Opinion | What is the anti-development agenda in Canada’s Arctic?

The Canadian oil and gas industry has been hamstrung by anti-development, anti-oil and gas activist organizations who have successfully impeded the ability to build pipelines for the past six years.


By Deidra Garyk

This lack of egress to typical ports, such as the West coast or East coast, has led to the discussion of creating a new energy corridor and building a pipeline from Alberta to the Port of Churchill as it is the only deep-water port in the Canadian Arctic.

There is a consortium of Indigenous groups that are actively pursuing a pipeline project. On September 23, 2020, Saskatchewan’s government announced funding of $500,000 for The Peacemaker Project, led by the First Peoples Pipeline, to further work on a new energy corridor to Churchill, Manitoba.   

There is an effort by a number of well-funded organizations who have a clear agenda to prevent the development and disrupt and constrain shipping in the Arctic.

As evidence, the Switzerland-based Oak Foundation gave the World Wildlife Fund $881,000 for the period of July 1, 2018 to June 30 2021, with the following purpose

“To protect Arctic coastal and ocean ecosystems and the Indigenous peoples and wildlife that rely on them by empowering Indigenous rights holders. This will be done by: implementing a network of marine protected areas to protect critical habitats; developing regulations that constrain the cumulative impacts of shipping within sustainable limits; and establishing small-scale fishing opportunities that support sustainable livelihoods.”

There may be an attempt to implement another tanker ban similar to Bill C-48 that could impact egress out of the Port of Churchill, rendering the need to create a new energy corridor and build a pipeline futile.

In December 2016, Canada issued a joint statement with the United States of America to limit development in the Arctic.

Identified in the United States-Canada Joint Arctic Leaders’ Statement is a group called the Arctic Funders Collaborative, consisting of a number of well-known, domestic- and internationally-based Environmental Non-governmental Organizations (ENGO), along with smaller groups. The Arctic Funders Collaborative is leading the push for Arctic protection by working closely with the governments of Canada and the United States.

In 2020, members included: MakeWay (Formerly Tides Canada), Alaska Conservation Foundation, Windrose Fund, Pathy Family Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Foundation, Oak Foundation, NoVo Foundation5, Trust for Mutual Understanding, 444S Foundation, Metcalf Foundation, Tamalpais Trust, Lush, and Climate Justice Resilience Fund.

While not a member of the Arctic Funders Collaborative, the World Wildlife Fund is also actively involved in Arctic initiatives in part through funding from the Collaborative.

The goal of these groups is to prevent development and disrupt and constrain shipping in the Arctic by implementing legislation and regulations, such as Marine Protected Areas, marine refuges, Culturally Significant Marine Areas, or low-impact shipping corridors. Additionally, a ban on heavy fuel oil in Arctic shipping is being proposed and is being considered by the Government of Canada.

This map identifies Culturally Significant Marine Areas (CSMAs) that impact egress from the Port of Churchill.

The federal Liberals campaigned in 2019 on protecting 25 percent of Canada’s land and water by 2025. They would like to increase their target, as documented in this official announcement on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website:

“In August 2019, Canada surpassed the 10 percent target. We are now looking beyond 2020, toward an ambitious new target of conserving 25 percent of our marine and coastal areas by 2025, working toward 30 percent by 2030.” 

Since the Trudeau Liberals took office in 2015, the amount of protected marine areas has increased significantly, as outlined in this graph

The increase in conservation areas, along with the federal government’s implementation of a High Arctic Protection Plan on August 1 2019, and the hasty passing of Bill C-88, An Act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts,they have demonstrated they are prepared to implement legislation in the Arctic that will limit development and shipping.

Limits to Arctic development could impact opportunities to create jobs and prosperity for northern Indigenous communities.

Deidra has been working in the oil and gas industry for over 15 years. She held roles of varying seniority in joint venture contracts where she was responsible for negotiating access to pipelines, compressors, plants, and batteries. As well, she was involved in drafting and interpreting contracts, and working collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure the negotiated commercial arrangements were implemented correctly. She spent the last few years leading the Joint Venture department at a mid-size natural gas producer.

In her spare time, Deidra is an independent energy advocate who writes articles and open letters that are published on EnergyNow.ca and are widely shared on social media. She advocates to inspire energy supporters across the country to have confidence to speak up proudly for the Canadian industry from coast to coast in an effort to have balanced, honest, fact-based conversations.

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