Hudson Bay communities hold first meeting to talk climate, development - InfoNews

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Hudson Bay communities hold first meeting to talk climate, development

A polar bear eats a piece of whale meat as it walks along the shore of Hudson Bay near Churchill, Man., on August 23, 2010. A group of 27 communities that ring Hudson Bay are meeting tomorrow for the first time to talk about climate change and development impacts.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
February 26, 2018 - 12:29 PM

MONTREAL - The 27 communities that ring Hudson Bay are scheduled to meet Tuesday for the first time to talk about climate change, environmental protection and the impact of development in their vast and complex region.

"It's always been the Arctic region that falls through the cracks," said Joel Heath, a scientist with the Arctic Eider Society, which is helping organize the inaugural Hudson Bay Summit.

Responsibility for Hudson Bay and its shorelines is divided between Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut, as well as the federal government. There are also at least five land claims that cover the region, all of which have overlapping agreements.

The communities are also divided by the difficulty of travelling between them. The group will meet in Montreal because it's easier to get there than any of the towns or hamlets along the coast.

"In order for people from west Hudson Bay to get to a community in east Hudson Bay, we're talking three days of travel," Heath said.

That makes it tough to get together on issues that concern everyone around the world's second-largest bay. But that doesn't mean there aren't common problems, said Heath.

The bay and its shoreline face development pressures from three major industrial development plans.

Quebec's Plan Nord, Ontario's Ring of Fire and Manitoba's Arctic Bridge would all increase mineral, energy, tourism and transportation impacts.

Those proposals come on top of changes already underway.

Vast hydro reservoirs in Quebec are storing freshwater that used to pour into the bay in spring and releasing it instead in the winter to generate power for southern cities. Heath has found a layer of freshwater 25 metres deep all along Hudson Bay's eastern coast.

Climate change is altering the region's sea ice, used by everyone and everything from polar bears to community members trying to hunt and travel safely.

Heath said delegates at the conference will talk about a connected network of protected areas, as Canada strives to meet its goal of conserving 17 per cent of its land and inland waters as well as 10 per cent of its oceans by 2020.

Delegates will also talk about restoring damaged coastlines and implementing locally based environmental monitoring that can be shared between communities.

Heath said communities also want future development to be assessed in the context of overall impacts.

"It was clear that environmental assessment was being done piecemeal for some of those (previous) projects. There needs to be co-ordination and some form of working together to overcome those barriers."

Heath said the communities hope to form a consortium that can meet at least regionally on a regular basis. The jigsaw of jurisdictions that look after the enormous area have to start working together, Heath said.

"Those lines aren't actually out there that people create. The animals and the water don't care."

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton. Follow him on Twitter at @row1960

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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