An agreement guaranteeing the shared management of oil and gas resources in the Western Arctic has been signed recently between the Canadian government and representatives of local and Indigenous populations of the Inuvialuit, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. In addition to resource revenue sharing, the agreement also aims at advancing the process of reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and the federal government.
Described as historic, the agreement was signed on August 10 between the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and the Canadian government. It addresses the sharing of revenues from offshore oil and gas development in the western Arctic, ensuring that local residents are the main beneficiaries of economic activities related to hydrocarbon projects.
This is the first time an agreement has included an Indigenous government as a full partner, ensuring that the Inuvialuit (i.e. the Inuit of Western Canada), as well as the residents of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, have a say in the decision-making on offshore oil and gas development projects. A fair return: “Inuvialuit have long been sidelined from participation in the management of offshore oil and gas exploration and development in the Western Arctic.” says Duane Ningaqsiq Smith, President and CEO of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC), an organization responsible for representing the interests of the approximately 3,000 Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic. “This Accord recognizes the paramountcy of our Inuvialuit rights […] and ensures that a share of resource revenues, opportunities and benefits rightfully flow to Inuvialuit communities. This is an important step in our continuing journey toward self-determination and reconciliation”
The “Western Arctic – Tariuq” Accord foresees that resource revenues from the Canada-Inuvialuit Zone will be net of payments to the IRC, which will include an amount equal to 50% of the first C$2 million of resource revenues and 5% of all additional resource revenues generated in the Canada-Inuvialuit Zone.
To enable the IRC to implement and administer the agreement, the federal government has allocated C$2.5 million (€1.6 million) from the 2022 budget.
While the signing of the agreement has received mostly positive reactions, some questions remain. Indeed, Canada had issued a moratorium on offshore oil and gas activities in the Arctic in 2016 before banning them altogether in 2019. TThe ban, which was due to end in 2023, was extended earlier this year by the authorities, notably due to the fact that the extraction of this type of resource would not be profitable in the long term. Demand for oil and gas is expected to level off or even decline over the coming years. It therefore remains to be seen what economic benefits local populations will derive from this agreement.
Whatever the case, it is the residents of these regions, particularly the Inuvialuit, who now have a say in how their territories and resources are exploited. It’s a step forward that should, among other things, advance Canada’s implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And perhaps also serve as an example for future agreements giving Arctic residents in general, and indigenous populations in particular, primacy over their lands.
Mirjana Binggeli, PolarJournal
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