Celebrities, activists rally support for Nunavut hamlet's Supreme Court case

Inuit in Clyde River, Nunavut, hope their cry of 'we do not consent' — amplified by celebrities and activists from around the world — will be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada tomorrow.

'This will give us power to have our voices heard,' says Jerry Natanine, former Clyde River mayor

People in Clyde River, Nunavut, hope their cry of 'we do not consent' - amplified by celebrities and activists from around the world - will be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada tomorrow. (Greenpeace/YouTube)

Images of snowmobiles, snow-covered mountains and whales swimming past crashing ocean waves are paired with dramatic drum beats in Greenpeace's newest video supporting Clyde River's fight against seismic testing. 

Inuit hope their cry of 'we do not consent' — amplified by celebrities and activists the world over — will resonate Wednesday, when lawyers argue their case before the Supreme Court of Canada. 

"We're all very excited and a lot of us are anxious," said Jerry Natanine, a former mayor of Clyde River.

"If we should win, this case is going to have very big effects."

That's why Inuit joined forces with Greenpeace — a controversial ally given its history of opposition to the seal hunt — nearly two years ago. 

The community hopes that alliance, and the huge attention it's garnered, will now pay dividends.

'We had no power, no authority'

Clyde River is arguing Canada did not fulfil its constitutional duty to consult when the National Energy Board approved a seismic testing project in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait.

The hamlet argues that the tests, which use high-intensity sounds to detect underwater oil and gas deposits, could affect the migration routes of animals Inuit rely on for food. 
Hunters in Clyde River are hoping to stop seismic tests before they happen. (Elyse Skura/CBC)

Natanine says meetings organized by the regulator were not sufficient. 

"Now, if we win, if they want to continue doing seismic testing, they're going to have to go back to the beginning and do proper consultation with Inuit," said Natanine. 

"This will give us power to have our voice heard."

The potential of this case to further define the duty to consult could have an effect on Indigenous communities across Canada, he says.

Jane Fonda, David Suzuki pledge support

For more than two years, Greenpeace's Farrah Khan says she's focused most of her work on this case, visiting the Nunavut community more than once. 
Jane Fonda is one of several celebrities in a new video supporting Clyde River. (Greenpeace/YouTube)

She says people in Clyde River asked for two things from their videos, petition and social media campaigns: that they teach the world about Inuit and that they encourage the international community to take action.

"We're sort of trying our best to represent the community in the way that they want to be represented and I hope that it's reaching a lot of people," she said. 

A petition Greenpeace began in 2014 has now been signed more than 200,000 times and promoted by celebrities, including Emma Thompson, Oprah Winfrey and Leonardo DiCaprio. 

Thompson even took a trip to Clyde River with her daughter and recorded a video promoting the cause. 

The newest Greenpeace video has even more star power, including clips from Jane Fonda, David Suzuki, Sarah Harmer and two members of The Trews. 

From Canada to Croatia

Several social media campaigns have been launched in support of Clyde River, not only from Greenpeace, but also from the community itself.

Among the more self-explanatory 'I stand with Clyde River,' 'Save our Arctic home' and 'Unite Against Seismic Testing' hashtags is Greenpeace's 'Noise Complaint' campaign. 

The environmental activist organization called on people to tweet #NoiseComplaint to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and people from as far afield as Croatia, Malaysia and Belgium responded. 

"This fight of the people of a small village is one where the pressing global issues of our time materialize," said Laura Meller, who works with Greenpeace in Finland.

"As what happens in the Arctic affects the climate globally, it is important that the international community supports those communities that act to prevent the oil industry's reckless hunt for oil that the world cannot afford to burn."

Legal battle 'feels historic'

More recently, Greenpeace has begun working with Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, another community that will argue its case before the Supreme Court at the same time. 
The newest video supporting Clyde River also includes Indigenous advocates, including Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, from the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. (Greenpeace/YouTube)

The group is arguing that the National Energy Board should have consulted with local First Nations peoples when it approved a change which reversed and increased the flow of heavy crude oil through a section of Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline. 

That case has received far less attention by both the mainstream media and activists on social media.

This week the Chippewas of the Thames and Inuit from Clyde River are co-hosting a demonstration in front of the Supreme Court building. 

"It's exciting," said Khan. "We're at the centre of something that feels historic."

The court proceedings will be webcast tomorrow and people from Clyde River who couldn't make it to Ottawa hope to watch the events live — if their northern internet connection proves sufficient.

with files from Madeleine Allakariallak