Harper vows better times for Arctic residents

Thu Aug 20, 2009 2:06pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Allan Dowd

PANGNIRTUNG, Nunavut (Reuters) - As Canada asserts sovereignty claims in the Arctic it must also do a better job of ensuring the region's residents share in its resources, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.

Harper made his comments in the coastal hamlet of Pangnirtung on Baffin Island in Nunavut, as he continued his tour of Canada's Far North, mixing military muscle-flexing with infrastructure spending announcements that he says will boost the region's struggling economy.

Canada, Russia, Denmark and United States are among the nations that have stepped up their claims to territories in the Arctic, which may hold vast reserves of oil and gas and other resources.

Many residents of Canada's Far North, where a large portion of the population is aboriginal, say they have too often been left behind in the rush to exploit the natural resources beneath their feet.

"We are very concerned that as development occurs here in the territory local people don't just share in the wealth generated from the development, but that they (also) share in the development itself," Harper told reporters.

"To be frank, there's not enough of that happening."

In Pangnirtung, a community of about 1,400 that is closer Greenland than to Canada's major cities, Harper outlined Ottawa's plan to spend C$17 million ($15.6 million) to improve the local harbor for fishermen.

The nearby waters are rich in turbot and arctic char, but the lack of a good dock forces fishermen to wait until high tide to unload their catches, a process that can force them to remain on the water in small boats in bad weather.   Continued...

<p>Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) gestures as he arrives in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Baffin Island August 17, 2009. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>