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Advocates in Whitehorse thank banks for not funding oil exploration in arctic wildlife refuge

Canada’s five big banks pledged not to provide financing to companies with oil exploration projects within ANWR.

Canada’s 5 big banks pledged not to provide financing to companies with oil exploration projects within ANWR

Advocates for protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge walk to the five major banks in Whitehorse on Thursday with thank you letters. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

The –20C temperature didn't stop a small group of people in downtown Whitehorse Thursday from thanking the city's banks for their support in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

Members of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon walked and carried signs to every bank in the city.

One year ago, representatives from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Gwich'in Tribal Council and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon met with Canada's big banks to discuss the importance of the Porcupine caribou calving grounds in the wildlife refuge, known as ANWR.

Advocates thanked the major banks in Whitehorse for not supporting oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to Porcupine caribou calving grounds. (Mike Rudyk/CBC )

Canada's five big banks pledged not to provide financing to companies with oil exploration projects within ANWR.

In a written statement on Thursday, a spokesperson for TD Bank said the bank would "not provide new project-specific financial services, including advisory services, for activities that are directly related to the exploration, development, or production of oil and gas within the Arctic Circle, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

But Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation member Norma Kassi says even more needs to be done to stop exploration in ANWR.

"What we really need to do, and [what] we want is, we need our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to step up and to come forward and make some very strong statements in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We are not at a good place right now," said Kassi.

Alaskan political leaders have pushed to open the refuge's coastal plain to exploration, but Indigenous Gwich'in have opposed development in the area, citing concern about the impacts on caribou, which they have relied on for subsistence.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which falls under the Interior Department, announced plans earlier this month to hold a lease sale on Jan. 6, weeks before president-elect Joe Biden, who has opposed drilling in the region, is set to take office.

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