“We’re fighting for our life, for our way of life.” That’s how Jerry Natanine, the mayor of the 900-person hamlet of Clyde River, describes his community’s fight to stop seismic testing in Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait. Last night, supporters gathered at a public information session in Toronto to hear from Natanine along with constitutional lawyer Nader Hasan and doctoral candidate Warren Bernauer. On Monday, Hasan and Natanine will head to the Federal Court of Appeal to ask for a judicial review and overturn of the National Energy Board’s decision to approve seismic testing off the coast of Baffin Island.
In June 2014, the NEB approved a five-year application from a group of companies to use seismic testing for oil and gas exploration in Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait. Despite widespread opposition from Inuit communities and organizations in Nunavut, including the unanimous opposition of the Nunavut Mayors’ Association, the NEB approved the application without a formal hearing. At public meetings, company representatives were unable or unwilling to answer basic community concerns about how testing would affect marine mammals such as seals, narwhal, and cold water fish. The approval sparked further opposition on Baffin Island and across Nunavut, including the second protest in Clyde River in Jerry Natanine’s memory.
Natanine and his community are opposing the exploration for being harmful to the environment and disregarding Inuit rights. Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait are home to 80% of the world’s narwhal population along with significant numbers of seals and other marine mammals. Seismic testing, which uses air guns to blast currents of air into the water every 15 seconds 24 hours a day, can severely impact the hearing and migration patterns of marine mammals and even cause death. Seals and other marine mammals are dietary staples of the Inuit of Clyde River and Baffin Island, especially as the food crisis in Nunavut continues. Any loss of marine mammals, already threatened by climate change and shrinking ice, would be devastating for the people of Baffin Island.
The people of Clyde River and their lawyer Nader Hasan are asking the Federal Court of Appeal to overturn the NEB’s decision and to ensure that any future exploration is subject to rigorous environmental assessment and respects the fundamental rights of Inuit people, including to free, prior and informed consent. As it stands, seismic testing could begin as soon as the winter ice melts.
On Monday, supporters will gather outside the courthouse to support Clyde River. A banner signed by supporters will be returned to the community. If you’re in Toronto, please come out to show your support. You can learn more about the event here.
The Council of Canadians stands with Clyde River and calls upon the federal government to overturn the NEB’s decision and ensure that oil and gas exploration does not proceed in the Arctic.
To send a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and National Energy Board chair Peter Watson urging them to overturn the decision, please click here.