Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

TAKING A STAND – A large group of people braved the rain to protest drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge gathered at noon Friday at the Healing Totem on the waterfront.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

Chris Ryder

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

A MESSAGE FOR THE BANKS – The protesters walked to the Bank of Montreal. They urged Canadian banks not fund refuge drilling proposals.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

DON’T FUND DRILLING – The ralliers marched to the CIBC. They called for Canadian banks to establish anti-drilling policies for the Alaska refuge.

Yukoners rally against potential ANWR drilling

About 70 people rallied downtown at lunchtime on Friday in opposition to oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

By Gabrielle Plonka on August 31, 2020

About 70 people rallied downtown at lunchtime on Friday in opposition to oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“There is no benefit to opening the Arctic refuge to drilling, there is only harm,” Chris Rider, the executive director of CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society)-Yukon, said Friday.

Last week, the Trump administration opened the refuge to lease for oil and gas drilling.

Last week, two lawsuits were filed against the decision in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, citing the land’s importance to the Porcupine caribou herd, which uses the coastal plain as a calving ground.

The land is also home to hundreds of other animal species – like endangered polar bears – and is one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world.

CPAWS is the only Canadian organization to participate in the lawsuit alongside the Gwich’in Steering Committee (an Indigenous group formed to protect the refuge).

“So many people recently have said, why is CPAWS-Yukon involved in a campaign to protect land in Alaska? It’s not in Canada,” Rider said.

“What I say is, the caribou don’t recognize boundaries; the caribou don’t have a little caribou passport office.”

Environment Minister Pauline Frost addressed attendees about the importance of the caribou herd to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, of which she is a citizen.

“We’re going to protect the caribou because it truly is our lifeblood,” Frost said.

“Right now in my homelands, the community is excited for the fall hunts, the caribou provides for them that which their body needs, and that’s ensuring they get the nutrients…. We’re harvesters of the land, but we do it with the utmost respect and honour.”

Frost spoke on the importance of safeguarding land that is already affected by climate change.

“We have a huge obligation as protectors of the land, as keepers of our Mother Earth, to do what’s right and that’s to ensure we provide our voice,” Frost said.

“We know that the Arctic is changing faster than anywhere else in the world and we want to ensure that we do our part to protect it.”

Rider also spoke of the importance of caribou to First Nations citizens in his address.

“The Gwitchin people and the Tr’ondëk people have a relationship with the caribou that has lasted a millenia and now the U.S. government wants to change that,” Rider said.

“They want to open up the Arctic refuge for drilling and we have to say no.”

Rider noted that nearly every U.S. bank, with the exception of the Bank of America, has established policies against investing in drilling in the refuge. 

Rally attendees marched to two banks on Main Street, calling for those same anti-drilling policies to be established by Canadian banks.

Asad Chishti, the event’s organizer, led ralliers in chanting outside the banks. Attendees carried signs declaring solidarity with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the environmental importance of the refuge.

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell attended the rally. In an interview with the Star, he noted that the battle to protect the refuge has lasted decades.

“For the last 30 years, the Republicans have been trying to get this drilling and sometimes it gets closer (and) Trump has brought it closer than ever,” Bagnell said.

Legal action is one route to protecting the refuge, he added. The second route is putting public pressure on oil and gas corporations.

“The other thing we can do is try and embarrass the oil companies – the oil companies have worldwide operations and they don’t need to have a bad reputation for this one little area for drilling, in this very sensitive area,” Bagnell said.

The Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election could lead to a number of congressmen and women being re-elected, which could sway the balance of power away from the Republicans and in the refuge’s favour, Bagnell said.

“If this litigation can stall it until the election, then there’s a good chance, hopefully, that a new administration in the new Congress … could stop it or they could work against it.”

Bagnell also noted that transporting oil from the Arctic refuge is challenging and expensive with the long distance and harsh climate.

The current low price of oil and increased fracking in the U.S. bringing product closer to market may render drilling in the North unattractive to the industry.

“It may not be economical for anyone to even bid on it,” Bagnell said.

“This has been one of the biggest environmental issues in the United States … the oil companies and the banks have been lobbied by the American environmentalists and most of them have said, ‘No, we won’t fund it.’”

Friday’s rally was hosted in solidarity with the Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign, Vuntut Gwitchin, the Gwich’in Steering Committee, Native Movement and others.

Comments (9)

Up 5 Down 0

Josey Wales on Sep 6, 2020 at 8:24 am

Yes of course the eco zealots are still wailing about Trump and their "concern" for the planet...OH how virtuous they are.
Funny that there is no big groups, not a few folks fully adorned with oil based products speaking to a repurposed tree....freaking about freedoms lost?

The profession of lobbyists and special interest drives this and many others.
We do not reside in a first world free country anymore, not hyperbolic...fact!
But hey...a few freeze dried and new age hippies met at a government funded symbol of cultural supremacy...got it.

Up 18 Down 4

Tater on Sep 3, 2020 at 3:27 pm

"Yukoners rally".
Maybe it's better to describe this as "A few...." or "A small group of...."

Up 15 Down 5

Groucho d'North on Sep 3, 2020 at 3:09 pm

If Canada's federal government gave a damn about protecting wildlife, there would still be healthy populations of salmon in our rivers.

Up 21 Down 8

John on Sep 3, 2020 at 7:40 am

Not every Yukoner opposes Anwar drilling and many Yukoners like Trump. On the other hand most Yukoners oppose illegal hunting bans and most Yukoners support UFA’s. no surveys required.

Up 10 Down 5

JC on Sep 2, 2020 at 9:33 pm

Arturs. Seems like you need the education.

Up 15 Down 25

Arturs on Sep 2, 2020 at 6:18 am

By the way JC. it's never too late for a basic education. Here's what's going on in the U.S. 185,000 Trump deaths and the economy in a tail spin. A moratorium is being called on the protesters so as to take that away from the demagogue and completely expose his lack of leadership on anything. Enjoy your coffee.

Up 39 Down 21

JC on Aug 31, 2020 at 9:44 pm

By the way Bagnell, many of us out here are quite informed as to what is going on in the US. Bunker Joe Hiden is not as popular as you seem to want us to think. Except of course the antifa and blm. You know, the ones creating most of the rioting. There are other media outlets out there besides just the left view.

Up 43 Down 24

JC on Aug 31, 2020 at 9:30 pm

Well, here we go again. The majority of Yukoners on parade. All 70 of them. The usual crowd of unemployed paid by the George Soros Foundation. While the real Sourdoughs are working to pay the taxes that most of these usual idlers live on. And Frost, if the caribou are the life blood of the indiginous people, why do I see so many in the grocery stores checking out the meat department? Come on man, there are numerous more caribou dying on the hoof from disease and old age than hunted. The caribou and other wild animals in the area are not in danger of extinction. They will find a way to survive.

Up 13 Down 55

Wilf Carter on Aug 31, 2020 at 4:20 pm

Mr Bagnell why is your liberal government not supporting our First Nations people in the law suit? Where is Federal Government actions. Like usual, FN have go it on there own!!

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