Porcupine caribou graze in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Malkolm Boothroyd/malkolmboothroyd.com)

Yukon delegation presses banks to not fund oil, gas development in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Meetings follow Goldman Sachs announcing that it won’t invest in future projects

Delegates travelled to Toronto this week to urge Canadian banks to refrain from financing oil and gas projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“In my view, they were very receptive to the information that we presented, in terms of the importance of the Arctic Refuge to the Gwich’in, as well as the human rights aspect of it, as well as the environmental impacts of drilling in the refuge,” said Cheryl Charlie, a councillor at Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.

Charlie, along with representatives from the Gwich’in Tribal Council and the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, met with staff at Scotia Bank, TD Canada Trust, RBC and CIBC.

The move comes on the heels of Goldman Sachs announcing that it won’t fund future development projects in the refuge, citing Indigenous subsistence harvesting rights.

Charlie said this added momentum to their cause.

“That is really great news for the Gwich’in, and just so happened that we met with the Canadian banks,” she said. “We used that information and presented it to the banks and we are hoping that they follow suit.”

No decisions were made during the meetings, Charlie said, which was expected.

“It’s just one way for us to advance our cause in letting them know that we hope it doesn’t happen,” she said. “It’s hard to say if any decisions are being made.

“In our view, we are hopeful that the information that we presented conveyed the importance of this issue to the Gwich’in as a people and we also know that this is just the beginning of a dialogue and we also communicated that to them, that we look forward to speaking more on this issue, if they wish.”

She said banks will be followed up with in the New Year.

The final environmental impact statement, released in September, lays out the most aggressive oil and gas program in part of the refuge, giving near total access to companies interested in pursuing leases.

A record of decision has yet to be released due to a series of delays.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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