Iqaluit, NU, Oct 23, 2019 — The barren-ground caribou that once dominated Canada’s Arctic are dwindling — herds that numbered in the hundreds of thousands as recently as the 1990s have declined by more than 90 per cent.
We must act now, and northerners know it.
According to an Environics Research poll that was commissioned by WWF-Canada, 87 per cent of residents in Nunavut, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut want caribou calving grounds to be declared fully protected areas that do not allow industrial development such as oil and gas or mining projects. In Nunavut, 74 per cent of respondents “strongly support” this safeguard, and 12 per cent somewhat support it.
The main reasons that respondents provided are to protect the declining caribou population and to preserve this important source of food security and way of life for Inuit. The latter is of particular importance to residents of Nunavut.
More than half of respondents in this survey say their territorial government is not doing enough to protect caribou, while only one-third say they are. Those numbers are highest in Nunavut and Nunavik at 57 per cent, and lowest in Yukon at 45 per cent, where the calving grounds of the Porcupine herd are already protected.
Another 86 per cent of respondents say the most effective way to protect caribou is to protect their habitat.
This poll heard from 1,000 of all 120,000 northern residents — including 275 in Nunavut, 275 in Yukon, 350 in NWT, 70 in Nunavik and 30 in Nunatsiavut — and the results are nearly identical to a poll WWF-Canada commissioned in 2016.
Northerners are steadfast on protecting caribou. The federal and territorial governments must act to protect these areas now.
Brandon Laforest, Arctic species and ecosystems senior specialist, says:
“These poll results echo the message we have heard for years from our northern partners — calving grounds must be off-limits to industrial development. To provide clarity for industry and respect the will of the people, we must use the tools at our disposal to ensure these areas become protected no-go zones.”
Description of the Poll: The findings are based on 1,000 telephone interviews with adults (18+) conducted between June 7 and July 8, 2019 as part of Environics’ North of 60 and Remote Community Monitor, which includes the three territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut) as well as small samples in Nunavik (Northern Quebec) and Nunatsiavut (Labrador). Quotas were set by Indigenous identity within the territories to ensure the final sample is representative of the respective populations, according to the most recent Census data. The margin of sampling error for a sample of 1,000 is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.
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Joshua Ostroff, senior editorial specialist
Joy D’Souza, senior communications specialist