Premier McLeod's speaking notes: Arctic Council’s Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

(September 11, 2013) - Welcome to the Arctic Council’s Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna working group, and to attendees of the Parks and Protected Areas Seminar with the Northwest Territories, Finland and Norway.

It is a pleasure to be able to welcome such an expert group of individuals to the Northwest Territories, from circumpolar countries and beyond.

Before I begin I would like to offer my condolences to the families and friends of Mr. Marc Thibault, Commanding Officer of the CCGS Amundsen, Mr. Daniel Dube, helicopter pilot and Mr. Klaus Hochheim, Arctic scientist. I had the privilege of touring the CCGS Amundsen and I know that this must be a very difficult day for all those who knew the three men. We are lucky as a nation to have individuals who work in the often harsh conditions of the north so we can all be better served by understanding our environment and our world.

The Northwest Territories is excited to have the opportunity to be part of Canada’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council and we are looking forward to participating with Canada in all levels of their Chairmanship.

Canada’s priorities over the next two years very much reflect our territorial interests.

It is essential to the Government of the Northwest Territories that the tools we use including our Protected Areas Strategy, reflect the needs and interests of the people who live here.

Some of you may know that here in the Northwest Territories we have a consensus system of government. This means that there are no political parties, each Member of the Legislative Assembly sits as an independent. This system presents us with challenges as you can imagine. But it also speaks to the commitment all northern leaders have to finding solutions to very difficult challenges.

This government has a vision of strong individuals, families and communities sharing the benefits and responsibilities of a unified, environmentally sustainable and prosperous Northwest Territories

To achieve that vision we must work in partnership with Aboriginal governments, who as traditional land holders, have the knowledge needed to ensure that sustainable decisions are made for the benefit of the land, the water, the wildlife and the people.

This year alone, two of the Aboriginal governments, the Tłįchǫ and the Sahtu, finalized their land use plans.
The finalizing of these plans is an important step that will allow the balancing environmental stewardship with economic development grounded in land claims and self-government agreements.

The signing of the land use plans is the culmination of many years of hard work and will ensure that beneficiaries determine the pace of development on their land while protecting traditional and cultural areas for future generations.

The people of the Northwest Territories have a deep connection to the land, including the wildlife, the water and the vegetation. The land and all its wealth have sustained northern cultures for millennia. Traditional and modern cultural values are linked to the land in a profound way.

It is the fundamental reason why Northerners are passionate about environmental stewardship and responsible resource development. We must be responsible stewards of our environment, so our land and water can continue to sustain us for future generations.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is working hard to balance responsible stewardship with our economic needs, in a North where resources are becoming increasingly accessible.

The Northwest Territories shares many similarities and challenges with our circumpolar neighbours, from sustainable communities and infrastructure to climate change and northern ecosystems.

As a territory, we are interested in sharing our innovations with the circumpolar world, and learning from the innovations of others.

It is through this collaboration and our experiences living and working in the North that the Northwest Territories can help contribute to a more sustainable arctic.

In turn, we can apply the lessons and innovations shared by our circumpolar neighbours to help improve the lives of residents living in the Northwest Territories.

Our delicate ecosystems are already feeling the impacts of environmental change.

Recognizing that many of the impacts on the Arctic are beyond our control, we are encouraged by the work of the Arctic Council to protect the Arctic environment, such as collaboration towards safer shipping practices in Arctic waters, the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment, and addressing Short-Lived Climate Forcers, such as black carbon.

Parks and protected areas across the circumpolar world also plan an important role. The conservation of Arctic flora and fauna and the protection of biodiversity, also helps preserve the cultural identities and traditional lifestyles of individuals who are indigenous to the North.

For our part, the Government of the Northwest Territories is continually working to adapt to climate change in the Arctic, as well as enhance efforts on pressing environmental issues.

We use an ecosystem-based management approach and are actively exploring means of reducing our environmental footprint, by increasing our use of renewable energy and supporting Canada’s efforts in these areas under their Arctic Council Chairmanship.

The outstanding work that you do around responsible stewardship that will help to ensure the conservation and protection of the Arctic for future generations.

I would like to thank Up Here Publishing, for sponsoring the refreshments for this evening.  Please take the opportunity to pick up a copy of their magazines, Up Here and Up Here Business. These magazines exclusively feature articles on Canada’s North and make excellent reading.

Once again, welcome to the Northwest Territories.  I hope all of your meetings are both productive and beneficial.  I look forward the Canadian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council as we work alongside our national and international counterparts at all levels to make the next two years a success.

Thank you.