The world needs an Arctic treaty to establish rules to ensure safe shipping and safeguards in the event of an oil spill, says John Streicker, the Green Party’s new Arctic and northern affairs critic.
But the Conservative government currently sees melting sea ice as little more than an opportunity to exploit oil and gas, said Streicker, who was the Green’s Yukon candidate in the last federal election.
The Arctic Ocean may be ice-free during summer months within a decade, according to some projections. The prospect of ice-free polar waters could open up the region to shipping and oil exploration.
Canada, Russia, the US, Norway and Denmark are currently racing to lay claim to parts of the Arctic seabed, which may possess one-quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.
Canada needs to see melting sea-ice as more than a cash grab, said Streicker.
He points to how Canada only sent its natural resources minister to seabed discussions last year in Greenland.
Native groups were excluded from talks. This is wrong, said Streicker.
Had the discussion taken place within the Arctic Council, natives would have had representation.
With global attention fixed on rapidly melting Arctic sea ice, now may be an ideal time to push for Green initiatives, said Streicker.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s emphasis on how Canada must “use” the Arctic “or lose it” is misplaced, said Streicker.
“I find it offensive. We’re here. Let’s acknowledge northerners live in the North, and our sovereignty is secured through that very fact. And start discussing the real issues around this stuffÃ‰ environment, development, how people’s health and safety are going to be affected.”
Streicker’s new title gives him more prominence in the party and more chances to sound off on issues affecting the North.
He’ll also be more closely involved with Green policy debates -Ã‚Â an opportunity welcomed by the engineer, writer and climate change expert.
“The voice of the Yukon Ã‰ gets to sit at that table,” he said.
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