by a former Prime Minister and a former Premier of the Northwest
Territories, World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada) held
a press conference on Parliament Hill today to express its
strong expectation that the federal government must commit
to sustainable development and conservation in the Northwest
Territories’ Mackenzie Valley.
On September 10, in Calgary, Stéphane
Dion, Prime Minister Martin’s Environment Minister
said that, “long-term economic success is no longer
possible without environmental sustainability.” WWF-Canada’s
President Emeritus, Monte Hummel, is in favour of that kind
of message from government, but says that WWF-Canada and
others are looking for the corresponding action. After numerous
meetings with key Ministers and their officials over the
past few weeks, Hummel argues that the federal government
is dragging its feet and in danger of “snatching defeat
from the jaws of victory.”
The “victory” would be implementation
of the Mackenzie Valley Action Plan as part of the Northwest
Territories Protected Areas Strategy, the product of a unique
collaboration led by Aboriginal communities, and supported
by territorial and federal governments, industry, and conservation
organizations like WWF-Canada. The Protected Areas Strategy
and the Action Plan lay out a way for communities in the
North to identify lands with natural and cultural significance
that they wish to protect from industrial development.
The “defeat” has been the
inability or unwillingness of the current federal government
to commit publicly to the Protected Areas Strategy and to
fund its full share of the cost of implementation - $9 million
over five years, or just $1.8 million per year. This, despite
the fact that the other groups who signed onto the Protected
Areas Strategy have committed to raising a matching $9 million.
Stephen Kakfwi, former Premier of the
Northwest Territories, indicated that he too wants to see
adequate federal support of the Protected Areas Strategy.
“Northern communities want the chance to identify
and reserve areas important to them now, while they still
can. Every minister of Indian and Northern Affairs has supported
this work so far, and I’m hopeful that the new Minister,
Andy Scott, will do so as well. We’re already six
months into the fiscal year to which this funding is supposed
to apply, and there’s a backlog of community requests
to get moving”.
Former Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon.
John Turner, went even further, “In the mid-nineties,
when the first big Arctic diamond mine project proposed
to proceed sequencing conservation second, I personally
WWF-Canada’s filing to the Federal Court which resulted
in us getting a Protected Areas Strategy. So, no one should
doubt our resolve to uphold conservation first. It’s
time to do right by the North and the people who live there”.