In Kiruna, Sweden on May 15, Canada officially assumed the position of Chair of the Arctic Council (AC) with a 2013–2015 mandate. Appropriately, the Government of Canada appointed the Honorable Leona Aglukkaq, an Inuk, as Chairperson of the AC. Minister Aglukkaq takes on this role in addition to her role as Minister of Health and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
Minister Aglukkaq was born and raised in Thom Bay, Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven in Nunavut, and is very knowledgeable of remote communities. Moreover, she was the first Inuk to be sworn into the Federal Cabinet as Minister of Health in late 2008. Nunavut remains close to her heart and she has fought hard for the interests of all Nunavummiut. “It is an honor to be selected to represent my country in the AC. I am energized and committed and hope to move forward with tangible actions on all issues,” says Minister Leona Aglukkaq.
“I welcome the new observer status countries of China, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore. The Arctic Council Ministers also agreed to respond positively to the European Union’s application for observer status, but deferred a final decision until the concerns of Arctic Council Ministers are resolved. Specifically Canada’s concerns around the European Unions position on the seal hunt, a legitimate, sustainable industry in Canada. That said, the AC adopted an observer manual that will define what rights the observer States have and clarify which decisions are not included in the observers’ mandate,” she continues.
Within the framework of the AC, developments in the Arctic are a source of both challenges and opportunities. With the changing environment in the Arctic and the increased business interest, one thing remains clear; the People who live and work in the Arctic must be consulted and put first. Minister Aglukkaq noted that countries interested in resource development in the Arctic, including oil and gas exploration, will not have “carte blanche” by becoming observers to the AC. The council will continue to serve as a protector of the delicate environment, indigenous communities and vast resources of the region.
Economic and social development
“Development for the people of the North with a focus on responsible Arctic resource development, safe Arctic shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities, is a very important element of our agenda. The official Kiruna Declaration of May 15th focuses on economic and social development, climate change, protecting the Arctic and strengthening the AC,” says Minister Aglukkaq.
The Canadian chairmanship has set forth to include the establishment of a Circumpolar Business Forum (CBF) to provide opportunities and possibilities for industry and businesses to introduce their expertise and knowledge with the council. “The CBF is the perfect forum for oil spill recovery and response players to share their expertise, training and solutions,” says Patrick Borbey, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials and President of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
Experience is the source of knowledge
The AC should be a forum where a proactive approach is taken to prevent incidents such as oil spills, that may harm the natural environment. “Shortly after the Kiruna Ministerial Meeting, I travelled to Finland and spent an afternoon at Lamor Corporation in Porvoo. It was a very informative meeting, where I was able to see first-hand the equipment that is used in oil spill prevention and clean-up. The Arctic Council will continue to focus on oil spill prevention and response, which is vital to protect the Arctic’s natural environment,” says Minister Aglukkaq.
The 2010 Gulf of Mexico (GoM) massive oil spill needed immediate external support, expertise, solutions and equipment to assist in the containment and clean-up efforts. “We immediately set our action plans into motion and within 36 hours and through our global network, we airlifted an arsenal of equipment and key personnel to the scene,” notes CEO Fred Larsen, Lamor Corporation.
“We also supported the Vessel of Opportunity (VoO) program, a modified sustainable Lamor concept, by training local fishermen and converting their fishing vessels to oil spill response vessels. This concept developed by us is something which proved to be very beneficial by engaging local communities and populations to collectively change and become responders to oil spills,” he says.
Equipment, training and preparedness
Early training, preparedness and well-organized response operations coupled with effective equipment are the essential tools needed for proactively reducing the environmental impacts and effects from oil and other hazardous material accidents.
Lamor’s COO Rune Högström highlights: “Our knowledge in oil spill response operations providing equipment and training is long. Naturally, due to our geographical location, Arctic conditions are a way of life for us and we have adapted our equipment to meet those challenges head on. That said, training is essential coupled with refresher training, and having the right equipment lessens the impacts of an oil spill.”
“During the GoM incident, simultaneously three other oil-spills occurred in Dalian, China, Hong Kong and in Michigan (US), and we responded to these incidents too. We have facilities strategically located throughout the world with a stockpile of equipment to ensure that our response and readiness is not limited to one incident or region,” says Larsen.
“It was great to meet with Lamor representatives, who have operational knowledge and expertise in the Arctic. By working together, we can achieve our goal of preventing oil spills from occurring in the first place,” concludes Minister Aglukkaq.