Arctic Canadian community says oil moratorium renewal doesn’t go far enough

Sea ice at dusk in Clyde River, Nunavut. Photo Eilís Quinn.
A qamutik on the sea ice at dusk in Clyde River, Nunavut. The community says it wants to see at least a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration in Arctic Canadian waters. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

An Arctic Canadian community says it’s disappointed with Ottawa’s one-year extension of an oil exploration moratorium, saying it doesn’t go far enough. 

“The Hamlet of Clyde River is very disappointed with this decision,” Mayor Alan Kalluk Cormack said in a letter to Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal this month.

“The Hamlet of Clyde River remains opposed to offshore oil and gas extraction in Baffin Bay and continues to support a minimum 10-year extension to the moratorium (i.e. until at least 2013).”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first announced the moratorium in 2016, prohibiting offshore oil and gas exploration in Arctic Canada.

The measure was controversial.

Environmental groups and some Arctic communities praised the decision, while other communities and northern politicians denounced the measure as an impediment to the economic progress.

The moratorium came with promises of review every five years, during which climate and marine reviews are to take place.

On December 15, Ottawa prolonged the moratorium until December 31, 2023.

Implications for climate, hunting

Clyde River is an Inuit community of approximately 1,200  located on the eastern coast of Baffin Island, across Baffin Bay from Greenland.

The community’s mayor and Senior Administrative Officer Jerry Natanine couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday.

Sled dog waits near qamutik at hunting camp near Clyde River, Nunavut. The hamlet council of the community says the impact of a potential oil spill on harvesters in the region could be disastrous. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

But in his letter, Cormack said oil and gas exploration pose too great a risk to communities that rely on the land for food.

“While our community is not against development, we know that, for us, the risks are greater and the benefits are smaller where offshore oil and gas development is concerned,” he said.

“An oil spill or other accident could be catastrophic to our way of life. Exploration activity related to offshore oil and gas, like seismic surveys, has been shown to negatively impact fish and other marine mammals.”

Climate concerns are also a factor, Cormack said, adding that the community is already wrestling with the impacts from global warming, like increased ship traffic in the North, and that the impacts of energy exploration would be and additional burden.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Bill requiring First Nations’ oil and gas development consent spiked in Yukon, CBC News

Norway: Equinor postpones decision on northernmost oil field, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian Arctic coal is looking for way out of sanctions, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Will the green transition be the new economic motor in the Arctic?, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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