World Wildlife Fund comes to Nunavut
Not just another animal rights group

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Dec 07/98) - The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is anything but an animal rights group trying to destroy Northern livelihood.

Rather, the privately-funded international agency works with community members and groups around the globe to try and ensure that resource-based initiatives -- whether they be industry on a large scale or subsistence hunting -- are run in a manner that benefits the environment.

That's why the WWF's recent presence in Nunavut is good news.

"Our end goal is to make sure development and the environment can both grow in a sustainable way so the people benefit and the land is protected ... so, what the people in Nunavut have now, they can have in the future," says John Laird, the fund's co-ordinator in Nunavut.

By opening an Iqaluit office, which will hopefully be Inuit-run in the future, Laird says the WWF is able to work directly and equably with the actual people who have a vested interest in seeing the life of their resources extended. And he is quick to add that his mandate is truly to collaborate, not to instruct or issue orders.

"We want to work within communities and with the communities' perspective instead of imposing southern values. That's why it's important to actually have someone here," says Laird, noting that the bulk of his work so far has involved setting up relationships with Nunavut organizations like the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board and Nunavut Tunngavik.

But, because of past economic damage inflicted upon Inuit communities by groups like Greenpeace, Laird says he has to launch a communications project to explain to people why the group has come to the Eastern Arctic.

"Many people have asked me what the World Wildlife Fund is and what we're looking to do in Nunavut."

Once word gets out, Laird says it will be easier to launch a $1.3 million three-year project designed to bring money and training to programs which concentrate on cleaning up toxins in the environment and care for endangered species and spaces.

One such specific project involves assisting a steering committee in Clyde River with establishing a nearly completed bowhead whale sanctuary in Isabella Bay.