ICC summit wraps up with lukewarm consensus
Circumpolar Inuit fall short of common front
OTTAWA — The Arctic is open for business, as long as Inuit get economic benefits and exert influence over environmental protection, leaders from Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Russia said Feb. 24, as they wrapped up a two-day summit on resource development organized by the Inuit Circumpolar Council.
“We have agreed with the leaders that we [the Canadian Arctic] are open for business — on certain issues,” said Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. “We think it will be on a case-by case-by-basis [because] there are conditions that need to be met.”
That includes ensuring more profits stay in the regions where they are earned, she said.
“When we talk about Inuit being the primary beneficiaries of development, we want to make sure it will help them live in a cash economy,” Simon said. “We want to create opportunity for our people… that represents their abilities.”
But the ICC’s summit fell short of producing a common front on resource development that it had set out to find during the meeting. Instead, ICC committed to work towards a set of “guiding principles” on Inuit development.
Although, in the summit’s closing news conference, ICC president Aqqaluk Lynge said the summit “demonstrated the unity” among Inuit on the issue of making resource development work for Inuit, ICC member nations didn’t seem to agree on much else than that during the summit’s open discussions on Feb. 23, with Greenland coming out in favour of more aggressive resource development.
Over the next few months, ICC members plan to continue talks on issues like uranium mining in the Arctic, because Inuit regions are still divided on the issue.
The ICC — along with ITK — officially opposes uranium mining in Inuit territories.
In Nunavik, where deposits of uranium have been found in the Kangiqsualujjuaq region, leaders will be watching to see if ICC changes its approach.
Makivik Corp. president Pita Aatami said Makivik is currently aligned with ICC’s position, although the region hasn’t “closed the door” on uranium.
As for offshore drilling, ICC’s Alaska representative Edward Itta said the North Slope will continue its opposition.
“It’s not an opposition based on shutting down offshore,” Itta said. “It’s the woefully inadequate standards that we’ve been opposed to all these years.”
“It’s encouraging that industry is responding to these concerns now,” he added. “So the notion of opposing offshore [development] has paid off.”
Alaska’s Inupiat, who have seen onshore exploration on their homeland for the past several decades, owe much of their modern existence to those industries, Itta said.
ICC now plans to present its ”declaration on responsible resource development principles in Inuit Nunaat” this May at a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in Nuuk.
The declaration will talk more about:
• Ensuring Inuit are primary beneficiaries of resource development;
• Respecting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Inuit legal rights;
• Balancing risks and benefits of development, and ensuring development is sustainable;
• Using the Arctic Council’s “Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines” as minimum standards;
• Supporting an international mechanism so damage resulting from offshore oil exploration and exploitation will be covered; and,
• Assessing the environmental and social impacts from resource development.