For media inquiries of the NWT Chapter, please contact us. For media inquiries of the Council of Canadians national office, please contact Media Officer Dylan Penner.

The TPP comes to Yellowknife

Jessica Davey-Quantick, Northern News Services, Friday, October 21, 2016

About 30 people showed up to hear about how the Trans Pacific Partnership could effect the North last week at Northern United Place.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries – Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Chile, the United States, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, Japan and Canada. It was signed on Feb. 4, but it won’t enter into force until it’s ratified by all signatories by Feb. 4, 2018. This means Canada has just over a year to make up it’s mind on whether to join.”People need to take to the streets,” said activist Brenda Sayers. “The government has to understand in Canada that … we are the majority.”

Building on the model previous free trade deals such as NAFTA and the Canada-China FIPA, the pact would slash tariffs in order to foster trade between member nations, essentially creating a single new market similar to the European Union, and making up about 40 per cent of the global economy.

The World Bank estimated in 2015 that the TPP would raise the GDP of all 12 countries around 1.1 per cent on average.

But PSAC regional executive vice-president Jack Bourassa isn’t buying these claims.

“That agreement is something that bears to the interests of corporations and not citizens,” he said.”This is going to lead to a whole bunch of disastrous things for working people.”

A report from the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University found Canada’s economy would only grow 0.28 per cent in the first 10 years after TPP is ratified, adding $5 billion to the economy, and actually costing Canada approximately 58,000 jobs.

But more importantly, according to Sayers, is what the deal would do to the rights of Canadians – especially indigenous groups.

“I think the biggest threat to people across Canada, and here, is what they call the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism,” she said, explaining it “gives other countries the power to sue Canada for anything that they see stands in the way of their profit.”

Canada is the most sued country under NAFTA. The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives found 35 claims have been brought against Canada from 1995-2015, 45 per cent of the total number of claims under NAFTA. Canada has lost or settled six claims, at a cost of $170 million, and spent $65 million defending itself against claims. According to the Council of Canadians, pending decisions under NAFTA could add another $300 million. The report found about 63 per cent of the claims against Canada involved environmental protection and resource management.

“Once a state has a particular right in Canada, and we try to stop them from, you know, taking our water, any of our minerals, they can launch a lawsuit against Canada,” said Sayers.

“ISDS is international so it overrides our domestic courts, it overrides our federal, provincial, municipal, our First Nations, laws or regulations by a three-person tribunal.”

That’s why Sayers, as part of the Hupacasath First Nation, has spent two years challenging the Canada-China FIPA agreement. She says that agreement gave corporations more rights than indigenous people and other Canadian businesses operating in Canada. She says TPP would have the same effect, but on a wider scale.

“The ISDS binds the hands of parliamentarians to make decisions that are good for the people,” she said.

But NWT Chamber of Commerce president Richard Morland says although the chamber doesn’t have an official position on the TPP, he thinks it might be a benefit to the North.

“As a general principal, freeing up markets will expose us to competition. Competition is one way in which we will get better, we have to rise to the occasion – that makes us stronger,” he said. “What I’ve heard from the federal government is that like it or not, we are part of the global economy. Whether or not we sign up for the TPP or not, the global economy will continue to function with or without us.”

But that, Bourassa says, could actually be a bigger concern, because of the bust-and-boom nature of the Northern economy.

“When corporations are here, we’re fine,” he said. “As soon as they move out because there’s nothing left in the ground then we’re all hooped again.”

The Council of Canadians NWT Chapter sent a letter to the City of Yellowknife, asking for them to officially oppose the deal. Yellowknifer was advised by the city that the Mayor was unable to speak on the issue, and that there is no formal council position on the TPP.

“All our governments are responsible to the people that put them in office. I think they should have a position on it,” said Bourassa of the city.

Morland disagrees.

“I think the decision of whether the TPP is good or not is really one for the federal government to make on our behalf,” he said.

The full text of the TPP is available on the federal government’s website.

Coalition of Citizens Groups Launches Anti Fracking Petition

Joint Council of Canadians—Alternatives North—Ecology North Media Release

Yellowknife February 11, 2014

A coalition of NWT environmental and social action groups has launched a petition to call on the GNWT to use its authority under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVRMA) to refer any further horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) applications in the NWT to a full environmental assessment that includes public hearings. The MVRMA states that a project that might be a cause for public concern should be referred for an environmental assessment.

The petition was posted on the GNWT Legislative Assembly petition website on Friday, February 7th, 2014, and is found at the link. The petition will be open to collect signatures until March 7th, 2014. All residents in the NWT are eligible to sign the petition. Once the petition is closed, it will be presented in the Legislative Assembly.
The petition has been created in response to the Sahtu Land and Water Board granting permission to ConocoPhillips to use horizontal hydraulic fracturing to drill two test wells outside Norman Wells this winter, without referring the new and controversial oil extraction technique to environmental assessment.

“Fracking uses and permanently contaminates very large volumes of water, and will require transporting toxic fracking chemicals and polluted wastewater through our communities, along our highways and on the Mackenzie River. We want to ensure that the environmental and social impacts of this controversial oil extraction process have been carefully studied before further fracking is approved in the NWT,” says Christine Wenman of Ecology North.

For more information and to speak with members of the Fracking Action North coalition about this petition, please contact the following spokespeople:

Lois Little, NWT Chapter, Council of Canadians

Christine Wenman, Ecology North

Ben McDonald, Alternatives North

NWT Chapter Questions the Approval Process for Fracking

Media Release – November 4, 2013

On October 30th, the National Energy Board (NEB) approved an ‘operations authorization’ (OA) for ConocoPhillips to carry out a horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) program in the Sahtu region of the NWT. This OA follows and is in conjunction with the Sahtu Land and Water Board’s (SLWB) issuance of a Type A land use permit and a Type B water use permit for the drilling and fracking of two horizontal wells to access shale oil.

These authorizations were issued in spite of the fact that this project was not subject to an environmental assessment and in spite of the fact that the developer is not obligated to fully disclose the exact type and quantity of the toxic chemicals used in the fracking process. How can any agency or government conclude that the impacts of a fracking operation on our freshwater resources can be mitigated when they don’t even know the full nature and extent of the chemicals being used or produced by the fracking procedure?

The approval process for horizontal fracking in the NWT is clearly backwards. At minimum, the process should incorporate full disclosure of chemicals and byproducts in the licence application stage and then be referred to environmental assessment for a full and thorough review of potential contaminant impacts. Finding out about the full nature and extent of contamination from a fracking program after the fact — and only on a voluntary basis — is unacceptable from environmental management and public trust perspectives. Environmental assessments can also address a broader range of environmental, public health, and socio-economic impacts arising from fracking operations.

This recent authorization by the NEB is consistent with the overall environmental mismanagement of the ConocoPhillips application, including the fact that: No responsible authority referred the fracking program to environmental assessment, in spite of global concerns about fracking and the known use and permanent contamination of huge volumes of freshwater; The SLWB buckled to pressure from ConocoPhillips to keep some of its fracking fluid contaminants secret, in spite of the fact that these chemicals may be highly toxic and a threat to human and ecosystem health; The ENR Minister has recently inappropriately refused to carry out an investigation of the release of contaminants into the environment by this exploration program under the NWT Environmental Rights Act.

The NWT Chapter strongly disagrees with the SLWB and NEB approvals given to ConocoPhillips, and the process by which they were given, and will continue to publicly challenge these types of decisions. Water is life, and uncontaminated freshwater is essential to human health and the health of our ecosystems. Allowing and encouraging the oil and gas industry to permanently contaminate large volumes of our northern freshwater resources, without assessing in advance the impacts of those actions, is short-sighted and irresponsible. Granting new licences under similar circumstances would be even more irresponsible.

For this reason, the NWT Chapter supports a moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracking in the NWT to allow us to fully assess the environmental, public health, and socio-economic impacts of cumulative fracking operations in the NWT. At the very minimum, all subsequent applications for this type of industrial activity should be immediately subject to full and thorough environmental assessments.

Water is life… it is our duty to protect it for ourselves, the land, and for future generations.


GNWT Abdicates Responsibility for Protecting Environment and Public Trust

Media ReleaseNovember 4, 2013

The NWT Chapter of the Council of Canadians disagrees with the GNWT Environment and Natural Resource Minister’s refusal to carry out an investigation of fracking chemicals under the Environmental Rights Act (ERA) and believes that he is abdicating his legal responsibility for protecting the environment and public trust.

Minister Miltenberger has essentially told the Chapter that the legislation guiding the National Energy Board and the Sahtu Land and Water Board override his authority to protect the public trust and the environment as required under the ERA. This assertion was made in Minister Miltenberger’s October 22, 2013 response to the NWT Chapter’s request for an investigation into, and full disclosure of the specific name and quantity of fracking chemicals to be used in ConocoPhilips’ hydraulic fracturing program in the Sahtu. In its letter back to Minister Miltenberger, the Chapter quotes from the ERA (section 2.3) which clearly states that the ERA will prevail in cases of conflict with other legislation.

The NWT Chapter contends that the Minister responsible for the ERA is obligated to carry out the requested investigation unless he believes that the release or likely release of contaminants does not pose a threat to the environment or the public trust. Since the Minister has refused to investigate, the Chapter is asking if this is in fact the GNWT’s position and if it is, how this decision was made.


NWT Joins Worldwide Fracking Protest—Global Frackdown 2013

Media Release – October 16, 2013

NWT citizens are joining the worldwide Global Frackdown event Saturday, October 19th to highlight concerns with the dangers of fracking for our waters and climate.

People will gather in Somba K’e Park at noon Saturday and march to Northern United Place to hear an information session on the dangers of fracking.  The documentary film “Burning Water”, which focuses on fracking in the Rosebud area of Alberta, will be screened.

Participation in the worldwide event is being organized by the NWT Chapter of the Council of Canadians.

“Global Frackdown will unite concerned citizens around the globe to tell elected officials that we want a future lit by clean, renewable energy; not dirty, polluting fossil fuels.” says Council of Canadians spokesperson Lorraine Hewlett. “The journey to a renewable energy future will not be fueled by oil and gas.”

“Horizontal fracking is moving forward in the Sahtu without even an environmental assessment.  We have no detailed inventory of the water resource, we don’t know the full details of the composition or quantity of chemicals being used, and we have no idea of the potential for permanent damage to our waters.”

Global Frackdown events in 2012 brought together 200 community actions from over 20 countries to challenge hydraulic fracturing.

For information on Global Frackdown 2013 worldwide events, see


Scientists rally across the country to call on the federal government to ‘Stand up for Science’

Media Release – September 16, 2013

The NWT Chapter of the Council of Canadian’s invites its members and allies to unite for a rally in Yellowknife to call on the Federal Government to stand up for science by supporting science in the public interest.

A year after gathering on Parliament Hill to mourn the ‘Death of Evidence’, scientists and their supporters are back. On September 16th, they will rally across the country to highlight the critical need to maintain evidence-based decision-making through the support of science in the public interest.

Rallies are set to take place in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Yellowknife, Fredericton and Halifax, along with numerous other communities.

“Scientists would rather be doing research than rallying, but many of us are concerned about the health of public science, and feel that Canadians should understand these concerns so they can judge for themselves,” says Dr. Scott Findlay, Evidence for Democracy co-founder and Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Ottawa. “The Canadian standard of living is, in large measure, a result of scientific discovery and technological innovation. So every Canadian has a vested interest in the health of public science, and the use of scientific evidence to protect and sustain the values we hold.”

These national events were initiated by Evidence for Democracy (E4D) – a new non-partisan organization advocating for the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making.

“Science matters,” says Dr. Katie Gibbs, biologist and Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy. “Good science, when coupled with good decision making is what keeps our water and air clean, keeps us healthy, keeps our food safe and is the engine of economic development.”

As Prime Minister Harper and his cabinet prepare for the next parliamentary session, E4D and scientists across Canada call on them to demonstrate their commitment to science in the public interest by:

  1. Supporting the open communication of publicly funded science to the public.
  2. Using the best available science and evidence to make the best decisions.
  3. Funding scientific research from basic science through to applied science.

WHAT: Stand up for Science rally
WHEN: 12:00 pm (noon) September 16th, 2013
WHERE: Yellowknife, In front of the Greenstone Building, 5101 50thAve; and 17 other cities/towns across the country
WHO: Speakers for the Yellowknife rally include Peter Redvers (Co-Chair for the NWT Chapter of the Council of Canadian’s), Sandra Lockhart (NWT Chapter of the Council of Canadian’s), Julie Docherty (Regional Executive Vice President of PSAC North), and Dr. Courtney Howard (Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment).

A complete list of Stand Up for Science events can be found by following this link.


Fracking Companies’ Trade Secrets Should Not Trump Public Interest

Media Release – September 3, 2013

The NWT Chapter of the Council of Canadians has called on the NWT Minister of Environment and Natural Resources to carry out an investigation under the Environmental Rights Act on the use of undisclosed chemicals in fracking operations in the NWT.

In an August 29th letter to the Minister, the Council has called for the GNWT to require that the name and quantity of all chemicals used in ConocoPhilips’ five-year hydraulic fracturing program be publicly disclosed.

“The public interest in clean water and an uncontaminated environment should not be compromised by the asserted proprietary interests of ConocoPhilips, the company recently licenced to conduct hydraulic fracturing in the Sahtu,” says the NWT Council of Canadians Chapter’s co-chair, Peter Redvers.

Last June the Sahtu Land and Water Board (SLWB) granted a land use permit and a water licence to ConocoPhillips for exploratory fracking wells near Tulita without requiring a full environmental assessment.

The Chapter’s letter to the NWT Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources states: “The chemicals used to make fracking fluids are far from safe. Scientists have found that 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer; 37 percent could disrupt the endocrine system; 40 to 50 percent could affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems; and more than 75 percent could impair sensory organs and the respiratory system.” These chemicals are also “associated with low birth weight, birth defects, respiratory problems, cancer, and fertility problems.”

Under the Environmental Rights Act “every person resident in the Territories has the right to protect the environment and the public trust.” By keeping certain chemicals secret, ConocoPhilips is violating these rights.



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