3.11 Arctic strategy

by Craig Cantin | November 29, 2011 4:04 pm

The Canadian Arctic is a stunningly beautiful environment. It has been the home of Inuit and northern First Nations peoples since time immemorial. And this highly sensitive region is now on the front line of climate change.

Reports from scientists and elders indicate that the Arctic will be free of summer sea ice within the next several decades. This is a profound change that will impact not only the Arctic, but the entire planet. What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.

The North is already experiencing high levels of development pressure from oil, gas, and mining; these are expected to increase as the ice melts, with additional pressures arising from commercial shipping, fishing, and tourism. One can argue whether the development has more positive or negative effects, but there is no doubt that the impacts threaten to irreversibly change the northern environment and the unique way of life enjoyed by indigenous and northern peoples.

In recent years, we have also experienced pressure on our Arctic sovereignty. The offshore boundary between the Yukon and Alaska remains in dispute. Several nations claim that the Northwest Passage through our Arctic archipelago is an international waterway.

While the Arctic continues to melt, the United States Geological Survey has released a detailed study estimating that the Arctic holds approximately one-quarter of the world’s oil and gas reserves. These factors have effectively created a land rush by those nations wanting to lay claim to parts of the Arctic. The North has now become politically significant on a global scale.

40% of Canada’s land mass and much of its identity lies in the North. Rapid change is now inevitable. And it is a dark irony that the global use of oil and gas is melting out the Arctic, which in turn is providing access to the last great storehouse of oil and gas. We need to move quickly beyond the issue of sovereignty for its own sake, and chart a path forward that will sustain us through and beyond the challenges ahead.

The Green Party is committed to working with Northerners as the North realizes its true potential as a healthy and prosperous region within a strong and sovereign Canada. Decision making and action must build on the northern tradition of respect for the land and on the principles of responsible and sustainable development. And it is time we honour the intent of our Land Claims Agreements (see Section 4.10.5 on Aboriginal policy).

There is a clear rationale for Canada to claim as much of the sub-sea Arctic territory as possible. However, it is critical, at the same time, for the Canadian government (in close partnership with northern peoples) to establish a vision for how the Arctic will develop and how it will be protected. This vision should build upon the federal government’s Northern Strategy in close collaboration with the three northern territories. Through the Arctic Council, we should seek to extend this vision throughout the Circumpolar North.

Green Party MPs will:

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Source URL: http://elizabethmaymp.ca/vision-green/p3.11