Arctic sovereignty

Edited transcript of an interview with Peter Mansbridge and Sheila Watt-Clouthier about the importance to Canada and the Inuit of protecting Arctic sovereignty.

September 25, 2007

Edited transcript of an interview with Peter Mansbridge (PM) and Sheila Watt-Clouthier (SWC) about the importance to Canada and the Inuit of protecting Arctic sovereignty.

Sheila Watt-Clouthier is an activist and was nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. She has brought prestige and acclaim to Canada's North for her fight to have climate change considered a human rights issue for the Inuit.


PM: Clearly, the Canadian government feels strongly about (Arctic sovereignty), and they're going to spend a lot of money to show a presence. Where does that fit into the current Arctic story?

SWC: Well for many, many years in fact, we've been trying to get our own government to show their presence up here. Not just myself, when I was elected at ICC, but our own leaders here in Nunavut, the premier, and the NTI president and our national bodies, we have been trying to pressure our government for years now to show a presence. Because as long as that Northwest Passage in that area is ice, nobody cares, except Inuit. But the moment it starts to melt, then everybody wants in. And that's what's been happening. And we've been saying this for years, as we saw with climatic changes, the melting of the ice up there. And there wasn't much movement you know. It was like pulling teeth to try to get them to be present up here. And we'd say, our rangers are the only ones who are up here really monitoring the situation. And we would say, if you don't monitor it, if you don't survey it and you're not there present, how can you possibly, when everybody starts to rush to claim it, ever say that it's yours, Canadian waters or ice? Things are happening very quickly now, of course. And as we know, Russia has now put their flag at the bottom of the seabed. And Canada has woken up all of a sudden and their presence is now being felt. And using the same motto that we certainly have said before, if you don't use it, you'll lose it. It's time…it's time to do that. Just the presence this week or the last few days of the military coming in here and the influx of having a huge BBQ for the community and two fighter jets coming in with their very noisy, intrusive noise, I thought, wow what a price we're going to pay for Canadian sovereignty. But I think it's so important because indeed Canadians, we have been up there constantly for millennia, and it is part of our land, our ice, and I think it's going to be a major challenge.

PM: But is presence all about jets flying over and troops marching around?

SWC: I don't know if it has to be that way. I'm not quite sure if they should be just completely really relying more on Inuit presence there. We sit at the top of the world in the four countries. And if there's some way that they could find a way to do it without being so intrusive, then so be it. But at the end though, we’re talking 30, 40 years from now, where the ships are going to be coming through already. So there has to be some form of true monitoring and a system put in place, or else the organic pollutants that we've been fighting for years, and now climate changes, are going to almost seem small compared to the intrusion that's going to come through with the possibility of oil spills and the havoc with the migration of our marine mammals and so on. It's going to be huge.