Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington was in Finland over the weekend to advocate for international cooperation among Arctic states in light of the current trend toward nationalism and sovereignty in Arctic politics.
Bevington, the official Opposition critic for Northern Canada and the Arctic Council, was asked to be the keynote speaker at the Sustainable Development in the Arctic Conference of European Parliamentarians in Helsinki during a session on the EU’s Arctic policy, where the majority of the Arctic Council’s member states – Denmark, Sweden and Finland – were meeting.
He said he was there to boost an international approach to dealing with Arctic issues, contrary to the current move taken by the Canadian government, now chairing the Arctic Council, to focus on borders and individual ownership in the circumpolar world.
The prime minister recently made headlines by claiming that Canada owns the North Pole, which would require a maritime boundary between Canada and Denmark’s seabed rights in the central Arctic Ocean that does not presently exist.
“Harper’s insistence on nationalism in the Arctic is not where most countries are going,” Bevington told The Journal. “That’s specifically why I think I was invited to speak, is that our (NDP) position is in favour of international cooperation, the development of international standards and the protection of the Arctic from the impacts of climate change.”
Bevington also recently published a report on the cost of living in the Northwest Territories, a large part of which focused on ways of building sustainable local economies and reducing living costs through cleaner, cheaper energies.
He said the rising interest in Arctic development, coupled with the host of environmental problems being felt in the North, make coming to an agreement on the management of the precarious ecosystem an extremely pressing issue that will take the cooperation of all Arctic nations.
“The changing Arctic is one of the key conditions of mankind, right now. How we behave in this new, opening region of the world is an indication of how we’re advancing as a species…This is a global undertaking, and I think the nationalistic direction is the wrong one.”
He also met with Finland’s bioenergy council on the Friday evening to talk Northern biomass innovations.
“We are looking very hard in the NWT to find ways to expand bioenergy,” Bevington said. “But we have a long way to go in taking away fuel. We haven’t done as much as we can do…I want to see what the Finns are doing about it and where they think we can go.”
Bevington noted that he paid for the trip out of his own pocket.