Nunavut senator weighs in on Bevington-Aglukkaq feud over Arctic Council
“Misinformed NDP ideology”
Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson leapt Nov. 8 to the defence of his Conservative colleague, Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, when he unloaded on Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington for opposing Aglukkaq’s appointment to the chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
Bevington, the New Democratic Party’s critic for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, said in an article published Nov. 5 in the Ottawa-based Hill Times that Prime Minister Stephen Harper should have appointed Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird instead.
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper broke with international precedent,” Bevington said.
The NDP MP went on to suggest that the Conservative government may be ill-prepared to provide international leadership on Arctic issues, especially on climate change.
And he also blasted the government for its opposition to a series of recommendations that emerged from a meeting of Arctic parliamentarians in Akureyri, Iceland this past September.
These included statements favouring expansion of the Arctic Council’s work by adding more permanent observers, the addition of more binding powers and once-a-year ministerial meetings.
“We can only hope all the sea ice is not melted before the Harper government wakes up and provides effective leadership at the Arctic Council,” Bevington said.
Aglukkaq fired back first — in a written statement issued Nov. 5 — that accused Bevington of hypocrisy.
To that end, she said Bevington should cancel a “tax-payer funded” trip to Inari, Finland scheduled for Nov. 13, for an Arctic parliamentarians committee.
“If Dennis Bevington doesn’t believe that northerners, — or anyone else other than the minister of Foreign Affairs — can be effectively dealing with Arctic issues, then it would be completely hypocritical for him to travel on the public dime,” Aglukkaq said.
Aglukkaq had just completed a pan-territorial consultation tour to prepare for Canada’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council in May 2013.
“I think northerners are able to speak for themselves,” Aglukkaq said.
Then, on Nov. 8, Patterson lambasted Bevington in a statement given in the Senate, accusing the NDP MP of breaching his own party’s principles by suggesting that only Baird, a non-aboriginal male from Ottawa, can represent Canada.
“This is the New Democratic Party speaking, the party which prides itself for its focus on gender equality and respect for minorities,” Patterson’s speaking notes said.
Calling Bevington’s article an “insult” to an aboriginal woman who was born and raised in the North, Patterson went on to accuse Bevington of “having no confidence in the ability and commitment of our northern residents and northern leaders to represent our country in an international organization…”
As for Bevington’s criticism of the Conservative government’s position on Arctic Council issues, Patterson accused Bevington of “misinformed NDP ideology.”
Patterson said Bevington recommends Canada and other Arctic nations “surrender their sovereign jurisdiction to the nations of the world” by calling for multilateral action beyond the eight Arctic nations.
“Do we really need to create a United Nations North?” Patterson said.
He also criticized another Bevington recommendation, that “permanent participant” non-governmental organizations at the Arctic Council get more money and a stronger role.
Though permanent participants include aboriginal organizations like the Inuit Circumpolar Council, in the future they might also include “American-funded environmental groups like Greenpeace,” Patterson said.
“Why would we open up Arctic policy making to all the nations of the world and also to unelected environmental organizations who want to turn Inuit into vegetarians or welfare recipients and the North into one giant park?” Patterson said.