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The land of the Inuit dream-in-eldorado-white

With the melting ice makes its resources more accessible, Nunavut is attracting the multinational companies. A promise of development, which is double the risk

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The land of the Inuit dream-in-eldorado-white

With the melting ice makes its resources more accessible, Nunavut is attracting the multinational companies. A promise of development, which is double the risk for locals, the loss of what was their identity.

"warming of The climate? Perhaps this is a chance for us. Now, we have four seasons instead of two !" The eye of the Premier of Nunavut, Peter Taptuna, is mischievous but the tone is serious. Annoyed by all these questions of journalists in the "South" who question the ability of the Inuit to resist to the upheavals of the world. "We are on this earth for over five thousand years and we have been able to adapt to all conditions. Why would it be any different today ?"

Outside, the snow very light falling on Iqaluit, 7 000 inhabitants, the capital of this new territory of canada, surrendered after a long struggle in 1999 by the federal government to the inuit people. The former american military base that was installed during the Second world War, the young city has inherited an airport and a runway long enough to accommodate, in January 2014, the last Airbus A340, came to do tests of resistance to cold. But it still has no traffic lights and names to all its streets.

No road leads to this capital of the end of the world. The cargo arrives in the summer by cargo ships and year round by aircraft, which also carry passengers to prohibitive prices. In less than ten years, its population has doubled, and the infrastructure have not yet followed. Approximately 80% of the 36 000 inhabitants of Nunavut are inuit. For a long time, the world ignored them. And then fantasy.

After colonialism, capitalist exploitation

The Eskimos, as they were called formerly, occupied territories too distant and too cold for the Whites. But at the end of the Nineteenth century, the latter have decided to civilize the "savages". More than 150,000 children, indian, metis and inuit, have been cut off from their families, their language and their culture, to be placed, up to the end of the 1980s, in residential schools, where many of them have been subjected to ill-treatment. "The trauma does not fade quickly," says Laakkuluk Williamson, Inuit canada-the greenlandic storyteller-performer and founder of the unique nursery of the city where they speak inuktitut and not English.

"We have worked very hard to rid ourselves of colonialism and, now, we need to fight against capitalist exploitation. We must return to our roots and restore our confidence in ourselves. We will then be able to forgive and move forward." Laakkuluk is beautiful, with his eyes dark and his hair black as ravens in the arctic that populate the traditional legends. Committed also. The thirty-year-old is one of the leaders of the indigenous movement Idle no more", which means "no More inaction."

More than 17 billion euros of investment

Because the Inuit of Nunavut, as all the peoples of the region, are faced with enormous challenges, on which their future depends. Device, the Arctic has become central. The global warming is changing not only the environmental balance of the planet, but it has released part of the navigation in the passages of the North-West, in Canada, and the North-East, in Russia, creating sea lanes accessible to cargo ships and recreational boating. It has also accelerated the melting of permafrost, the frozen soil, allowing the installation of heavy infrastructures.

map of Nunavut

Expansion

The largest multinationals in the sectors of mining and hydrocarbons are already present on the ground. And aboriginal peoples in Canada intend to don't leave the deal without action.

"We are not victims," insists Peter Taptuna, but partners." Today, 19% of the land in high-potential mining and oil sector have been on-lent by the federal government in Nunavut, according to a law of the ground is very complex. Wise precaution. Because the projects are numerous. There is talk of $ 25 billion of investment (17.6 billion euros), and thousands of jobs created, if all come to pass.

The annual trade show is an event

Since coming to power in 2006, the Prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, wants to make the canadian Arctic a Qatar nordic. But under the ice that melts outcrop of the serious difficulties of technical, environmental, economic, and geopolitical. So much so that, after having warmed the spirits, the fever arctic is a little faded. In 2012, already, Christophe de Margerie, CEO of Total, told the Financial Times that his company would not drill under the ice to find oil. Too expensive, too risky. The company, however, has not waived any of its explorations in the field of gas...

With the decline in the oil price, the notable polar fleece Nunavut redouble their prudence in the costing of projects, but they all dream secretly of developments wonderful. In this fall morning, chilly, the congress centre of Iqaluit is a stirring novel. This is the Nunavut Trade Show 2014, the biggest annual trade show in the country, an important event for the local economy, as the young stylist Victoria Kakuktinniq, 25 years old, red hair and almond eyes, would not have missed for anything in the world. On stage parading mannequins premises that bear his models of parkas fur to the cup modernised.

For Victoria, who comes from a small community, Iqaluit, it is almost Paris ! As Laakkuluk, it is the young elite, inuit &comte;duquée, uninhibited, ambitious. "I studied in Ottawa and then an internship traditional sewing in my village," she says placidly. I'd like to open a studio, and then export them around the world ! But it seems that, in Europe, they banned the sale of seal skins [since 2010, the european Union is boycotting the products of the seal hunt, editor's NOTE]. Anyway, I don't know if it's cold enough..." For the Inuit, the winter is the only season worthwhile. The one that has defined their culture and their identity.

The multiple projects of the consortium Baffinland

A few yards away, between the stand of the tourist office, where you can get a tattoo of a bear, and that of Carrefour Nunavut, the association des entrepreneurs francophones of the region, the canadian consortium for Baffinland appears large on a banner flanked by the inevitable "Inukshuk" (the lair of the stone of the Inuit). In a small pot placed on a simple table, samples of raw iron. A staging modest for a huge project.

On the site of the River Mary, at the north of Baffin island, is one of the largest iron mines in the world. The deposit has 365 million tonnes of reserves "proven and probable", according to the traditional terms, and may provide for the application of iron of Europe for twenty years. Moreover, it is in Europe, and Arcelormittal, a 50% shareholder of Baffinland, has many steel mills...

The ore River Mary is so pure that it requires no processing on site, significantly reducing the risk of pollution. However, environmentalists are worried about, in front of the ambitious plans, stamped Baffinland, roads, railways, port facilities (there is no port in the canadian Arctic), and even a city provisional able to host more than 4 000 people.

gold mine Meadowbank is the only operating in Nunavut.

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Despite the recent decline in the commodities market and the downward revision of the annual production for the years to come, the operation is expected to officially start in the summer of 2015. A part of the Inuit awaits with impatience. Since Baffinland is committed to training and hiring of many aboriginal people while respecting, of course, the environment. Imposed by Ottawa, the policy of "co-management" with the aboriginal people will not leave, anyway, little choice in the consortium. And then, despite the huge potential of the area, only one gold mine is operating in Nunavut. "It is imperative to find resources specific to our territory if we want to evolve", pounds still the Prime minister.

This injunction patriotic and economic, Sam, face wrinkled and eyes smart, seems to already implement it. Present at the Trade Show, he comes around in his Zodiac a few tourists business for a whole afternoon. He showed them with pride the fabulous landscapes of the Frobisher bay, named for a british explorer of the Sixteenth century set off in search of the famous northwest passage. But Sam is worried about his future. "Our hunting territories are disappearing, the animals migrate. And then, how to walk for miles by snowmobile then that gasoline is expensive ? Many of us turn to use the sled dogs. It is more economical and safer."

The higher positions are occupied by White

Sam is sorry to see his country melting under his eyes. Would he like to work in a mine or in an office ? He leaves a great laugh, as if the idea was really far fetched. But others could only dream of. Because work is scarce. The public administration provides a large number of jobs, but the Inuit are not yet sufficiently trained. In the meantime, the Whites are taking the places best paid. Then, no longer dependent on subsidies from the federal government, eat better, live a decent life, finally, it is the wish and hope of many aboriginal people. Alcoholism and obesity kill as much as youth suicide, ten times higher than in the rest of Canada and that has significantly increased over the last thirty years.

A traditional life which depends on the cold

It is 6 o'clock in the evening, the Trade Show closes its doors and the night falls, on Iqaluit, whose name means in inuktitut "rich in fish". The opening of the Arctic to the globalization is seen by some as inevitable and essential for the future of indigenous peoples. Others, on the contrary, believe that they are exploiting. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an inuit activist, approached for the Nobel Peace prize in 2007 at the same time that Al Gore has been fighting for the recognition of a right of the third generation : "the right to be cold "". At the border of the environmental law and human rights, it is a way to claim the ability to choose his destiny, while protecting the environment, the culture and the traditional economy that depend on the cold. It has not been nobélisée, and the ice continues to melt.

in The distance, a cargo ship at anchor in the bay. It brings in tons of consumer products. "We also, we love the pastries and the burgers..." proclaims Sam, while staring out at the ocean. It hunting yet the whale. "I always use the harpoon, he says proudly, but I draw the seals with a rifle. It is our life always." For how long?

enormous potential

43% of the world's resources oil find in the arctic region, according to estimates, disputed, of theUSGS, the american institute of geology (2008).

$ 100 billion. This is the estimated amount of the investment in the Arctic for the next decade. (2012 report of the Lloyd's of London)

365 million tons of iron. This is the estimated output until 2036 mine Baffinland, Nunavut.

map of Nunavut

Expansion

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gold mine Meadowbank is the only operating in Nunavut.

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

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