Is Canada making the right moves in developing the north?


Live from Inuvik 
Does your Canada include the north?

Canada's resource-rich north beckons to a world hungry for raw materials. Resource development builds strong economies but it can also create problems. As the Northwest Territories warms to its new powers of economic development, it's looking to turn oil, gas and minerals into a better future. But ensuring a resource boom benefits the local community can be a challenge.  Hear the hopes and concerns of the people of Inuvik.

Is Canada making the right moves in developing the north?

Live from the Community Hall in the Midnight Sun Complex in Inuvik, NWT.

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From inside the Arctic circle, Canada can look like a very different place. Here in the land of the midnight sun, on the shores of the impressive Mackenzie River, just 100 kilometres from where it pours into the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean, the citizens of Inuvik and many beyond throughout the Northwest Territories are pondering a new future. For many it's a future of promise and opportunity ...but for some it holds a certain amount of danger, uncertainty, and potentially even loss.

We have come to Inuvik at a significant time. Just last week the Territories' government voted almost unanimously to approve a devolution agreement with the federal government giving the Northwest Territories the power to collect some royalties on resources and control Crown lands. Only the MLA for the Dehcho region, voted against the agreement, because of unsettled land claims of the Dehcho First Nations.

Over a decade in the making, this is not the first such deal and neither will it be the last. Yukon signed a deal on controlling its resources in 2003 ...and the federal government is committed to beginning similar negotiations with Nunavut.

The deals are intended to move the territories closer to becoming full provinces by giving them more control and more power to make decisions about how their part of the country should be developed and managed.

Just last month some Aboriginal groups appealed to the Arctic Council which represents eight circumpolar nations end offshore drilling and stop northern energy projects unless they have the consent of local aboriginal people. So the hopes to build a stronger economy on resources is not without concerns and opposition ...but the new devolution deal represents wide agreement on a way to give more autonomy to the citizens of the territories including aboriginal people who form the largest demographic group.

Part of the idea of this program is to bring out the voices of people from this part of the country ...and also set up a conversation with people in other parts of Canada, many of whom might be dealing or have dealt with similar issues. If you're from the south, does your Canada include the north, and are you willing to help northerners achieve the same level of autonomy and stability that you might have in the south? If you're in the north, what are your concerns and your hopes about the future?

We'd like to hear what your views.

Right now Inuvik is enjoying 24 hours of daylight. So we are especially grateful to those who have taken time from their summer Sunday afternoon to join us here in the community hall at the Midnight Sun Complex.

Our question today: "Is Canada making the right moves in developing the north?"

I'm Rex Murphy ...On CBC Radio One and on Sirius XM satellite radio channel 169 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


  • Nellie Cournoyea
    Former Premier of the Northwest Territories 1991 to 1995; Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC). She also sits on the Aboriginal Pipeline Working Group.

  • Floyd Roland
    Mayor Of Inuvik and former Premier of Northwest Territories from 2007 to 2011.

  • Bob McLeod
    Premier of the Northwest Territories.

  • And the good citizens of Inuvik


National Post

Globe and Mail

Northern Journal

Toronto Star

Ottawa Sun

up here business

  • The Inuvialuit Final Agreement

  • From Historical Timeline of NWT

  • Inuvik History

  • NorthWest Territories Research Data Base

  • E-mail

    What an amazing program! Listening to thoughtful politicians discuss issues without spouting an approved party line. Hearing professional staff go into great detail about their work without even their political bosses present. Listening to citizens present their points of view without anger and with consideration for their fellow Northerners. It's been so long.

    Could we convince your panelists and callers to take over federal and/or provincial governments for about ten years? And send our current entitled bunch north of 60 for the same period for some much-needed reality checks? Bravo to our true North!

    Langley, British Columbia

    Ramsey Clark stepped off the ramp from his plane in Tehran during the 1979 hostage crisis and explained to the news media that the problem is that Americans don't want negotiation, they want action "now". The message was simple: Western culture is focused on today rather than tomorrow. Similarly, the residents of NWT that want to scale-up natural resources to expand their economy prefer to see action soon.

    The beneficiaries of any boom are those of working age who have the skills and properties or support businesses to capitalize on an economic boom. Would it not be better to carefully assess environmental and economic development of the NWT so that benefits would accrue over a longer period, not only to those who are currently best situated to capitalize but those who would expect future opportunities in the NWT as well?

    Hamilton, Ontario

    Talk of "developing" the north is an odious euphemism. It really means despoiling the north to extract fossil fuels so as to more rapidly end civilization with climate change.

    Victoria, British Columbia

    I have some reservations about granting provincial status to the northern territories. These are vast regions with incredible wealth, to be sure. But they are home to populations equivalent to a medium-sized city in the south. It seems to me, that in a democratic country, vesting so few people with such great wealth is far from treating all taxpayers and citizens equally. By the same logic, we could easily choose to make Fort MacMurry a province, and Toronto a country unto itself.

    Ottawa, Ontario

    During World War II there was a crude oil pipeline from Norman Wells, NWT to Whitehorse and beyond, so there is already ground approved for pipelines. And thank you, Rex, for basing your show in Inuvik in the western NWT. So many CBC media reports focus on Iqaluit and Nunavik, so southern Canadians do not even know much about the Beaufort Sea. I lived a decade in the NWT and it is my favourite part of Canada.

    Edmonton, Alberta

    Wouldn't it be more accurate to say "exploiting the north"? As is the case with Fort McMurray, how many southerners are likely to stay after the resources are gone?

    Victoria, British Columbia

    According to previous experience in Canada and around the world, resource-based communities are characterized by boom and bust cycles that eventually end in a bust. The few people who remain in these communities are then left with environmental, economic and social legacies to resource extraction. If the communities in the North are serious about shaping the long-term legacy, then they will have to struggle with the questions that all resource communities have to struggle with such as who is considered a member of the community when thousands of workers may enter and many local young people may leave? What does it mean to have wealth stay in the community? And who is responsible for the long-term environmental impact on the region?

    Burnaby, British Columbia

    One aspect of developing the North is drilling for oil in the North. Considering the difficulty in resolving the BP spill in the Gulf under ideal conditions with warm water and a multitude of adjacent support, any drilling under the ice or in the Bering Strait would result in an inevitable bleeding ulcer on the Earth. Think of a diver talking to his wife: Honey, I'm going to dive beneath 50 feet of ice in high seas with the closest support being 700 miles away. It's okay, sunrise will be in three months. I'll bring home a loaf of bread!

    Canadian mining companies are renowned for their good will, you know, dividing up ethnic groups with money, pouring toxic effluent down the mountains of Guatemala and endless litigation. It's okay to deface the surface of the North, at least you can get at it and do your mea culpa later. But below the surface it's a different story and should not even be approached with caution - it should simply not be approached. Oh, and as far as we can do this with technology, trust me, and we will be carefully monitoring things, trust me and we're working with the various government authorities, trust me... Good luck.

    Spruce Grove, Alberta

    One only has to look at the mess north of Fort McMurray to get a gist of what the government of Canada thinks of as development. We can only hope that the local governments of the North will have the power to assess reasonable royalty rates, unlike Alberta, and make shareholders of the corporations developing the resources personally liable when the developers skip town.

    Anzac, Alberta

    I admit that I am not an expert in the field of resource management, extraction, processing, etc. But why are we worrying about trying to pipe out raw extracted product to the processing infrastructure many miles away? Why are we not investing in our own Canadian public-owned processing facilities using our own home-grown expertise and manpower and keeping the value added product within the borders of Canada? Why are we exporting raw product to somewhere else, and then re-importing refined and value-added product for consumption at a higher cost? This has never made sense to me, be it oil, lumber, or mined material.

    Always interesting! Thanks for bringing the country together.

    St. John's, Newfoundland

    I know the CBC has been accused of harbouring a political agenda in the past, but seldom have I heard one evidenced so clearly as today on Cross Country Checkup. Rex Murphy's contempt for the environmental voice renders the entire program into a belligerent editorial in favour of stripping Canada of its resources and condemning anyone who would counsel caution in the process.

    Vancouver, British Columbia

    It is pathetic to hear the defeatism about global warming coming to the North. We the people are in charge of this issue. We are causing this issue. If we would get our heads out of our behinds we could stop global warming. I am sick of hearing these corporate Indians on the show today marketing for the oil companies. Obviously the people living up there have both given up and sold out. The destruction of their culture is obviously now complete.

    Vancouver, British Columbia

    If the North is developed through oil revenue and exploration, would that not lead to more pollution and global warming? And, if oil is not the long term answer, what good would it do to destroy the environment which we all need to survive in the future? Why are we thinking short term, which the North has usually opposed due to the several issues raised regarding migration routs for wildlife, etc? The North says they are modern now, but the lessons to survive were learned from them when the Europeans settled in the North and the Americas. We can all learn from each other, having the people of the North agree to oil exploration because they are making a wage is the same as having a European on the board there in their community making the decisions.

    Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan

    I have been listening with interest as various well-spoken people from the North have given their views. It is disturbing to hear Rex Murphy persist in mispronouncing In-NUV-ik and various other names of northern places and names. It seems this is a metaphor for how the South disrespects the North. This is ironic in contrast to the perfect English of the 82-year-old female guest.

    Langley, British Columbia

    My, oh my. I've tuned in late but from what I've heard, and especially from the Premier, I'm saddened. Sorry folks, you have too much and it's unfortunate, but it's too late. The Earth can't take burning away what you have in the ground, so leave it there. By all means do your hydro, but for the lives of future generations stop the oil and the natural gas. It's too late.

    Kitchener, Ontario

    It seems to me the arctic's development suffers from the revenge of geography. The distances are so great, both to other regions of Canada and international destinations. The most developed regions on Earth are within the temperate zone, the US and Europe, with easy access to markets both over land, and through major ports. Can your panel discuss what is helping the North overcome this geographical obstacle the most? Is it technology, government policy, the private sector or something else?

    Victoria, British Columbia

    Having lived and worked on and off with the Inuvialuit in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk over the past 30 years, I can honestly say that Nellie Cournoyea has an accurate and balanced view concerning the development of the resources within the NWT. There is always a balance required between resource development and the environment. My own personal experience is that Nellie has taken that required balanced into account at all times. Canadians from sea to sea to sea could learn a lot from listening to what Nellie has to say.

    Calgary, Alberta

    This week in Vancouver I attended the three-day hearing of the Hupacaseth Nation who have brought an injunction against the federal government's ratification of the Canada/China FIPPA trade agreement. I wonder if anyone on this panel has studied this agreement and understand the extent to which the ability of the Northwest Territories to manage and balance development of their own resources will be jeopardized if this FIPPA is ratified?

    Vancouver, British Columbia

    Resource development requires infrastructure. Without a sustainable development plan for NWT resources we will see a repeat of the Alberta Oil boom and bust. In Fort McMoney the incomes earned are off the scale and so are the drugs, hookers and bike gangs. Wherever there is too much money concentrated in a 'gold-rush' town - like the Yukon, you will see a repeat of history - boom, bust and few people of a certain generation earning lots of money for a short term. Harper's economic policy is to sell Alberta's tar sands expecting this trickle-down pan-Canadian boom which is as false as it was when Smiling Jack Gallagher sold Bay Street and Canadians on the NWT/Beaufort gas/oil boom in the early 1980s. NWT will have its time. It may not occur during my or your lifetime. But the issues related to global warming and natural resource industry sustainability need to be central to any development in NWT or elsewhere in this country. BTW, we also have polar bears in Ontario.

    Hamilton, Ontario

    We are becoming less important to our governments because we have nothing much that they want anymore. You are just beginning this dance. I urge you to find another partner. They will give you only as much as it takes to get what you have. You know better than the rest of us that governments are not your friends. I beg you to resist these attempts. If you do not succeed you will lose your land and your culture. I can't imagine that you want what we call life down here.

    Douglas, Ontario

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