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NEWS: Indigenous peoples in the Arctic call for a ban on offshore oil drilling

The Canadian Press reports, “A growing number of Arctic aboriginals have called for a moratorium on energy development in the North in a statement that seeks an end to offshore drilling and a pause in northern energy projects unless local aboriginals consent. The statement was released Monday in Kiruna, Sweden, two days before leaders from the eight circumpolar nations meet and hand over chairmanship of the Arctic Council to Canada. …(The statement) has 42 signatories, including major aboriginal groups from Russia, the United States and Canada, as well as aboriginal leaders from Scandinavia.”

“‘It is time that we join forces and demand that the oil companies and the Arctic states change their path and start to listen to the voices of the indigenous peoples residing in these lands’, the statement reads. …The statement demands an end to all offshore drilling in Arctic waters. It says methods to clean up inevitable spills haven’t been developed yet. It adds that drilling on traditional aboriginal lands should also end until governments and industry demonstrate better environmental standards. It concludes that any development that does go ahead should only do so with the full consent of local aboriginals, who must also benefit from the deal.” The Joint Statement of Indigenous Solidarity for Arctic Protection can be read in full  here.

“(The) caution from aboriginals contrasts with Canada’s official agenda for its two-year term. …(The statement) also comes after repeated statements by federal Health Minister and northern MP Leona Aglukkaq, who will lead the council during Canada’s two-year stint (as of Wednesday), that northerners support her pro-business agenda.” The Harper government is friendly towards corporate plans to exploit northern resources. 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. 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.

“Bill Erasmus, who signed the statement on behalf of Canada’s Dene Nation, said that Aglukkaq ‘will find out very quickly that when she speaks, she doesn’t speak for the Dene’. ‘Indigenous people have difficulty with industrialization as it’s being permitted, which is basically boom and bust’, he said from Kiruna.”

In March 2010, the Council of Canadians called for a moratorium on all new exploration for fossil fuel resources in the Arctic region. Our presence in the North now includes the Whitehorse chapter in the Yukon and a newly-formed Northwest Territories chapter based in Yellowknife.

For more, please read:
Arctic summit told to leave it in the ground!
Department of Foreign Affairs hit by oil spill
NEB green lights offshore drilling in the Arctic… surprise, surprise
NEWS: Harper minister Aglukkaq to chair Arctic Council