Chatelaine: Canada’s Arctic Ice is Melting Fast. Do We (Finally) Have a Plan to Save It?
The Trudeau government has bowed to years of persuasion by Inuit and has declared a marine protected area in the Far North.
Inuit have a name—Tuvaijuittuq, an Inuktitut word meaning “the place where the ice never melts”—for the region that stretches north of the 85th parallel, past the remote military base at Alert, to the edge of Canada’s maritime boundary. Tuvaijuittuq’s fate lies largely in the hands of climate change, which is melting Arctic ice at an alarming pace that’s often hard to predict.
But those who live nearest to the melt, led by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA), aren’t waiting for the rest of the world to turn down the global temperature. QIA, which represents Inuit in the region, has a plan to protect the ice and secure food sovereignty for several far-flung communities in eastern and northern Nunavut. And its leaders have been diligently persuading politicians in Ottawa to secure more than $250 million to make it happen.
On Aug. 1, the feds—alongside gleeful QIA ofﬁcials—bought into the Inuit plan. How, in the face of rising temperatures controlled by neither Ottawa nor Inuit, can they hope to save the ice? They’re starting with a ministerial order to freeze human development in Tuvaijuittuq for ﬁve years. The area is remote enough that there’s no current ship trafﬁc or oil and gas activity, but this prevents any seismic testing or well-drilling that could weaken the ice. As part of a beneﬁts agreement related to an adjacent national marine conservation area in the High Arctic named Tallurutiup Imanga, the federal government will fund full-time hunters and build small-craft harbours, as well as food-processing facilities, in ﬁve Inuit communities that touch Tallurutiup Imanga.
P.J. Akeeagok, QIA’s president, hails the beneﬁts agreement and the government’s commitment to protect the ice as a global model for conservation—and a blueprint that Inuit have had at their ﬁngertips for decades, waiting for a government that would listen.