Arctic council to create northern business forum

Canada's Arctic Council minister, Leona Aglukkaq, says the government needs to do a better job of including northern business and aboriginal knowledge in its study of climate change.

Canada’s Arctic Council minister, Leona Aglukkaq, says the government needs to do a better job of including northern business and aboriginal knowledge in its study of climate change.

“Over the last 16 years there has been a lot of scientific work conducted through the Arctic Council on climate change. The evidence is there. It is happening,” Aglukkaq said.

“We need to work on incorporating traditional Inuit knowledge with science,” she said.

Aglukkaq was in Whitehorse this week for the first summit of the Arctic Council, which Canada now chairs. She said discussion focused on establishing the council’s priorities for Canada’s term at the helm.

“Arctic states operate on a consensus basis. The ideas were presented to the Arctic states and based on that, our priorities from the consultation were approved,” Aglukkaq said.

“Canada’s priorities are responsible Arctic resource development, safe Arctic shipping and a circumpolar business community,” she said.

The council will establish a circumpolar business forum in January to help northern business across the Arctic communicate with each other and give their feedback on issues like the impacts of climate change.

“We need to continue to monitor what’s happening in the North and the science behind that is very important. We can’t stop. We have to continue to assess what’s going on on the ground,” she said.

But that means including what business and industry are seeing on the ground, she said, especially when it comes to the effectiveness of environmental monitoring.

Industry should have a way of telling Canadians whether they are doing a good job of safeguarding the North, she said.

“From the business community side of things, what they said is that we do all this research and mitigation measures are put forward by environmental assessment groups to ensure that we protect our environment.

“In doing that, the flip side is from the business community is that we can share what we’re seeing. We don’t have a mechanism to share what we’re seeing on the ground. The business forum would be an opportunity to do that,” she said.

Aglukkaq didn’t offer any suggestions about how aboriginal people’s knowledge could be included, but pointed to Outside scientists doing work without consulting the local populations.

“When science is conducted outside of the North on a subject like polar bears without talking to the people on the ground, there’s a bit of a conflict. That’s not necessarily correct.”

Aglukkaq spoke at length about the importance of scientific research in the North, and studying how climate change is affecting the environment north of 60.

Earlier this week, a report released by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada said that hundreds of federal scientists have been asked to exclude or alter technical information in government reports for non-scientific reasons. Thousands of scientists say they’ve been muzzled from speaking to the media or the public.

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