Nunavut endorses Canada-wide pollution rules

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

SEAN McKIBBON

IQALUIT — Nunavut has endorsed a new set of Canada-wide air pollution rules, but the Nunavut government’s fledgling Department of Sustainable Development can’t say yet whether it has the tools it needs to enforce those standards.

“We’re just getting started,” said Catherine Trumper, the assistant deputy minister of sustainable development.

The standards were approved at a meeting of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment held in Kananaskis, Alberta. The council is a forum in which all of Canada’s environment ministers meet to discuss environmental issues.

It was Nunavut’s first time attending at a CCME meeting, and Sustainable Development Minister Peter Kilabuk used the opportunity to make the rest of Canada aware of the special concern Nunavut has about airborne pollutants.

“For many Canadians, the Arctic seems like an untouched wilderness. But for those of us who live there, this is not the case. Pollution travels thousands of kilometres from Europe and Asia and enters our food chain,” he told the ministers.

“Persistent organic pollutants end up in what scientists call ‘the Arctic sink’— that ‘Arctic sink’ is my home. Once in the Arctic, many POPs enter the food chain concentrating in whales, seals, polar bears, and fish which are all staples in our diet,” he said.

The ministers at the meeting were asked to agree in principle to new standards for air pollutants.

Trumper said that although the reduction of airborne pollutants is a top priority for the new government and her department, a considerable amount of work needs to be done to identify all of the environmental threats facing Nunavut, the tools government can use to combat those threats, and the possible economic repercussions that might result.

Trumper, Kilabuk and Earl Badaloo from the department’s environmental safety branch attended the meeting, and were deluged with information about a host of environmental threats and found themselves having to play catch-up with other provinces that have far greater resources to address environmental problems.

Some provinces, such as Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, have already done a considerable amount of research on the issues, but other jurisdictions like Nunavut donot have access to the resources of these provinces and were hesitant to commit themselves to standards that they couldn’t meet.

Fortunately, the standards are flexible enough to allow the provinces and territories time to decide how best to implement and enforce the standards as well.

They also allow jurisdictions to take into account pollution received from other places. This is important, said Trumper, for jurisdictions such as Nunavut that have high levels of air pollution but produce almost none of the pollution themselves.

“Canada’s Arctic is a clear example of how Canada’s environment is at the mercy of the actions of our neighbours,” Kilabuk said.

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