Op-ed: Inuit voices to be heard at IMO on critical shipping issues

The CCGS Terry Fox breaks ice ahead of the CGGS Louis S. St-Laurent during a scientific mission charting Canada’s Arctic continental shelf in 2015. The Inuit Circumpolar Council is the first Indigenous Peoples organization to receive provisional consultative status at the world’s shipping regulatory agency — the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization. (Handout photo)

By Lisa Koperqualuk and Monica Ell-Kanayuk

While Inuit leadership, youth and knowledge-holders raised their voices at the Glasgow climate change talks last November, the Inuit Circumpolar Council became the first Indigenous Peoples organization to receive provisional consultative status at the world’s shipping regulatory agency — the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization.

Lisa Koperqualuk, left, is vice-president (international) of ICC Canada. Monica Ell-Kanayuk, right, is president of Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada.

Provisional status meant some countries did not approve of ICC having full consultative status and Inuit have until the end of 2023 to make a case for permanent membership. Several countries with shipping interests — Russia, Japan, United Arab Emirates and China — voted against Inuit engagement.

Ultimately, we will provide a report to the IMO, illustrating how Inuit knowledge and visions have informed decision-making regarding global shipping and guide how Arctic shipping will evolve.

The 2018 Utqiaġvik Declaration directed ICC to ensure the Arctic marine environment was protected, and that Arctic shipping infrastructure is sustainable. Inuit must be at the highest levels of decision-making to protect our marine environment. Inuit are reclaiming their rightful seat where decisions that impact Inuit Nunaat are made. The ocean connects us rather than separates us. As a maritime people, the sea ice and the ocean are central to Inuit culture and food security.

Provisional status is a significant accomplishment. It reflects an acknowledgment of the inherent right to self-determination. The marine environment is affected by this UN body, therefore it is crucial this temporary status be made permanent.

Inuit depend on Arctic shipping for resupply, and it is also an integral part of Inuit economies. The Arctic marine environment and the cultural connection to it and the food security it provides are paramount for our communities.

ICC will work to ensure the Arctic shipping industry is safe and sustainable through four areas of action:

  1. Harmonization of regulatory frameworks north of 60 with south of 60, like emission control areas; in southern Canada, people and marine habitat have a higher level of protection from shipping air emission impacts;
  2. Efforts to decarbonize the global fleet through the transition from heavy fuel oil to safer fuels which will reduce black carbon in the Arctic and prevent a spill;
  3. Vessel underwater noise restrictions to protect marine mammals; and
  4. Reduction of Arctic vessel pollutants such as grey water discharges and harmful substances including nutrients, plastics and invasive species.

This victory for Inuit will ensure that, as shipping increases in our Arctic waters, we will have our own voice. Community members will be heard on issues from the importance of shipping to concerns we have regarding our marine environment from potential spills, underwater noise, black carbon, safe shipping corridors, pollution and grey water discharge, and invasive species.

Inuit now have a seat at this international table where issues that impact the Arctic are discussed.

Monica Ell-Kanayuk is president of Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada. Lisa Koperqualuk is vice-president (international) of ICC Canada.

Share This Story

(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by iWonder on

    This article closes with in celebration, saying that “Inuit now have a seat at this international table” … yet opens claiming that Inuit were granted provisional rather than full consultative status. Is the victory lap a little premature?

    If I was in the position to consider whether to grant full status (the kind the really counts) to the ICC I would have some questions too. I might finally be in the position to have some of my questions about traditional knowledge addressed. That might begin with something like “what is meant by the term ‘Traditional knowledge’ when used in context like this?” What is the method by which a piece, or unit of, traditional knowledge is discovered or produced (and no, not ‘created’)?

    Here is my concern: that what is offered up as TK might often be a bundle of intuitions, slanted by bias and various prejudices. That a process that lacks mechanisms for openness and self-correction can only produce bits of information people call ‘knowledge’ without adequate justification. To that I might ask what are the mechanisms by which Inuit, or Traditional knowledge can self-correct, be revised or even refuted?

    I am similarly concerned that production of ‘knowledge’ occurs within a secretive dome of limited membership based on cultural, or racial essentialism. An essentialist, it seems to me, might value cultural iconography and symbolism over what is, or best approximates ‘truth’ arrived at through rigorous inquiry.

    You might object that this is a very ‘western perspective’… I agree, it is, but it is one that works, for the most part, and does so because it is open and self-correcting (granted, this is a clumsy, slow moving and often inefficient process that is very often prone to long detours around the truth).

    Dear ICC, if you want to reject the western, or scientific method / epistemology for knowledge acquisition so be it, but will you tell us where and by what measure you can be sure you have discovered ‘knowledge’?

    16
    2
  2. Posted by Contast on

    A contrast here on the level of tolerance between those who reject Inuit participation, like Russia and China, compared to here at home.

    1
    4
    • Posted by Unsurprised on

      It’s interesting that you haven’t even attempted to address the very smallest hurdle . Why should the world accept meta claims grounded in some ill defined moral position?

  3. Posted by AllBlind? on

    We wont have to worry about lack of basic any needs, any resources soon if icebreakers continue as they do breaking up the ice leading us to the irreversible effects of climate change.

    There needs to be a new approach. The south has roads, why not the north?

  4. Posted by Dave on

    Provisional status is a significant accomplishment. It reflects an acknowledgment of the inherent right to self-determination. The marine environment is affected by this UN body, therefore it is crucial this temporary status be made permanent.
    ————
    I know Russia has veto power on many/most UN resolutions. Does anyone know if they have veto power over this?

    1
    1

Comments are closed.