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NEWS: Harper minister Aglukkaq to chair Arctic Council

The Conservative minister in charge of northern economic development, Leona Aglukkaq, will assume the chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council this Wednesday.

The Canadian Press reports, “Central to Aglukkaq’s plans for her two-year term heading the Arctic Council is the creation of an arctic business forum, which she described as a way for northerners and northern business to share ideas and solutions.” While the Arctic Council has previously focused on a search and rescue treaty, an oil spill prevention pact, and a major study on the acidification of the Arctic Ocean from greenhouse gases, Aglukkaq says, “What I’m proposing is a trade show forum, a business forum of Arctic to Arctic, an opportunity for private industry to exchange information on best practices on permafrost, on shipping, all of that.” The Toronto Star adds, “Ottawa has listed economic development, including what it calls ‘responsible Arctic resource development’, and safe shipping among its top priorities as Arctic Council chair.”

Given the Harper government’s destructive resource-based agenda, Canada taking on the leadership of the Arctic Council is worrisome. Most recently, given the obstacles faced by tar sands pipelines to the south and west, there has been some discussion about a railway or pipeline route from Alberta to Churchill, Manitoba, a northern Manitoba community on Hudson Bay viewed as an Arctic seaport.

There is also oil in the Arctic. The US Geological Survey has estimated the Arctic region has 90 billion barrels of ‘technically recoverable’ oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. And the Harper government is friendly towards plans to exploit these resources. Chevron has an exploration license for 205,000 hectares of seabed off Yukon’s north coast. Imperial Oil and Exxon Mobil Canada have also secured exploration rights. In 2008, BP acquired three licenses for exploration rights in a 6,000 square kilometre area about 180 kilometres off the coast of the Northwest Territories in the Beaufort Sea.

In May 2011, Council of Canadians energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue told Al Jazeera, “The idea that global warming will melt polar ice caps and allow for new petroleum exploitation in the far north represents a terrible irony. Climate change is making these resources easier to exploit, while burning these resources will only contribute to more climate change. In Canada, we have seen a number of well-known actors, including BP and Chevron, exploring for oil and gas in the Beaufort Sea.”

The Council of Canadians has called for a moratorium on all new exploration for fossil fuel resources in the Arctic region. Our presence in the North includes the Whitehorse chapter in the Yukon and a newly-formed Northwest Territories chapter. Our Edmonton-based organizer Scott Harris will be visiting the NWT chapter on Thursday May 16. More on that soon.

For more, please read:
NEB green lights offshore drilling in the Arctic… surprise, surprise
NEWS: The energy industry’s mad rush for Arctic oil deposits
NEWS: Arctic oil spill cleanup impossible (at least) one day in five
Arctic Council meet in Nuuk: The lowdown on what is and isn’t being discussed
UPDATE: ‘Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change’ screened near Parliament Hill
NEWS: BP, Imperial rent Canadian coast guard ship to make case for Arctic oil drilling
NEWS: Barlow in Now on Arctic drilling
UPDATE: Groups protest the Arctic summit