The Arctic is replete with creation stories. Two years ago, we collaborated with Inuk artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory on a film project that paid tribute to the Nuliajuk (Sedna) creation story in anticipation of the creation of the Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA). In August of this year, the boundaries for this marine protected area were announced and negotiations are underway to develop a management plan and Inuit benefit agreement for what will be Canada’s biggest marine protected area. And the NMCA has a new name: Tallurutiup Imanga — its traditional name, which translates as “the body of water next to the island named after the tattooed chin of a woman.”
Oceans North has a new-old name too. We used to be called Oceans North Canada. This reflected the fact that we were the Canadian arm of a North American collaboration that included separate Arctic campaigns in the U.S., Greenland and internationally. These campaigns were built on partnerships. First, Oceans North Canada was a collaboration between Ducks Unlimited Canada and The Pew Charitable Trusts. This allowed us to field a very strong team not only of campaigners but also of people with ties to the northern communities in which our projects are based. Our calling card has been that we don’t knock on northern doors and proselytize southern-hatched solutions. Most importantly, our campaigns relied on partnerships with local organizations in each of the northern regions where we work. We have developed lasting relationships with indigenous and local organizations focused on the protection of renewable ocean resources, connected livelihoods and balanced development.
Oceans North doesn’t have as poetic a creation story as do the sea animals that were created from Nuliajuk’s fingers in Inuit mythology. But we are proud of our beginnings and our support for community-focused conservation models. And so we decided to transition from a campaign housed within two large organizations, to a stand-alone Canadian non-governmental organization (NGO).
Oceans North became a Canadian nonprofit in July 2017 and has taken steps toward becoming a registered charity. We have a three-member board of directors. Our honorary chair is Mary Simon, who accepted this post following the completion in April 2017 of her powerful federal report called A New Shared Arctic Leadership Model.
Over the years, Oceans North has also worked closely with U.S. and international partners on Arctic issues that go beyond our borders. We’ve learned that many of Canada’s concerns about the Arctic are shared by our neighbours in Greenland and Alaska. Oceans North will strengthen these connections and forge new partnerships as we continue on our mission: to promote the conservation of Canada’s northern oceans and the resulting well-being of people and communities who rely upon its natural wealth.
Chris Debicki is vice-president of policy development for Oceans North.