Canada and Denmark claim pieces of the Arctic

Canada’s deadline is Friday to apply to the commission for exclusive rights to what is likely to be another 1.7 million square kilometers of Arctic sea floor. The application under the Convention on the Law of the Sea will be the culmination of a decade of work and more than $200 million in public money.

Collection of data for the application has required more than a dozen icebreaker voyages, as well as trips by helicopters, airplanes and an unmanned, remote-controlled submarine that spent days under the ice, Leader-Post writes.

Denmark and Greenland last week submitted a claim for 62,000 square kilometers of Arctic sea floor, reports Politiken newspaper. The claim is the fourth of five that Denmark is expected to submit before a deadline in 2014 which in total could expand Denmark’s territory by around a million square kilometers.

Politiken reports that other Arctic countries have also submitted claims that overlap Denmark’s and with around 50 cases currently being processed, they may have to wait until 2019 for a verdict.

Norway in 2009 became the first Arctic nation to settle an agreement with the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in the north. Norway’s newly defined continental shelf in the north covers 235,000 square kilometers or three-quarters the size of mainland Norway. (Barents Observer)

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UNESCO bid to recognize Ontario forest hits snag

WINNIPEG — An attempt backed by millions of dollars in public funds to get UNESCO recognition for an extensive stretch of boreal forest along the Manitoba-Ontario boundary appears to be at a stalemate.

An advisory group to the United Nations agency has raised questions about whether the area, known as Pimachiowin Aki, is more special than other areas in terms of the cultural traditions of its inhabitants. But the First Nations who live in the region don’t want to put themselves above other aboriginal groups and resent the question.

“We have a world view that everybody’s equal and we’re not superior to any indigenous groups or communities, so, yeah, I found that to be insulting,” Sophia Rabliauskas, spokeswoman for the non-profit Pimachiowin Aki Corp., said from Darwin, Australia, where she was discussing the issue at the international conference of indigenous peoples.

“I don’t think that’s going to change. I think … we’re going to stand by our beliefs about we’re not better than anybody else, so I’m not sure how we’re going to further discuss that.”

Rabliauskas and other delegates from Canada have set up a petition denouncing UNESCO’s demand for any aboriginal region to prove superiority over another.

UNESCO currently recognizes more than 900 places around the globe as world heritage sites — everything from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to an old deciduous forest in Belarus.

The Manitoba government has committed $10 million toward a trust fund for Pimachiowin Aki and has spent another $4.5 million over the last decade. The Ontario government has contributed smaller amounts, and the federal government officially submitted the bid for UNESCO designation.

Manitoba says world heritage status for Pimachiowin Aki, an Ojibwa phrase that translates as “the land that gives life,” would attract tourists to the remote, fly-in region and would help ensure it remains protected. The 33,400-square-kilometre area is almost half the size of New Brunswick and home to five Ojibwa communities of between 500 and 2,000 people each.

Much of the bids’ cost comes from mapping the area and developing land-use plans to convince UNESCO that the area will be protected from development. The area deserves recognition because it’s the largest intact northern boreal forest in the world and because the First Nations in the region maintain a strong connection to the land, according to the submission.

The bid is to be considered by UNESCO’s world heritage committee at its annual meeting June 16 in Cambodia, although two of the committee’s advisory groups have recommended the decision be deferred for at least another year.

Among their concerns is whether the region is truly unique, because there are other large areas of pristine boreal forest in the world as well as other areas with similar aboriginal land use. One advisory group is expected to return to the region this fall to do more research.

Manitoba’s Opposition leader has questioned whether the money behind the UNESCO bid is well-spent.

“We’re concerned that the government has spent money on this project for some years, has yet to demonstrate any results for the people of Manitoba, and they’re doing it all with borrowed money,” Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said, referring to the government’s ongoing deficits.

“That’s what the people of those communities and that region are telling me, frankly. They’re saying, ‘OK, fine. We get a UNESCO site. What next? Are we really going to benefit from this project?”‘

A study done for the project has estimated that it might attract fewer than 1,000 tourists a year. But the report by Marr Consulting Services also said small tourism numbers would be likely to be in keeping with the desire to protect the area’s environment.

Rabliauskas said she hopes UNESCO backs down on its demand that the First Nations prove some superior connection to the land over other aboriginals. In the meantime, she and others involved in the project will meet to plan their next steps.

“We’re still in the process of deciding what needs to happen next.” (CP24 Toronto)

Research network on peoples issues

The last shaman of Wrangler Island

UN-Habitat is currently establishing a global network with professionals and universities engaging in field projects/research related to indigenous peoples in order to look for entry points for collaboration.

UN-Habitat Housing and Slum Upgrading Branch works at the global level with issues related to indigenous peoples’ housing, indigenous peoples’ migration to urban areas and indigenous building knowledge.

Universities, partners and professionals working on indigenous issues are encouraged to have an active contact with each other and share ideas, project information, research findings and news related to indigenous peoples’ housing conditions, urbanization and indigenous building methods. For this purpose they have created a LinkedIn group “Urban Indigenous Issues”.  The network would like to encourage the universities staff and students to join the discussion group here.

The “Urban Indigenous Issues” network is part of the Global Housing Strategy Network (GHS).   For more information about the Global Housing Strategy please read the framework document. (Arctic Portal)