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WIN! Seismic testing off Clyde River cancelled for this year

Federal Court of Appeal

Last month Council of Canadians organizer Mark Calzavara and Ailish Morgan-Welden joined Clyde River Mayor Jerry Natanine at a Federal Court of Appeal hearing in Toronto.

The Council of Canadians has been working with the people of Clyde River, Nunavut and allied organizations to stop seismic testing for oil and gas exploration in Baffin Bay.

In January of this year, the Arctic Journal reported, “It began with the Council of Canadians, a prestigious social action group, when it, in a January 16 blog post, announced it was standing with the Nunavut hamlet in favour of moratorium on seismic testing in Baffin Bay.” That same month, Nunatsiaq reported, “The Council of Canadians — a prominent social action group — issued an online petition [that] calls on its supporters to send letters opposing the testing to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Peter Watson, chair of the National Energy Board.”

This afternoon, the Canadian Press reports, “A remote Arctic community is declaring victory after a consortium of energy companies cancelled controversial plans for seismic testing off Baffin Island this summer.”

It had been believed that the seismic testing could begin within weeks or even days.

Clyde River lawyer Nader Hasan cautions, “The battle is far from over but this is certainly a welcome development, and it gives people of Clyde River the opportunity to focus for a little while at least on things that they would ordinarily be doing in the summer, rather than be preoccupied with going into court in the very near future to ask for an emergency injunction.”

In terms of the ongoing court case, CBC notes, “Clyde River argued in front of the Federal Court of Appeal last month for an injunction that would prevent the consortium from going ahead with seismic testing until a federal environmental assessment makes recommendations on which areas should remain closed to development. The court’s decision is expected soon.” The fuller challenge is calling on the Federal Court of Appeal to overturn the National Energy Board’s decision to allow seismic testing 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.

The Arctic Journal has explained, “Clyde River fears the testing – which involves blasting loud bursts of noise through the water in order to detect whether there is oil or gas beneath the ocean floor – is harmful to the narwhals and other marine mammals coastal communities hunt for food.” Seismic testing uses air guns to blast the water every 15 seconds 24 hours a day and can severely impact the hearing and migration patterns of marine mammals and even cause death. Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait are home to 80 per cent of the world’s narwhal population along with significant numbers of seals and other marine mammals.

To send a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and National Energy Board chair Peter Watson urging them to overturn the National Energy Board’s decision to allow seismic testing in Baffin Bay, please click our action alert here.

Further reading
Federal Court asked to halt seismic testing in Clyde River (April 2015 blog by Mark Calzavara)
The Council of Canadians Stands in Solidarity with Clyde River (April 2015 blog by Ailish Morgan-Welden)
Council of Canadians supports Clyde River, key court ruling expected in June (January 2015 blog)
Council stands with Clyde River for a moratorium on seismic testing in the Arctic Ocean (January 2015 blog)