by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador are found in the Memorandum of Agreement, which highlights the protection of natural areas of the park, maintaining ecological integrity, and recognition of the Inuit and their connection to the land. The PIBA on the other hand, provided the framework of the cooperative management between the parties.
The Land Claim Agreement gave rights to the Inuit to practice their language and traditions that includes hunting, trapping, and fishing within the boundaries of the park. They are also entitled to be part of provincial and federal programs, in addition to being in the consultation board with decision making for management and projects for the park . The agreement also gave tenure to the Inuit to continue to occupy and live within the park without paying any taxes or rent. The agreement gave the Nunatsiavut government authority to make laws regarding who can occupy Labrador Inuit Lands, issuing licenses for harvesting, including establishing fees, charges and royalties, and require assessment on projects done in Labrador Inuit Lands .
The Wildlife and Plants Co-Management Board was also established through the Land Claims Agreement in which members are appointed by the Provincial minister, the Nunatsiavut Government and the Federal Minister. The board has the authority to establish the Total Allowable Harvest for migratory and non-migratory species of wildlife and for plants, implement measures and assessments on the impacts of various projects on wildlife and flora present .
The main affected stakeholder for this case study is the Inuit people from Nunavika and Nunatsiavut. The land has been home of Inuit for about 8000 years. They have used the land for their traditional hunting of migratory animals, and lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle across the landscape, travelling by foot, boat, and dog sleds. In addition to this, they also had a long history with European settlers for about 600 years, affecting their lifestyle, way of living, travel routes, and patterns, having to adapt to vast changes as a result.
Both Inuit families from Nunavik and Nunatsiavut are affected with the establishment of the park as they maintain a really tight connection to their ancestral land, even after forcibly moved south after the province joined the Confederate Canada in 1949. Both Inuit from Nunavik and Nunatsiavut through the Land Claims Agreement in 2005, have been given the right to practice their traditions, being able to fish and hunt within the boundaries of the park, along with travelling throughout the park to harvest.
Today, the Nunatsiavut Government (NG), acts as an important body in the establishment and management of the park. The Inuit community of Nunatsiavut region is represented by the NG, promoting their way of living and the preservation of their traditions and culture. Following the main objective of the TMNP and TMBCRS, the Inuit play a major part as they supply history and knowledge about the local landscape of the park. With this co-management of the national park, the Inuit take part in the decision making and the direction in which the park is headed to as they advance to a more sustainable ecological and cultural tourism.
A governmental structure that is integrated in the co-management of the National Park. It has high level of power over national parks in Canada and allows funding to be allocated to the base camp/research station and local communities of Torngat . It has strong decision-making position over other parties through implementation and enforcement of regulations and restrictions related to the park’s area . Its main objectives are strongly tied to the importance of acknowledgement and education of the land and Inuit's heritage, conservation and management of biodiversity of the park .
A governmental body that has power over provincial related laws; developing treaties and agreements where land claims and self-governance are highlighted. It takes care of management regime practices as well as developing and implementing of regulations related to consultation and engagement with Indigenous People in Canada .
A stakeholder with power and responsibility over the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area as its financial, logistical and project manager . It is composed of representatives from the Federal and Provincial Canadian Government and the Nunatsivut Government . It determines the quantitative values and restrictions of Total Allowable Harvest (TAH) and develops management strategies to be reviewed and approved by the Nunatsiavut Government and the Ministry of Forestry .
A United Nations agency that works internationally in the tourism industry. The agency’s aims are to “ promote tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability…” .
Nunavik Tourism Association (NTA), the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), research scientists etc.
The Inuit of Labrador decided to organize and create the Torngat Mountains Base Camp and Research Station (TMBCRS), which is located on the demarcated area of the Torngat Mountains National Park. Their main goal is to allow multi-stakeholder participation to ensure sustainability within the tourism industry, promote and preserve Nunatsiavut’s ecological and cultural heritage . Eco-tourism proves to be a rising tourist category in the TMNP, promising a nature-immersed experience and the thrill for every adventure enthusiast .
As of 2017, the TMBCRS is offering experiences that foster the Inuit culture and adventure opportunities . Inuit work as guides for sightseeing and bear-viewing expeditions to educate people about their spiritual, ancestral and cultural sites and teach them to how to live from the forest (hunting, harvesting, fishing) . Community Based Ecotourism in TMNP allows the government and local Inuit communities to be on the same level of power and equal opportunity to manage; collaborative work . New Brunswick University's professor, Pema Thinley, also claims in a report that founding the national park “prevented oil and mining companies to take over and provided the Inuit better access to their land, as transportation was difficult prior to TMNP” . The Inuit groups in Labrador have gone through the extensively long legal process of protecting their land by establishing the National Park for conservation and preservation purposes. Their purpose is not to benefit financially from tourism; it is simply to have the inherent right to self-govern and access to their land.
Research studies and assessments have determined many barriers hindering the success rate of tourism initiatives with regards to poor management of the ecosystems and collaboration with local communities. More specifically, maintaining sustainability and preventing biological degradation when approaching tourism initiatives' impacts . While developing sustainable approaches to showcase the beauty of Torngat Mountains National Park, it is difficult to minimize and reduce ecological damage and other adverse impacts . The remoteness of the area is also of great concern, as it creates pressures with regards to safety and risk management for tourists . Only Inuit people are allowed firearms permits, during polar bear viewings and other tourist experiences, but new rules are being reviewed to allow non-aboriginal people to have the same access. this is of special concern since there is an increasing need for more help/rescue teams . Difficult access, limitations in infrastructures, and high costs during the short business season also pose a threat according to the 2015 ATAC report that states there is a “Lack of coordinated Aboriginal tourism methods …. market-readiness… qualified workforce… limitations in business capital…[and] language barriers." . In addition, culture protection, preservation and appropriateness need to be addressed and dealt with more carefully in the tourism context . Finally, unemployment and job opportunities have also come to attention, Nunatsiavut hopes to resolve this as mining, fisheries and tourism are seasonal enterprises .
Measures have been taken, with reference to a few of the problems mentioned above, which led to the creation of The Indigenous Stewardship Model (ISM) . It was developed to ensure stewardship, self-governance and sustainability for Indigenous People. It equally aimed to recommend co-operative management strategies and alternatives. The National Park establishment lead to the creation of management boards (including local and Inuit people) and opened the door to more research and regional tourism opportunities . Also, Parks Canada resolved to consider a “watchmen programme at the Hebron National Historic Site similar to that of Haida Gwaii watchmen programme…” to preserve historical sites . There have been also efforts to introduce local Inuit to younger generations for educational purposes through Parks Canada .
The cooperative management between Parks Canada and the Inuit is a perfect example of a bottom up management that allows local community members and Indigenous groups to have a voice, ensuring mutual respect for all parties and exercising a form of self-government. This provides a platform to form a common vision, while taking into consideration the concerns and values of stakeholders. This also provided empowerment for the Inuit community to still practice their traditions, while being able to share and educate tourists about their culture.
The national park holds a lot of opportunity for eco-tourism as tourism was found to be the province’s greatest economic driver. Traditional tourism for the province is characterized as consumptive tourism through hunting and fishing activities. However, with the establishment of the park, it opened doors for visitors who seek adventures, while at the same time engaging in Indigenous tourism ventures. This also is beneficial to the community of Nain, a local town located south of the park, as it provides a permanent settlement for tourists to visit, allowing the town's residents to gain economic revenue. In addition, the TMNP provides economic benefits for Parks Canada through visitor tour offers for kayaking, backpacking, sightseeing, skiing and expeditions, at the same time allowing them to understand the significance of protecting the history of the area. This also gives a platform for scientists, and other interested stakeholders to engage with research studies through the base camp, further understanding the landscape and its components.
With that being said, the TMNP is still facing various barriers on Indigenous tourism ventures, opening room for growth. In accordance to the 2015 Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada (ATAC) report, the lack of organization, coordinated tourism approaches, market readiness, availability of research, and qualified workforce were the top challenges the national park is trying to overcome. In addition to this, the difficulty of building infrastructure, lack of roads, and cost of operation were a few barriers as well. With this gap and imbalance, it is significant to maintain healthy partnerships with private sectors, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, local community members and the Indigenous community. These relationships will allow to fill in the gaps and mitigate the risks that comes with tourism in a remote location like the TMNP, along with building up networks, and increasing resource capital and indigenous culture awareness.
In hopes to aid the TMBCRS to move forward, a few key steps need to be taken. A report called “Improving public-private collaboration to sustain a remote Indigenous tourism venture: The case of Torngat Mountains base camp and research station in Nunatsiavut” written by Adam Fiser and other authors states the following recommendations need to be carefully considered  . Developing a “…project charter and terms of reference…”, creating written resources as guidelines that TMBCRS staff for future practice and management as well as long-term infrastructure development projects and economic strategies are essential .
In order to safely foster Inuit culture sacred sites such as burial sites there may be a need for watchmen to ensure no damage to these places. To better nurture cultural protection, attractions and programs should also follow a detailed and respectful guideline Finally, a consistent FPIC (Free, Prior, Informed, Consent) approach will be the best way to move forward with any tourism initiative or future infrastructure development project with outside companies and agencies .
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