Polar Year conference ‘once in a lifetime’ meeting

Polar Year conference ‘once in a lifetime’ meeting
Cecelia Brooks from the Water Grandmother Organization (left) works on toxicity levels in traditional medicinal plants, like the Muskrat Root. She said certainty about pollution is important for those collecting medicine from the wild.Photo: Mel Lefebvre.

The combined brainpower of scientists, policy-makers, indigenous leaders and community activists at last week’s International Polar Year (IPY) conference in Montreal was a focal point for learning and networking unlikely to take place again in the next several decades.

“This type of gathering won’t take place again in my lifetime,” said NWT Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger, who attended the conference last week to deliver presentations on the territory’s Water Strategy and network with researchers from across the country.

“I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to network,” he said. Miltenberger met with representatives from all major universities in Canada to discuss potential strategic partnerships in order to meet the research needs of the NWT. The GNWT is currently partnered with Wilfred Laurier University on the Water Strategy.

“Just to get all the universities in one room outside of this setting talking about the NWT would be impossible,” Miltenberger said. “This International Polar Year conference brings them all together.”

Miltenberger said he was encouraged to see that the NWT is leading many jurisdictions in Canada in terms of water policy, including the Water Strategy, community-based water monitoring and the ongoing transboundary water negotiations.

“All these things are, I think, very important initiatives, and they all result from the fact that we took the time as a government to get our thinking clear and spent the time consulting with the people of the Northwest Territories to develop the Water Strategy, which laid out the road map for the years ahead,” he said.

Miltenberger said jurisdictions worldwide are struggling with climate change adaptation, but information sharing sessions like IPY 2012 help to set best practices for dealing with important issues, from permafrost melting to threats to biodiversity.

“A lot of politicians don’t have a lot of background in this area, so the more background information we can get, the better we can do our jobs,” he said.

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