Inuit summit scrutinizes resource development
”The resources you find there are ours, too”
OTTAWA — While resource development takes place at a rapid pace around the Arctic, Inuit need to be “part of that process,” said Aqqaluk Lynge, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, on Feb. 22, at the opening of the ICC summit on resource development.
“We are here to forge a collective vision that says to the world in a united Inuit voice; this is our land, our waters, our ice and the resources you find there are ours, too,” Lynge said.
Lynge and Inuit leaders from Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Russia are meeting in Ottawa Feb. 23 and 24 to forge a common Inuit front on resource development, such as offshore oil drilling and mineral extraction, near their communities.
The ICC wants to have an influence on policies, so they better respond to respond to Inuit needs, Lynge said.
“Development is going fast and we’re told it will have an effect on our communities. If some of the mega projects – such as in Greenland – go through, we want to know how to protect our people and how to how to involve them in the process,” said Lynge, referring to Cairn Energy’s announcement last year that one of their drill holes off the coast of Greenland turned up oil.
If resources are developed, then Inuit should benefit, he said.
“We all have the basic knowledge of what happened in Alaska with oil development there,” Lynge said. “These people became even more a minority in their own [region].“And that’s the scary part.”
ICC called the Ottawa meeting to respond to the Nuuk Declaration, adopted last summer at the organization’s general assembly in Nuuk.
That declaration instructed the ICC to look at policy issues on resource development throughout the Arctic, including the economic, social and cultural impact assessment processes.
Summit delegates will hear Feb. 23 from experts who will address the different exploration projects around the Arctic and their potential impacts.
Then, they’ll hold discuss behind closed doors on day two of the summit, ending the day with a press conference.
Lynge told those at the summit to carry on in the spirit of the late Nunavut politician and Inuit language advocate Jose Kusugak who passed away in Rankin Inlet last month.
“Kusugak led with compassion, humour and with inclusiveness,” Lynge said. “His life was an example of a truly great Inuit leader and I hope this summit will… make our departed friend proud.”
Duane Smith, president of ICC Canada and chair of the summit, called the meeting “timely” with the growing number of oil and mineral exploration projects in Inuit regions.
“We’re trying to think ahead and be proactive,” he said, “as well as stressing Inuit rights.”