Contaminant communications
New environmental committee promises better regional representation

Tracy Kovalench
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 03/98) - To bridge the information gap between Northern communities and scientists, the federal government has announced the creation of the NWT Environmental Contaminants Committee.

The 19-member committee is made up of federal and territorial government representatives the Aurora and Nunavut research institutes and about a dozen aboriginal groups across the territories.

"When Northerners share information, views and concerns with scientists and government, they can help make sure that research is conducted on subjects that are important to Northerners," said Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Jane Stewart.

Funded by DIAND's Northern Contaminants Program, the committee, which was formed to heighten contaminant awareness across the North, includes regional representatives from five Dene, two Metis and two Inuit organizations.

"This committee goes one step further down to regional levels," said Stephanie Sibbeston, committee vice-chairperson. Sibbeston stressed the importance of addressing a community's needs and concerns to ensure a meaningful scientific study.

If researchers are going to study fish, says Sibbeston, "they should study a lake people fish at and the fish people eat."

Sibbeston, who is also the Dene Nation's lands and environment manager, was nominated to the one-year term position by the committee under chair Carole Mills, manager of DIAND's contaminants division.

Mills and Sibbeston have worked on past projects set to improve communication and understanding, like the 1997 elders-scientist retreat at Trout Rock on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. The project was hosted by the Dene Nation and funded through DIAND's Northern contaminants program.

To help Northerners make informed decisions about traditional land use, the contaminants division plans to report the results of its seven-year contaminant study to the newly formed committee in Iqaluit this September.