IRC says extended oil and gas restrictions are ‘unacceptable’

The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation says a federal extension of restrictions on Arctic oil and gas development “will have a lasting impact” on the Inuvialuit economy and sovereignty.

Some restraints on oil and gas work in Arctic areas such as the Beaufort Sea, within the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, were due to expire at the end of 2022.

The federal government now says those restrictions will stay for as long as a broader moratorium on Arctic oil and gas development, first instituted by the Trudeau government in 2016, remains in place.


The CBC first reported the extension.

In a statement on Wednesday, IRC chair and chief executive Duane Smith said the corporation was “discouraged by the federal government’s arbitrary decision” to extend restrictions in Arctic waters “without meaningful consultation.”

“This is a setback to the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, who are in need of new economic opportunities. Our livelihoods are impacted, and it is unacceptable this decision has been made without exploring alternative ways to bring jobs, growth and energy security to Canada’s north,” Smith wrote.

“This decision undermines ongoing efforts to enhance sovereignty and security in our region and will have a lasting impact on the strides Inuvialuit have made in these key areas.”

The Northwest Territories has voiced opposition to the moratorium since its announcement.


In 2017, then-premier Bob McLeod called for “an urgent national debate on the future of the Northwest Territories,” in part because of a belief that policies “imposed on us from Ottawa and southern Canada” were threatening the NWT’s economic future.”

The federal government subsequently said it would negotiate a Beaufort Sea oil and gas co-management and revenue-sharing agreement with the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. Canada is also conducting a science-based review of the moratorium and of the impact of drilling in the Arctic.

World Wildlife Fund Canada said in 2019 that “a solid majority of Canadians” – including 65 percent of northerners surveyed – oppose Arctic drilling, a view that appeared to be shared by some residents this week. Rolland Malegana, for example, asked on Facebook: “Aren’t we the guardians of our sea? Why do we want rigs on the sea? Are we just mad they didn’t consult with us?”

But many other residents voiced support for the IRC’s position.


“For thousands of years, the Inuvialuit have been conscientious and sustainable stewards of our land and water,” Smith concluded.

“If the federal government truly respects Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination, they would explore opportunities along with us that are mutually beneficial.”