Closer cooperation between northern jurisdictions will help protect the interests of Arctic residents as international activity increases in the Arctic, says Bob McLeod, premier of Canada’s Northwest Territories.
Photo Credit: Courtesy Arctic Circle

Colonialism still present in Arctic, says premier of Canada’s Northwest Territories

REYKJAVIK, Iceland ­-  Despite improved relations between the federal government and Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, northerners still get excluded from political decisions that impact their lands and livelihoods,  says Bob McLeod, premier of Canada’s Northwest Territories.

“Colonialism is not entirely absent,” McLeod told a standing-room only crowd of international diplomats, business leaders, media and academics at the Arctic Circle Assembly, an annual event held in Iceland to foster international dialogue about the North.

“We saw (this) last December when Canada declared a unilateral moratorium on oil and gas development in the Arctic without prior consultation with either the public government of the Northwest Territories or the Indigenous people of the region,” he said on Friday.

Last winter, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the risk of Arctic drilling justified the moratorium, but that the decision would be reviewed after five years.

However, in Canada’s North, where education and employment opportunities are scarce, especially in isolated Indigenous communities, northern leaders pushed back saying the decision would put the breaks on much-needed economic development.

Resource development and environmental protection

Ulukhaktok, a community in Canada’s Northwest Territories. What should economic development look like in remote northern communities like this one? (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

In Iceland on Friday, McLeod said closer cooperation between Canada’s territories and other Arctic regions was needed to better protect the interests of northerners, pointing to the Pan-Territorial Vision for Sustainable Development, released by the Northwest Territories,  Yukon and Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, last month.

In it, the territorial governments call for an end to unilateral decision making on areas affecting their regions and stress the importance of Indigenous participation in economic and resource development.

McLeod said the territories recognize that the resource economy can’t be the only focus of development, and called for greater investments in infrastructure, clean energy and innovation that could lead to a northern knowledge economy.

“Our vision is built on the recognition that the people of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon are our number 1 priority and our most important resource,” McLeod said.

“The people of the Arctic want what everybody else wants. They want good jobs and a good standard of living. They want to be healthy and educated. And most of all, they want a sustainable future for themselves and their families, based on their own vision and priorities.”

Paris climate agreement takes centre stage
Sea ice breaks apart by the passing of the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as it traverses the Northwest Passage through the Victoria Strait in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago Friday, July 21, 2017. Scientists believe there is no way to reverse the decline in Arctic sea ice in the foreseeable future. Even in the best-case scenario envisaged by the 2015 Paris climate accord, sea ice will largely vanish from the Arctic during the summer within the coming decades. (David Goldman/AP/via The Canadian Press)

The Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica sailing through the Northwest Passage this summer. Even in the best-case scenario envisaged by the 2015 Paris climate accord, sea ice will largely vanish from the Arctic during the summer within the coming decades. (David Goldman/AP/via The Canadian Press)

McLeod’s remarks were made during the Arctic Circle Assembly’s opening session alongside Iceland’s Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, Iceland’s President Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson and Ségolène Royal, France’s ambassador for the Arctic and Antarctic Poles, where the implementation of the Paris climate agreement dominated many of the speeches.

“The worst is yet to come,” Benediktsson said of climate change.  “The melting may impact the entire climate system of the earth.”

The Paris agreement was heralded as a major political achievement when it was reached in 2015. But the international community was left reeling when U.S. President Donald Trump said in June that he would pull out of the accord, saying it would be bad for the U.S. economy.

“The consequences of climate change are already being felt all over the planet,” said Royal, who was president of the UN climate change process at the time of the Paris agreement and one of the accord’s key architects.

“We all know we still need to work very hard on implementing the Paris agreement,” she said. “The climate fight is a major step towards global justice and human dignity. And if we are united in this fight, we will win.”

The Arctic Circle Assembly runs until October 15.

Write to Eilis Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Court ruling on Inuit consultation a ‘wake-up call’ for Canadian government says lawyer, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Barents bishops ask Arctic Council to promote fossil-free future, Yle News

Greenland:  Companies ill-prepared to respect indigenous rights in Arctic, study finds, Blog by Mia Bennett

Iceland:  Norwegians and Icelanders let Alaskans in on the secrets to economic prosperity, Alaska Public Radio Network

Norway: Establishment of Álgu Fund marks new beginning in Arctic Council, indigenous peoples say, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: More protected lands on Nenets tundra in Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Treatment of Sami people among Swedish shortcomings : Amnesty International report, Radio Sweden

United States: New bill aims to reverse Obama restrictions on Arctic offshore drilling, Alaska Public Radio Network

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Environment, Indigenous

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

*