Inuvik leaders take aim at prime minister over Arctic drilling ban

The Town of Inuvik and Indigenous leaders are set to write letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, protesting his decision to ban Arctic drilling for the next five years — without consulting any of them.

'We've had zero consultation on the future of our kids and our grandchildren'

Inuvik business leader Tom Zubko says the ban "squashed all the job potential in the area. It takes away from kids in school any desire to better themselves." (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

The Town of Inuvik and Indigenous leaders are set to write letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, protesting his decision to ban Arctic drilling for the next five years — without consulting any of them.

Trudeau and President Barack Obama announced the ban on offshore exploration at the end of December.

"I was quite stunned to be honest," said Tom Zubko, a prominent business owner in Inuvik. "I can see that the outgoing president wanted to leave a mark on his record, so he has an agenda there, but our Prime Minister I think had absolutely no business joining in on the process."

Zubko presented a motion to Inuvik Town Council last Wednesday, urging them to publicly support N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod by writing a letter to the federal government.

McLeod has spoken out against the five-year moratorium, saying he learned of it just two hours before it was announced and blasting Trudeau for not consulting with the territorial government.

Zubko says it's especially important for Inuvik to support the premier since the community is heavily impacted by oil and gas. "We've had… zero consultation on the future of our kids and our grandchildren and the economic well being of the Northwest Territories, and we have to, at the very least, support the premier who is working on this file diligently."

At Wednesday's meeting, Inuvik town council passed a motion supporting McLeod's position.

The president of the Nihtat Gwich'in Council, Jozef Carnogursky, who was also at the meeting, said the town has the backing of his organization and that they would also write a letter or contribute to the town's letter.

"In our view, it's just another example of Ottawa deciding what's best for us here in the North without even talking to us," Carnogursky said. He said community and Indigenous governments need every opportunity to provide for their citizens.

'Startling' lack of communication

On Thursday the CEO of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Duane Smith, sent his own letter to Prime Minister Trudeau.

In it he writes, "I remark with concern that INAC notified us about the Joint Statement only a short time prior to its release… This lack of meaningful communication is startling given your government's stated commitment to improved Inuit-Crown relationships."

Smith said the Inuvialuit "cannot support unilateral decision making."

"We do have rights, not only as Canadian citizens but under our land claim and that's what my letter to the prime minister was also pointing out."

Meanwhile Tom Zubko is still hoping the prime minister's decision can somehow be reversed.

"We have this situation which has basically squashed all the job potential in the area. It takes away from kids in school any desire to better themselves. Why would they bother doing that? There's nowhere for them to go unless they leave the territories."

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