Not now. But soon?

Weekly Cover | As a federal court says it will expedite a challenge to seismic testing in Canada’s Baffin Bay more bedfellows are joining the fray in the court of public opinion 

Clyde River, a place worth standing for (Photo: Asger Walk)

Kevin McGwin

Standing with Clyde River has become something of a hit among the conservation-minded these days.

It began with the Council of Canadians, a prestigious social action group, when it, in a 16  January blog post, announced it was standing with the Nunavut hamlet in favour of moratorium on seismic testing in Baffin Bay.

Clyde River fears the testing – which involves blasting loud bursts of noise through the water in order to detect whether there is oil or gas beneath the ocean floor – is harmful to the narwhals and other marine mammals coastal cummunities hunt for food. Should plans to conduct seismic testing this summer turn back positive results, it would be the first step in a process that could eventually lead to oil drilling.

SEE RELATED: Standing on principle

The Council of Canadians, according to Mark Calzavara, its regional organiser for Ontario, Quebec and Nunavut, has been active in the Arctic for 30 years. The past four years it has sought to stop oil drilling.

“We support the people of Clyde River in their effort to prevent seismic testing,” he says. “but on a wider note, we’re against the industrial exploitation of the Arctic.”

The Council of Canadians has been aware of Clyde River’s concerns all along but made the public plea after being approached by Greenpeace, Calzavara says.

His group has now been joined by the Youth Arctic Coalition. On January 19, it also decided to stand by Clyde River. In a video, released on YouTube (see below) and other social media outlets, young people – mostly from the Arctic – pledge their support to Clyde River, using preciely the same expression.

In addition, the young people chip in with their own “not now” slogan, urging that seismic testing be put off until more is known about its impact on marine mammals.

The video also calls on young people everywhere to send their statements of solidarity.

“We want to foster a sense of global action to inspire more young people to get involved,” Kass Forman, the coalition’s executive director, says.

The two groups join The Sum of Us, which describes itself as a “world-wide movement for a better global economy” and has gathered 75,000 on-line signatures on a petition to “stop Big Oil from destroying Arctic habitats”. (They have said nothing about standing, however.)

Greenpeace, a conservation group, has been involved in the effort since spring, when Clyde River approached it for help. The decision caught many off guard. Canadian Arctic communities have long been at odds with Greenpeace for turning public opinion against them for exploiting natural resources and wildlife such as seal, and their involvement was greeted with scepticism by some.

Both, however, are dissatisfied with a decision by the National Energy Board, a regulator, to give a consortium of three firms permission to begin seismic testing this summer. They have lodged a challenge with the federal courts to overturn the decision.

The challenge argues that the NEB did not properly consult with coastal communities about the potential impact of testing.

SEE RELATED: Straining to hear the Arctic voice

Even with the challenge pending, the consortium can legally begin seismic testing any time. Practically, it cannot take place until weather conditions permit. That will most likely be July.

On Tuesday, in order to ensure that the challenge was cleared up before testing began, the Federal Appeals Court said it would expedite the hearing. It is now likely to be held in April and a decision, say those involved, will most likey be handed down in June.

Regardless of the outcome, it is unlikely the matter will end with the court ruling. Conservation groups say they will continue to seek to force a halt to testing. The consortium, if it wishes, can reapply for a licence to test, a process the solicitor representing Clyde River described to the CBC, a broadcaster, as lengthy.

Originally published by The Arctic Journal.

The Weekly Cover is The Rasmussen’s main story of the week. These articles will sometimes look ahead at one of the more important or interesting topics of the coming week, or they may provide insight and analysis about a current issue.

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