Published by Senator Lorna Milne (retired) on 25 November 2008
I have just come back from Östersund Sweden, where I was leading the Canadian delegation to a meeting of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region. Among the issues under discussion were:
- Demographic developments in the arctic. In other words, how increasing pressures from industrialization and mining, with attending influxes of southern populations are affecting the people who have lived there for centuries. In the case of the Nordic countries they are particularly concerned with the survival of their Saami peoples.
- ‘The Northern Dimension’ set up just last year, which fosters co-operation between Iceland, the EU, Norway and Russia, with Canada and the USA having Observer status. This group is so new that I am not yet certain how involved Canada will be in its decisions, or even if we will be allowed to be involved. Increasingly it seems that issues so vital to Canada’s future are being decided in Europe without any input from us.
- The results of climate change in the Östersund region. This presentation included a mapping of the north where climate apparently does not exist beyond the northern US border!
- A presentation on endangered species where sealing was defended in Alaska, Norway and Greenland, because seals are in no way an endangered species. Had I not been there they would conveniently ignored the largest seal hunt in the world which takes place each spring in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the north-eastern shores of Newfoundland and which is targeted every year by anti-sealing groups who make millions more off the sealers than the sealers do themselves from the hunt. It is an extremely lucrative fund raiser for several NGO’s that are completely unaccountable to the public.
- I was greatly concerned about Russia’s insistence on discussing international boundaries, which seems to be code for increasing their claims to parts of Canada’s northern continental shelf and the Northwest Passage.
It is astounding to me how Canada is uniformly ignored in almost every international forum that I attend on our behalf. Unless we are consistently there and speak up on our own issues and our own concerns we will continue to be ignored. This is the group that pressed for the International Polar Year where scientists from all around the world are now studying the Arctic and which will help us understand all the implications of climate change, including accessability of resources, the melting of our permafrost and the opening up of the Northwest Passage. Their results will give us the basic data to measure all these things against and to begin to understand how climate change will affect us all.
I am ashamed to report that our newly elected Conservative Government did not send a single delegate to this important forum. Only Liberals were there.