Frustrated Nunavut protesters look to federal MP for support
“We’d rather protect our animals than fill our pockets with money”
Protesters in Clyde River had a question for their member of Parliament July 23: where are you?
Elders were among more than 100 residents who marched the Baffin community’s streets July 23 in opposition to planned seismic testing in the waters of eastern Nunavut.
Many of them chanted in Inuktitut: “Naulli Leona?” they asked, referring to Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, who has yet to publicly weigh in on the debate since the National Energy Board approved a five-year testing scheme last month.
“People are pissed off and feel betrayed,” said Nick Illauq, a member of the group Fight Against Seismic Testing in Nunavut, which organized the march.
“She’s saying that Inuit should stand up for ourselves,” Illauq said, referring to a comment in Aglukkaq’s keynote address to the Inuit Circumpolar Council July 21.
“But we are (standing up for ourselves),” he said. “She’s our representative, but instead she chose Harper’s agenda and a Norwegian company, over the people she’s supposed to represent.”
A group of Norwegian companies that go by the name Multi-Klient Invest are set to do seismic testing in the Baffin Bay and Davis Strait starting in 2015.
MKI will collect seismic data for sale to the oil and gas industry.
But Inuit in Clyde River fear the underwater noise could affect the marine life they have hunted for centuries by interfering with marine mammal migration routes.
“Let’s say we get money from the feds from this for five years — we could see a lifetime of destruction,” Illauq said. “We’d rather protect our animals than fill our pockets with money.”
To illustrate how much Inuit value what they harvest on the land and in the sea, Illauq points to the Facebook page he created in 2012 called Nunavut Hunting Stories of the Day.
The page, which has grown to more than 43,000 members, has a steady influx of posts from Inuit in Nunavut and around the world showing off their latest catch.
“This site has shown what animals mean to us and that we take nothing for granted,” he said. “And we’ll fight tooth and nail for our future generations to do the same.”
In recent weeks, the debate over seismic testing has now become a war of words between Inuit in Clyde River, Aglukkaq and even environmental group Greenpeace, which has joined forces with Inuit to oppose the testing.
While Inuit say Greenpeace’s campaign against the seal hunt in the 1970s devastated many of their communities, Illauq said the two sides have recently made amends and agreed to work together — despite Algukkaq’s advice to do otherwise.