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OTTAWA — After a Throne Speech that pledged a focus on the North, Environment Minister and Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq is Yukon-bound to kick off Canada’s term at the helm of the international Arctic Council. She’ll use it to push for expanded resource development and more indigenous involvement in research on subjects such as climate change.
Representatives of the world’s eight Arctic countries are gathering in Whitehorse, beginning Monday, as Canada’s two-year term begins with a focus on development, safe shipping and sustainable communities, and with plans to create a circumpolar business forum.
“Our overarching theme for Canada’s chairmanship is development for the people of the North,” Ms. Aglukkaq told The Globe and Mail. “My meeting with them is to launch that, to talk about the priorities, the importance of working together moving forward,” she added.
Research and environmental protection of the North are pillars of the council’s mandate, and the meeting comes after Ms. Aglukkaq this month said there’s “debate” about the effects of climate change, a subject not mentioned in Wednesday’s Throne Speech. Ms. Aglukkaq now says climate change science is “absolutely clear” and that “scientists mostly agree that human beings are also contributing to climate change.” But, through the council, Canada would launch a “framework” to add more aboriginal input to science.
“Traditional knowledge of indigenous people – that is, a lot of times, missing in the research that’s done,” Ms. Aglukkaq said, adding that, for instance, polar bear research falls short.
“A lot of time, scientists latch on to the wildlife in the North, to state their case that climate change is happening and the polar bears will disappear and whatnot. But people on the ground will say the polar bear population is quite healthy. You know, in these regions, the population has increased, in fact. Why are you [saying it’s] decreasing? So the debate on that … My brother is a full-time hunter who will tell you polar bear populations have increased and scientists are wrong.”
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