Inuit want in on International Polar Year

“They will be coming to our own backyards and conducting this research, and we expect to be involved”


Canadian Arctic researchers now know they’ll have $150 million to spend over six years, in conjunction with the International Polar Year, which kicks off in 2007 and ends in 2008.

“It is all new money. No re-announcements here,” said David Hik, executive director of the Canadian International Polar Year, following last week’s long-awaited announcement in Calgary by Anne McLellan, the deputy prime minister.

And Hik estimates the total value of this new money will increase by five times, when various groups and other countries form partnerships on Canadian projects.

But how this money is spent is more important than ever, said Duane Smith, acting president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and Canadian president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference.

“It is important to remember that the polar regions are not laboratories or petri dishes, but the home for Inuit and others and many other indigenous peoples as well.”

Smith said Inuit must be involved and benefit from the research, and be reassured their lands won’t be overwhelmed by Canadian and international researchers and their equipment.

“We have experienced this in the past and it doesn’t work,” Smith said. “To this end, Inuit are willing to help Canada ensure that any and all work done in the Arctic adheres to the strictest standards and ethical guidelines.”

Smith said researchers must collaborate with each other and with northern communities, many with small populations and limited resources. He said the IPY organizing committee has been struggling to get over the barrier of non-cooperation “that we continuously see.” He said Inuit expect to be provided with research findings

“There needs to be better collaboration between indigenous people and the researchers, so that we can maximize the opportunity that we have here.” Smith said. “That doesn’t just apply to the Canadian researchers, but this message has to go out to the researchers internationally as well, because they will be coming to our own backyards and conducting this research, and we expect to be involved.”

This IPY, the world’s fourth, is focusing on the human dimension of polar science.

Among the projects proposed for IPY in Canada is one coordinated by Karla Williamson, a senior researcher with ITK. Called “Arctic resiliency and diversity,” it deals with community responses to change.

IPY is also looking at climate change impacts and adaptations.

A large amount of Canada’s IPY money will go to training programs and capacity-building in northern and aboriginal communities. IPY’s secretariat will also work with territorial governments to help them with increased demands on their research licensing systems.

Organizations that support polar research, like the Polar Continental Shelf Project in Resolute Bay, will also see more support. At the same time, to accommodate the influx of scientists and researchers to the North, Canada will put more money into emergency preparedness.

IPY begins on March 1, 2007. For more information consult

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