Public meeting participants in Kullorsuaq, Greenland. Photo: Kuupik Kleist

Press release - February 2017

ICC Pikialasorsuaq Commission shaping recommendations from community testimony

Ottawa, Ontario - The ICC Pikialasorsuaq Commissioners met this week to consider the wealth of testimony they heard over the summer and fall in Canada and Greenland on the past, present and future of the Pikialasorsuaq. The Pikialasorsuaq, The Great Upwelling, is also referred to as the North Water Polynya in the northern part of Baffin Bay.

"The ICC Pikialasorsuaq Commission process started in the communities and it is our intention as Commissioners to recognize these valuable voices", stated Okalik Eegeesiak, Inuit Circumpolar Council Chair. Kuupik Kleist, the Greenland Commissioner continued, "The Pikialasorsuaq Commission process has been conceived from the bottom up". The Commission travelled to and heard from the communities most closely associated with the Pikialasorsuaq and are now developing the report and recommendations. The next step for the Commissioners is to shape these community voices and visions into recommendations. The report will be structured around a number of key principles that communities expressed as important and that define the communities relationship with the Pikialasorsuaq and their vision for the future.

The geographical region the Commission is considering is primarily the actual polynya, however, "we heard from all communities that the larger cultural region surrounding the Pikialasorsuaq is influenced by the health of the Pikialasorsuaq," noted Eva Aariak, Canadian Commissioner. Kuupik Kleist noted, "that rapid and unpredictable Arctic climate change threatens the integrity of the Pikialasorsuaq, and the precautionary principle must be employed."

Key principles the Commissioners drew from the communities were, "that the people of the Pikialasorsuaq are one people united by family bonds, history, culture, and Inuit knowledge, and that the Pikialasorsuaq is one ecosystem divided in two countries", Eva Aariak noted. "We clearly heard that hunting the bounty of the Pikialasorsuaq remains the center of Inuit food security, culture and that the preservation for future generations of this biological wealth is paramount", offered Eegeesiak. Kuupik Kleist acknowledged that "conservation can be compatible with Inuit self-determination and community economic development, and the Commission is shaping our recommendations to reflect this vision."

"We envision the establishment of an Inuit led Pikialasorsuaq Management Area, with oversight through a yet to be defined governance structure. This body will oversee the management, monitoring of the cumulative impacts of outside activity including shipping, fishing, tourism, non-renewable and renewable resources", offered Aariak. "This was a collective recommendation from all communities and further, that this should include a comprehensive and sustainable community based monitoring regime", Eegeesiak added. The Commission is also considering recommendations to reduce barriers to travel the Pikialasorsuaq and between adjacent communities to re-establish family ties, maintain culture, food security and sustainable community economic development.

Other priorities are being considered in the recommendations include the central value of Inuit knowledge to inform any actions in the Pikialasorsuaq, consideration of the role of youth in any management plan of the Pikialasorsuaq to ensure their future is protected, and issues of search and rescue and environmental response.

The Commissioners will bring their draft key principles and recommendations back to communities in April and May prior to the mid-summer release of the final report. The return to the communities is to ensure their work reflects the voice and vision of Inuit that so freely and generously gave of their time and knowledge.

For more information:

Carole Simon ICC Canada
csimon@inuitcircumpolar.com
613-563-2642

Stephanie Meakin ICC Canada
smeakin@inuitcircumpolar.com
613-791-1925

Alfred Jakobsen Oceans North
aerj58@gmail.com

Commissioners:

Okalik Eegeesiak
chair@inuitcircumpolar.com
613-563-2642

Kuupik Kleist
kvk@ggnuuk.gl
+299 54 78 58

Eva Aariak
eva.aariak@gmail.com
867-222-8355