Thank you, and I'll try to abide by that. I timed it at ten and a half minutes, and when I turn up my Newfoundlandspeak, it'll probably be eight and a half.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and members of the committee, for the invitation to contribute to your study on protected areas and conservation objectives, including the potential for indigenous conservation initiatives.
My name, as you know now, is Trevor Taylor, fisheries conservation director for Oceans North Canada, a partnership of the Pew Charitable Trusts and Ducks Unlimited Canada. Oceans North promotes science-based and community-based conservation of Canada's northern seas consistent with Inuit land claims and traditional practices.
We support Arctic-ready industrial rules and standards for sustainable commercial fishing, environmentally responsible offshore hydrocarbon development, and safe Arctic shipping.
To be clear, Oceans North does not represent the Inuit. There are numerous Inuit organizations and talented leaders who can speak for themselves, but our approach to promoting and supporting ecological conservation in the Arctic deliberately begins with establishing partnerships with Inuit communities and organizations on shared objectives.
We do this for a simple reason. We do not believe that conservation projects or policies in the Canadian Arctic can be successful unless the Inuit drive it. Inuit have a legal claim on the land and sea of the Arctic, possess sophisticated traditional ecological knowledge about it, and are deeply invested in its future. A few examples illustrating our approach are included in our submission in front of you, but suffice it to say that we operate in each of the four Inuit land claims areas, as well as across Davis Strait in Greenland.
The Arctic is vitally important to Canada and makes up 68% of Canada's total shore. It stretches 165,000 kilometres from Baffin Island in the east to across the high Arctic archipelago, to the Mackenzie River delta and Yukon in the west. Just about every one of the 52 or 53 Inuit communities in Canada is built directly on the shore of the ocean, on tidewater.
Every square kilometre of the Arctic Ocean is associated with an Inuit land claim settled with the federal government. Protection of special marine areas in the Arctic should be part of the spirit and intent of implementing those Inuit land claims agreements in the ocean. Marine conservation areas, one of the subjects of the committee's inquiry, can provide an innovative part of the answer for Canada's Arctic ocean. Properly created and financed, these areas have the potential to protect key areas of ocean essential for Inuit communities and Arctic wildlife. These areas can be used to monitor the pace and extent of climate change and provide jobs and training opportunities for Inuit experts.
The good news is that the new federal government has committed to playing a major leadership role in the creation of a network of marine protected areas in the Arctic. To fully realize this commitment, though, the federal government must acknowledge and incorporate Inuit leadership in the identification, establishment, and ongoing management of key marine areas.
As map 1, which we've distributed to the committee, illustrates, in the Canadian Arctic Inuit experts have already identified over half of Arctic Ocean areas as important biological habitat that are needed to maintain a thriving marine ecosystem essential for continued use.
Scientists are finding that earlier targets, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity's 10% goal, are inadequate to maintain the basic ecological services humans need oceans to produce. For example, a recent examination of over 140 studies concluded that meeting basic environmental and human needs would require protecting 30% to 50% of ocean habitat. In addition, one of the fathers of modern biodiversity science, E.O. Wilson, recently issued an urgent call for protecting half of the earth's habitat as a way to prevent massive extinctions.
I apologize to the translators. All of the “Hs” are in there; it's just that they may be in the wrong order or may be in the wrong spots. Okay? That's a Newfoundland problem. Actually, it's not a Newfoundland problem; it's everybody else's problem. We are perfectly fine with it.
Emerging scientific thought is converging with Inuit knowledge on the importance of protecting Canada's Arctic Ocean habitat; however, less than 1% of the Arctic is currently protected.
How do we fill this gap? We suggest the principles that follow for proceeding with the implementation of the commitment to establish a network of marine protected areas in the Canadian Arctic.
Number one: to protect key ocean habitat important for maintaining Inuit use, Inuit, in partnership with the federal government, should select areas already identified by Inuit as being important to their culture and the wildlife they depend on.
Number two is that management and monitoring of these areas should be led by Inuit, resulting in significant jobs and training opportunities.
Number three is that Canada must uphold Inuit rights and continued use of ocean areas as legally mandated under land claims with the crown and morally required under international human rights norms.
Some of this might be self-evident, but it bears repeating.
The resulting network of marine protected areas should allow for Inuit hunting and fishing, but preclude mineral leasing, seismic testing, and industrial fishing. Areas should be integrated into an Arctic shipping policy in which Inuit play a significant role in designating and managing vessel corridors. As our second map illustrates, shipping routes overlap with identified ecological and cultural areas. Special standards should be established and classified by risk for ships travelling through biologically and culturally important areas.
Inuit and government researchers have worked together to integrate with western science the traditional knowledge built up over the generations to identify ecologically and biologically significant areas, such as Lancaster Sound in Nunavut, Prince Albert Sound in the Northwest Territories, and the Torngat fjords in Labrador. These kinds of areas, rich in biological productivity and important for Inuit communities, should be at the top of the government's list for protection.
Areas selected should be identified by Inuit as important for traditional activities, such as hunting, fishing, and travelling. They should be near northern communities to maximize continued use by people and local conservation jobs for monitoring and management, and they should be an ocean habitat that provides an abundance of key Arctic animals, birds, and fish, and other ecosystem services. We would be protecting abundance, in short.
The information needed to select these kinds of areas is held by numerous Inuit organizations and communities, as well as territorial and federal governments, scientists, NGOs, and industry. These principles, applied to the government's conservation targets in the Arctic, will result in a network of Arctic places important for people and the environment.
A network of marine conservation areas in the Arctic used by nearby Inuit communities provides a platform for the delivery of federal jobs, benefits, and services to local communities in support of natural resources management, as well as economic, social, and cultural well-being and resilience. Possibilities include jobs and training for management and operation of the marine conservation areas, community-based monitoring of ecological trends in climate change, vessel monitoring in key ecological and culturally important areas, and other services that could take advantage of Inuit ties to special areas or economies of scale from a community-based trained workforce, and so on.
Delivery of the desired programs could be enhanced through an Arctic-wide Inuit coastal stewardship program that could be developed along with the conservation areas. This would provide a baseline of capacity and a platform to enhance the delivery of desired programs. By ensuring that economic benefits are tied directly to the conservation objectives, a program like this would also enhance their durability.
Such a program of benefits would require the federal government to re-examine its current practices with respect to the use of Inuit impact and benefit agreements that have been employed for protected areas by Parks Canada and the DFO. In our opinion, the current approach and thinking around the negotiation of these agreements are inadequate for the task ahead.
The current thinking in these departments appears to be satisfied with fulfilling what are seen as the minimum legally required steps to accommodate Inuit rights. The current approach seems to think of benefits to Inuit communities as a kind of programmatic add-on or afterthought when it's perceived by the federal government that there may be impacts on traditional use and occupancy in protected areas.
We need to flip that script.
We need to see the new shared leadership model as situating Inuit communities not as one aspect of or an adjunct or add-on to protected areas, but as constituting the very core of the planning, establishment, and management of protected areas. This new model of shared leadership would incorporate but also go beyond existing and enhanced ecological conservation measures and after-the-fact compensation or impact and benefit agreements. It should start with an essential role for Inuit communities at the front end of the design process. As well, it should incorporate funded support for locally delivered services to local communities in support of their economic, social, and cultural well-being and resilience.
Generally speaking, the 20th century approach to protected area creation has not provided an essential role to the indigenous people who are most intimately acquainted with many of these places—