The Hon. John Duncan,
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada,
Parliament Buildings, Ottawa ON.
September 26, 2012 Dear Minister Duncan,
The National Council of Women of Canada [NCWC], representing thousands of Canadians from coast to coast, has for many years studied the destructive impacts of resource exploration, development and use on Canada’s environmentally sensitive ecosystems, and has often urged the Government to act in a “precautionary” manner to protect these treasured natural areas. Most recently, oil and gas explorations have been of significant concern. At NCWC’s 118th AGM it was resolved that “the NCWC adopt as policy the banning of off-shore drilling in Canadian Arctic waters”.
With this in mind we express to you our profound dissatisfaction with the recent announcement by your Ministry that over 905,000 hectares of land in the north eastern stretches of the Beaufort Sea is up for auction to large resource extraction companies.
The Canadian Arctic is our last unspoiled frontier, and it may not be this way for much longer if this is allowed, as we know that drilling disasters have occurred recently in the Gulf of Mexico, and off the coast of Brazil. Drilling technology is never 100% safe and it is always dependent on priorities set by the private company for spending its money, and the directions given to its scientists and drilling employees. Clean-ups after spills are only partially effective. It is estimated that merely 20% recovery was achieved after the Gulf spill.
However, in the Arctic there is an even more formidable job to clean up an oil spill. The effort would be severely limited by the isolation and the climate of the area. The National Energy Board of Canada Review study of the risks in drilling in the Arctic noted that “clean-up efforts could be impossible at least one day in five”, due to wind, waves and ice.
NCWC is disturbed that the Government of Canada is moving full speed ahead into its newly invigorated oil and gas leasing program, despite several “review” findings, and the warnings made to the Review Board at community hearings. Duane Smith, Vice-Chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and President of the Inuvik Community Corporation, cautioned that “Any offshore activity in the Canadian Arctic could affect the entire circumpolar Arctic region,” and that “Negative effects on marine species would affect people in other regions who depend on those same resources…. fish don’t recognize international boundaries.”
Our concerns are reinforced by the Government’s promotion of the development of Canada’s resources, speeding up regulatory approvals, and its recent weakening of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
At the end of its lengthy review, the National Energy Board promised that “we will pursue opportunities to strengthen our regulatory framework in support of future board decisions on Arctic offshore drilling” and that, “the dialogue will continue.”
In the current climate of government and business resource development and promotion, with the irrevocable damage that could be incurred if resource development is undertaken, the Energy Board’s promises ring hollow.
Therefore, NCWC urges you, as the Minister responsible for protective natural resource legislation and policy, to ban off-shore drilling in Arctic waters and in this way allow Canadians, and others sharing our Arctic space, to enjoy the huge, long-lasting environmental and social benefits of doing so.
Denise Mattok, President
National Council of Women of Canada
c.c. Prime Minister Stephen Harper.