Group says indigenous peoples must give free, prior and informed consent
Greenpeace Canada says that a recent decision to allow seismic testing in eastern Nunavut ignores the rights of northerners and Inuit.
Last week, the National Energy Board approved a five-year seismic testing scheme proposed by a group of related Norwegian companies in the waters of Baffin Bay and Davis Strait.
The same week, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development minister Bernard Valcourt rejected calls from the Nunavut Marine Council to put seismic testing in Baffin Bay on hold until after his department completes a strategic environmental assessment of the area.
In a July 3 release, Greenpeace accused Valcourt of putting business before safety and corporate interest ahead of people’s rights.
“Greenpeace reiterates its unconditional support to the principle that indigenous peoples have the right to free, prior, and informed consent for decisions that will affect their interests, including any development on traditional territory,” said Greenpeace’s Arctic campaigner Farrah Khan, referring to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Khan pointed to research that shows that seismic testing can affect the marine environment and the food chains of a number of species that are fished and hunted in Nunavut’s coastal communities.
“Air cannons used in seismic testing send sound waves that can permanently damage or even kill marine mammals nearby,” Khan said.
“The precautionary principle should prevail in all decisions the National Energy Board takes in this respect, as should Indigenous peoples’ right to carry out their traditional way of life.”
To carry out the testing, Norwegian companies operating under the name Multi-Klient Invest or MKI will use an air gun towed by a ship to blast timed explosions into the waters, allowing them to map what lies beneath the seabed by measuring vibrations caused by the air gun array.
That information is often sold to oil and gas companies to help them gauge the potential for exploration.
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association got an injunction against seismic testing in August 2010 on the grounds that its safety was not guaranteed and that prior community consultations had not been meaningful enough.
But that concerned an area in Lancaster Sound, which falls inside the Nunavut settlement area. MKI’s proposal covers waters outside the Nunavut settlement area.
Leaders in communities across the Baffin region have said they’ll continue to fight the testing.