Correction appended October 6, 2014.
Greenpeace’s second annual Ice Ride took place yesterday at Parc Laurier, rallying 85 people together for a collective bike ride to fight for the protection of the Arctic and against the drilling for oil currently taking place there.
The Ice Ride takes place in 150 cities and 33 countries around the world, and involves thousands of cyclists each year. In Canada, activists from nine cities – Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Medicine Hat, Ottawa, Quebec, Sherbrooke, Saint-Lambert, and Trois-Rivières – are demanding that governments put protection of the Arctic at the top of their agendas.
Marco and Manuel, two attendees of the event, came to advocate for environmental rights and take a stand against Arctic drilling. “We’re at the crossroads, it’s do-or-die […] to choose whether we want to support the oil companies or more renewable forms of energy. They want to extract our oil and get it out quickly to the world.”
Greenpeace is demanding the creation of an Arctic sanctuary to protect the international waters around the North Pole, since companies are taking advantage of the ice melting in the Arctic to extract oil and practice industrial fishing. Demonstrators sought the creation of a zone in which these practices are banned.
Speakers noted Canada’s particular role in the exploitation of the Arctic, highlighting the case of Clyde River, an Inuit community in Nunavut; the Ice Ride’s banner read, “In solidarity with Clyde River” in French.
Earlier this year, the National Energy Board (NEB) – which evaluates energy projects for environmental protection and economic efficiency – accepted a five-year proposal for seismic testing in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait off eastern Nunavut. Seismic testing involves air cannons, which create ocean noise pollution and disturb marine life.
Charles Latimer, campaigner for Greenpeace’s Oceans campaign, explained that “the Clyde River community depends on this ecosystem.”
“Air cannons, which are extremely loud, will be shot to simulate explosions and map out gas and oil deposits on the seafloor. The problem is, marine life uses sound to communicate and is very sensitive to sound, so this project results in […] changes in migration [for marine life], and substantially reduces the diversity of this ecosystem,” Latimer said.
This Clyde River community has decided to go to the federal government in an effort to put a stop to seismic testing in Baffin Bay. Consequently, the organizers of this year’s Ice Ride chose to promote this issue and stand in solidarity with the community to send a unified message to the federal government to protect the Arctic and move toward renewable energy.
In a speech sent to the organizers and read out at the event, Clyde River mayor Jerry Natatine thanked the Ice Ride participants for acting in solidarity with his community and the four million inhabitants of the Arctic.
“Our environment is important to us, but the oil industry, the NEB, and the federal government are ignoring our concerns,” said Natatine. “That’s why we decided to launch our legal challenge to the NEB’s decision to permit seismic testing in our waters. This legal challenge is just the first battle in a larger struggle to protect Canada’s North and the entire Arctic Ocean from irresponsible oil and gas exploitation.”
A previous version of this article stated that Jerry Natatine was present at the Ice Ride. In fact, Natatine was not present at the event.