QP – Nunavut Sewage Infrastructure

The Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, P.C., M.P., Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

May 9, 2017

Nunavut—Sewage Infrastructure

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Thank you for coming to Nunavut last week, minister, and visiting Iqaluit and Pangnirtung. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to welcome you. I was on duty travel with the Senate Energy Committee in Atlantic Canada.

Your announcement about funding for water infrastructure in nine communities of Nunavut was very good news, but I wish to ask you about a serious barrier to future progress on constructing much-needed solid waste and sewage improvement projects in Nunavut, which I’m happy is a priority of your ministry.

However, there is a current Transport Canada regulation prohibiting construction of new sewage lagoons and waste sites within four kilometres of an airport runway. Unfortunately, this rule would prevent much-needed infrastructure upgrades in virtually all of Nunavut’s small communities. There isn’t a sewage lagoon, whether we like it or not, that is outside four kilometres of any airport runway.

You learned about this issue in Nunavut, I believe, and I’m wondering if you would employ your good offices, with your cabinet colleague the Minister of Transport, to see if you could together find a workaround or exemption for this pressing problem.

Hon. Amarjeet Sohi, P.C., M.P., Minister of Infrastructure and Communities: Thank you, senator. I felt really honoured that I had a chance to go visit the North. It’s a phenomenal place, a beautiful place. Also, being there, I saw the impact and the needs, whether they’re waste water or clean water.

You’re absolutely right: The $200 million or so that we announced will help 19 communities with clean water to drink. Solid waste, waste water, garbage and household waste is a real problem. I had a chance to visit some of those sites. The problem you have identified has been identified to me by the territorial ministers as well.

I will have discussions with my counterpart, Minister Garneau, to find out what the best solution is, because we need to find a solution. There are communities where they have no other choices — and what we can do to assist them in dealing with the lagoons and also the overcapacity in that the garbage sites are filled and they have nowhere to take them. It is about how we can help them with their recycling problems and with diverting some of the garbage going to landfills so they produce less, so that demand is less. We will work with them on those areas, and I’ll take it up with Minister Garneau.


Nunavut—Sewage Infrastructure

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Dennis Glen Patterson on May 9, 2017)

This Government is committed to working with the North to find acceptable solutions that may address the community needs while maintaining aviation safety.

There are 10 airports in Nunavut with Airport Zoning Regulations that contain clauses (Wildlife Hazard and Disposal of Waste) that prohibit the construction of infrastructure such as sewage lagoons and waste sites because they attract wildlife (especially birds). These clauses were included to maintain aviation safety by reducing the potential risk of bird strikes in critical phases of flight. Nine of these regulations were enacted at the request of the Government of Nunavut.

In terms of solid waste and sewage improvement projects in Nunavut, Minister Sohi, who has raised this matter since your question, announced funding for projects that will improve the quality and reliability of drinking water and improve the capacity to manage solid waste and recyclables. In addition, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada has the First Nations Waste Management Initiative, which supports First Nations in developing sustainable waste management systems through modern infrastructure, operations, training and partnerships.