Days before the Senate passed a fateful vote that set the stage for drilling through the heart of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Canadian government released the following statement: “We think it’s a big mistake and we will continue to pressure (Washington) so that it should not happen.” Has the Canadian government decided to undermine our national sovereignty in response to our ambassador threatening theirs? Not at all. Canada was actually calling on America to live up to its side of a bargain.
In 1987, the United States and Canada signed the Agreement on the Conservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, pledging to protect the Porcupine Caribou herd and the habitat it grazes. Additionally, the two countries agreed to “consult promptly if either the herd or its habitat were damaged or its migration routes disrupted.” And here is where Canada enters into the Arctic Refuge drilling debate: The drilling area is encompassed by lands covered in the agreement and “U.S. and Canadian scientific experts have concluded that any development in the coastal plain could pose a major threat to the calving and migration patterns of the herd.”
Though conservationism is a reason for Canada’s commitment to the herd and habitat, regard for human rights is at its core. The Gwich’in, a people indigenous to the region, have been telling both nations for years that the herd is “the central focus of their ancestral culture [and] more important still, they rely on the caribou for their very survival.”
The size of Canada’s share of the habitat is “more than double the acreage” of the United States’. Canada has been permanently protecting the area for nearly two decades and entreating us to do the same. It’s time we join with our neighbors up North, eh?