“For us, the Inuit, it is our homeland – our special place on earth. But for all Canadians, the Arctic must become part of our shared sense of who and what we are, of what defines us, and what we are accountable for – not just a remote region with beautiful icescapes and polar bears.”
– Mary Simon “Inuit and the Canadian Arctic: Sovereignty Begins at Home.” (2009)
“Through the hard work and vision of the people of Nunavut, a new land was forged out of an ancient history, making the Nunavut motto ‘Our land, our strength,’ as true today as it has been in the past. Canada is enriched by the presence of this beautiful land and unique culture; our confederation is strengthened economically and culturally.”
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper marking the 10th anniversary of Nunavut. (2009)
The Arctic is today’s front line of climate change: melting sea ice, ecosystem restructuring, changes in distribution and migratory patterns of fish, animals and birds, new invasive species and increasing access for industrial development. Even though indigenous Arctic cultures have in the past adapted to environmental conditions in which no others could survive, change is now occurring rapidly. Northerners and Arctic countries cannot afford to wait for global solutions to the carbon problem. Arctic residents, conservationists, scientists and government officials must develop a range of effective marine conservation strategies to address the impact of climate change.
Canada plays a key role in developing these northern solutions. The country's four settled land claims with Inuit across its entire Arctic coast create institutions of public governance, co-management and other power-sharing arrangements. These foster the development of culturally appropriate conservation measures based on science and traditional knowledge. Respecting and fully implementing key land claims provisions will further encourage Inuit-led conservation efforts. Solutions developed in Canada, in turn, can serve as models for other Arctic countries.
Oceans North Canada is supporting three northern solutions that are ecologically significant and help implement Inuit land claims agreements:
- Creation of a large National Marine Conservation Area in Lancaster Sound through the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement: Lancaster Sound is a world-class ecological area, abundant in marine mammals and seabirds, rich in cultural and historical legacy and has already been identified by Parks Canada and Inuit leaders for this purpose. Creating a national marine conservation area would provide cultural and environmental protection in advance of increased industrial activities such as commercial fishing, offshore oil and gas development and marine shipping.
- A fisheries management plan in the Canadian Beaufort Sea: This plan would close the region to commercial fishing while scientists and the Inuvialuit determine whether and how commercial fishing could occur without harming the changing Arctic ecosystem or Inuvialuit land claims rights.
- An ecosystem study of Baffin Bay leading to a sustainable fishing plan: Limited commercial fishing already takes place in Baffin Bay but no plan exists to prevent destructive fishing practices.This plan would respect Inuit traditional practices and protect marine mammals, cold-water corals and sensitive habitats while providing jobs and fishing income over the long-term.