Ottawa, Inuit agree to create Canada's biggest marine protection area
A huge swath of the Arctic Ocean has been announced as Canada’s newest national marine conservation area, putting the Liberal government closer -- but still shy of -- their goal to protect five per cent of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2017.
The conservation area in Lancaster Sound, known in Inuktitut as Tallurutiup Imanga, will protect 109,000 square kilometres of a region that considered a crucial habitat for polar bears, seals, narwhals, belugas, walruses and bowhead whales.
The agreement reached between the federal government, Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association means that waste dumping, mining and oil and gas exploration will no longer be allowed. The Inuit will receive benefits, which have yet to be negotiated.
P.J. Akeeagok, president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, said the original boundaries proposed years ago would have protected only about 44,000 square kilometres -- not enough for what he calls “the heart of our region.”
One sticking point were the 30 oil and gas exploration leases given up by Shell Canada after the World Wildlife Fund took the company to court to argue they were no longer valid.
David Miller, former Toronto mayor and current WWF Canada president, said Shell’s withdrawal of the permits “was the key moment allowing this to move forward.”
Catherine McKenna, the minister responsible for Parks Canada, said that the region is being protected for the people.
“Inuit have lived here for thousands of years. They rely on the ice. They rely on the amazing mammals that live here,” she said.
McKenna said the protected area, which is comprises about two per cent of Canada’s waters “more than doubles” the amount protected. The Liberal platform in the 2015 election said they would increase marine protected areas from 1.3 per cent to five per cent by 2017 and 10 per cent by 2020.
With a report from CTV’s Omar Sachedina in Pond Inlet, Nunavut