'The Arctic is not a dumping ground, in the sea or on land.'
Navy stance on food, sewage disposal draws fire
Inuit organizations say the Canadian Navy shouldn't dump rotting food and raw sewage into the Arctic Ocean.
"We call on the Canadian Navy, and other ships, to exercise restraint in changing their practices in this regard," said Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, in a news release earlier this week.
The navy recently relaxed its rules for the storage of food and other waste, due to worries that warm weather in the Arctic, prompted by climate change, may present a health risk to naval officers during Arctic sovereignty patrols.
New orders allow "moderate amounts" of pulped-food waste to be dumped if a ship is 12 nautical miles (about 22 kilometres) from shore.
The orders also allow untreated sewage to be dumped into the sea at the same minimum distance when the vessel is moving.
"It's very discouraging to learn of this in addition to the increased stress the Arctic is experiencing with climate change, the opening of the Northwest Passage, and concerns over asserting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic," said Duane Smith, president of Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada).
"I would ask people to stop and think. The Arctic is not a dumping ground, in the sea or on land. When people go camping, they take their garbage with them."
Green Party leader Elizabeth May said National Defence Minister Peter MacKay should explain why he has allowed the navy to relax pollution regulations.
She said "giving the navy a license to pollute the North sends an appalling message to the rest of the world."
"Minister MacKay dispatches more ships to the Arctic to enforce Canadian sovereignty and, apparently, those ships will demonstrate how we intend to exercise that sovereignty by dumping garbage and human waste into the ocean," she said in a news release.
Canada's warships are exempt from the Canada Shipping Act and other laws with environmental restrictions, although navy ships must comply with ecosystem protections under the Fisheries Act.