The Agency

Staff and Directors during a site visit: Marc Casas, Tim Byers, Ron Allen, Kim Poole, Jaida Ohokannoak, Emery Paquin, Jesse Jasper and Jessica Simpson.

The Independent Environmental Monitoring Agency was created to serve as a public watchdog for environmental management at the Ekati Diamond Mine. In December 1994, a federal Environmental Assessment Review Process (EARP) Panel began assessing the possible environmental, social, and economic consequences of building and operating Ekati Mine. This panel was created to conduct public hearings and review the Environmental Impact Statement produced for the project.

In June 1996, the EARP Panel recommended that the Government of Canada approve the project. Approval was subject to a list of twenty-nine recommendations, several dealing with environmental monitoring and mitigation at the mine site. To ensure the Panel’s recommendations about the environment were carried through, the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT), and BHP Diamonds Inc. (now Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation) negotiated a legally binding Environmental Agreement. All three parties signed the agreement in January 1997. The Environmental Agreement called for the establishment of the Independent Environmental Monitoring Agency, and provided its mandate.

Attached to the Environmental Agreement was the Implementation Protocol signed by four Aboriginal organizations, BHP Diamonds Inc., GNWT, and Canada. The protocol provided a means for all parties to work together to establish the Independent Environmental Monitoring Agency.

Creating the Independent Environmental Monitoring Agency also helped to meet the needs of Aboriginal peoples (whose traditional lands would be affected by the diamond mine) for an impartial, independent and knowledgeable third party to monitor the environmental management of the mine.

The Agency is a non-profit organization incorporated as a Society under the Societies Act of the Northwest Territories on February 5, 1997. For more information, view our Society Incorporation Application and Bylaws (1997).

What is the Agency?

The Agency is set up as a non-profit Society in the Northwest Territories.

Our Society Members are the:

  • Akaitcho Treaty 8 First Nations (specifically the Łutsel K’e Dene First Nation and Yellowknives Dene First Nations)
  • Tłı̨chǫ Government (previously known as Dogrib Treaty 11 Council)
  • Kitikmeot Inuit Association
  • North Slave Metis Alliance
  • Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development Canada (INAC)
  • Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT)
  • Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation

Each of the four Aboriginal Society Members appoints one director. The other three directors are jointly appointed by the Government of Canada, GNWT and Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation in consultation with the Aboriginal governments.

The Agency’s directors are independent of the appointing parties, and cannot be employees of government or the company.

The Agency What does the Agency do?

Agency Directors work together to review Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation’s environmental reports and management plans for Ekati Diamond Mine. The Agency also listens to concerns from Aboriginal communities and the general public. We make recommendations to the company and various government regulators about how best to protect the environment around the mine.

To fulfill our mandate under the Environmental Agreement, the Agency:

  • Reviews and comments on the design and results of Dominion Diamon Ekati Corporation’s monitoring programs and management plans, commissions independent expert peer reviews when necessary, and offers recommendations for future improvements.
  • Reviews and comments on the activities of regulatory agencies for the project, and ensures that permits and licences issued for Ekati are protective of the environment.
    Acts as an intervenor in regulatory and legal processes, including identifying and evaluating potential environmental impacts and Ekati’s contribution to cumulative effects.
  • Communicates regularly with government Society Members and regulatory agencies who deal with Ekati Mine.
  • Participates on the Inter-Agency Coordinating Team (IACT).
  • Monitors and encourages the integration of Traditional Knowledge of the affected Aboriginal Peoples into the mine’s environmental plans and programs, and encourages interaction between Aboriginal organizations and the company.
  • Keeps Aboriginal Peoples and the public informed about Agency activities and findings, and brings their concerns to Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation and government.
  • Corresponds regularly with Society Members and hosts an annual general meeting, open house, and environmental workshop (in years that Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation does not).
  • Visits Aboriginal Society Member communities and publishes a summary brochure for distribution.
  • Publishes an annual report in both technical and plain language versions and a summary brochure with recommendations that require the response of Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation and/or government.
  • Maintains a resource library of materials on Ekati as well as various communications tools, including our website, newsletters and brochures.

Directors

Jaida Ohokannoak (Chairperson) was appointed by the Kitikmeot Inuit Association in December 2003. Jaida has served as Secretary-Treasurer since 2004. For over 20 years, she has lived and worked in small northern communities. She currently resides in Nunavut. Jaida has significant experience, knowledge and expertise in environmental assessment, research, monitoring and renewable resource management. She believes mining can be conducted in an environmentally responsible manner to the benefit of both industry and local peoples without long-term adverse impacts to the environment.

Emery Paquin (Vice-Chairperson) is an independent environmental consultant living in Yellowknife. He has more than 35 years of environmental management experience with the northern mining industry and territorial government, and served six years as a Member on the Inuvialuit Water Board.

Tim Byers was appointed by Akaitcho Treaty 8 First Nations (YKDFN and LKDFN) in May 2001. Tim has served as Vice-Chairperson since 2004. Tim is an independent consultant living in Manitoba. He has been working on projects in the Canadian Arctic since 1980. He specializes in studies of fish, Arctic seabirds and marine invertebrates and has assisted Aboriginal communities in documenting their indigenous environmental knowledge. He would like to see more Aboriginal youth engaged in environmental sciences and Traditional Knowledge used more effectively in environmental monitoring, research and impact assessments.

Kim Poole (Secretary/Treasurer) was appointed jointly by the Governments of Canada and NWT and BHP Billiton in December 2006. Kim is a professional wildlife biologist with 28 years of experience in the NWT, Nunavut and BC in the areas of wildlife inventory, wildlife habitat assessment, and identification and mitigation of environmental impacts related to the forestry, mining, and tourism industries.

Ronald Allen has been living and working in a variety of Arctic communities since the 1970’s, and has worked with community groups and organizations on local cultural values, concerns and aspirations related to renewable resources. Ron moved to the Northwest Territories as a Renewable Resources Officer and transferred to Fisheries and Oceans Canada in the 1980’s where he worked as a Fishery Officer and Habitat Inspector. Later he worked as Area Manager and Area Director, delivering and managing multiple-sector operational programs including Habitat Assessment, Fisheries Management, Conservation and Protection, Science, and Administrative Services.

Jesse Jasper was appointed by Dominion Diamond, Government of the Northwest Territories, and the Government of Canada. Jesse retired in 2011 after 39 years of service. Since 1971 he has worked exclusively in northern Canada, focusing on land and water resource development, water monitoring studies to evaluate impacts on development. He coordinated a number of reviews and technical presentations for environmental impact assessments, including NWT Diamond Project, which is now the Ekati Diamond Mine. Jesse represented INAC and EC on a number of boards, including the Mackenzie River Basin Board, the NWT Water Board, and the Mackenzie Gas Project.

Staff

Marc Casas (Executive Director) has an Honours degree in Environmental Biology from the University of Guelph and more than 12 years experience in the field of environmental management, including 8 years within the Northwest Territories regulatory system. Marc’s Northern work experience includes 4 years at the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board and previously 4 years for the Water Resources Division of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. He believes strongly in the co-management regulatory system of the Northwest Territories and feels the Agency plays a key role in ensuring responsible environmental management at the Ekati Mine.

Jessica Simpson (Communications and Environmental Specialist) joined the Agency in April 2013. She is a Tlicho First Nations from Whati and has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Mount Allison University, and was a Sauve Scholar 2010-2011. Jessica has nearly 10 years of experience getting Northerners involved in the regulatory system through her work with the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board as the Community Liaison Officer, and with the Arctic Indigenous Youth Alliance.

Funding

Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation provides the core funding for the Agency, and will continue to be responsible for funding over the lifetime of the Ekati Diamond Mine. The Agency’s core funding is based on a workplan and budget we submit every year. The workplan’s design is based on the Agency’s mandate as set out in the 1997 Environmental Agreement and reflects direction and feedback received from Society Members at our Annual General Meeting.

The budget must also follow two Resolution Agreements that were negotiated when the dispute resolution process, which is provided for under the 1997 Environmental Agreement, was initiated: Mediator’s Report and Resolution Agreement (January 17, 2006) and Mediator’s Report and Resolution Agreement (March 5, 2008).