Canada’s Inuit will have a say about Arctic shipping | Polarjournal
As sea ice melts, the volume of shipping traffic in the Arctic is increasing significantly, which has consequences for the region and its inhabitants (Photo: Sovcomflot)

Canada’s Inuit will play a key role in a C$91.6 million federal project that is looking into ways to reduce the impact of shipping in the Canadian Arctic

It is no secret that the sea ice in the Arctic is melting, and, as it does, it frees up more navigable surfaces. Over the past 30 years, there has been a significant increase in shipping in the northern polar regions. In Canada alone, maritime traffic has tripled in this time. One of the main reasons is that maritime routes through the Arctic, and the Northwest Passages in particular, are shorter than southerly routes that pass through the Panama and Suez canals.

But this has consequences both for the environment and for the people who live in the Arctic and who will see more and more ships passing through. This is the case for Canada’s Inuit, who are suffering the full force of the increase in maritime traffic and its nuisances, from pollution to disturbance of wildlife, particularly the marine mammals on which they still largely depend for their subsistence.

To help address these issues, the federal government will spend C$91.6 million (€61 million) to fund the Qanittaq Clean Arctic Shipping initiative. The amount, according to the Canadian chapter of ICC, an Inuit rights group, is the largest the organisation has received since its inception in 1980. Describing the measure as “historic”, ICC Canada said in a statement last month that it expected it would position Canada and the Inuit as leaders in sustainable Arctic shipping.

Lisa Koperqualuk, the president of ICC Canada, shakes hands with François-Philippe Champagne, the federal innovation, science and industry minister, during at the announcement of the Qanittaq Clean Arctic Shipping fund on 28 April (Photo: ICC Canada / Facebook)

Co-directed and co-developed by Memorial University and ICC Canada, the Qanittaq Clean Arctic Shipping initiative aims to create a research project that draws on qaujimaniq, or Inuit knowledge, and works with indigenous organisations in the North. Doing so should enable Inuit leaders and communities to partner with national and foreign academic institutions, federal agencies and the private sector to develop the technology, help come come up with the policies and gather the community input that will allow it to guide the growth of shipping in the Canadian Arctic.

“This comes at a time when there is a huge international focus on Arctic shipping, considering the effects climate change is having on the increase in shipping traffic, and the consequences to the Arctic environment. For Inuit this will be a game changer and help position us to be leaders in this field,” said Lisa Koperqualuk, the president of ICC Canada. The initiative also aims to improve the quality of life of Inuit communities and reduce food insecurity in the region. Indeed, many consumer products (including basic foodstuffs) are often shipped by sea or air, at a considerable cost. By being included in the initiative, the Inuit will be able to have their say about Arctic shipping and benefit from it, too.

Mirjana Binggeli, PolarJournal

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