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Canada opposed to drilling in Arctic Refuge

Gwich’in First Nation leaders and Canadian conservation groups strongly support Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin’s recent statements opposing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
In a recent interview with the Whitehorse Star, Prime Minister Martin said: “I will call key senators and congressmen as identified by the embassy who can make a difference in this very important vote, and I will never miss an opportunity to raise it with the administration.

“I will never give up, I will do my best to protect the caribou and the aboriginal people.”

“The Refuge is a sacred place for all Gwich’in people,” said Norma Kassi of the Vuntut Gwich’in in Old Crow,Yukon.“I was thrilled to hear Mr.Martin support this as a human rights issue, which it definitely is for the Gwich’in.”

The Refuge contains the calving grounds for the porcupine caribou herd, which is an important food source for Gwich’in in the Yukon and Alaska.

“By the stroke of a pen the president of the United States can destroy yet another ancient culture,” said Kassi. “We’re not going to stand by and let this happen.”

At an upcoming vote in the U.S. Congress, Canadian voices may be enough to tip the balance and keep the oil companies out. The next step will be ensuring real and permanent protection to avoid any future attempts to drill in the Refuge.

Wendy Douglas
wdouglas@wwfcanada.org