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Seismic appeal going forward
Federal Court of Appeal agrees to hear Clyde River's appeal before summer

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Monday, January 26, 2015

Opponents of seismic testing received good news last week as the Federal Court of Appeal granted a request to expedite a hearing on Clyde River's challenge to the National Energy Board's approval of testing in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait.

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Mayor Jerry Natanine: Happy hearing will happen but disappointed it will not be in Iqaluit.

Such testing is required to determine the viability of drilling for oil and gas in the waters.

The hearing is expected in April, time enough for a decision before seismic testing is set to start in the summer, lawyer Nader Hasan predicted.

"It's good news," said Hasan, who represents the hamlet, Mayor Jerry Natanine, and the local hunters' and trappers' organization. "It means the Federal Court of Appeal is taking our concern about timing seriously. We were concerned about making sure the Federal Court of Appeal had all the arguments to make a decision before we got to the summer, and it looks like, with the current timeline, that will be possible. The proponents ... want to begin seismic testing in July."

"I'm very happy about it," said Natanine. "That was what we were asking for."

But in order to grant the request to speed up the process, Hasan said the court had to turn down another request.

"The court has come back and said essentially, if you want to expedite the matter, it's not feasible to have it in Iqaluit," he said. "So it's going to be heard in Ottawa or Toronto. Iqaluit is out."

Holding the hearing in Iqaluit "was an unusual request," he added. "We made it because this is an issue in a broader sense that affects all Canadians but most immediately the people of Clyde River and the people of Nunavut more generally."

"I'm very disappointed about it," Natanine said. "We were hoping it could be in Iqaluit or in Nunavut, where they want to do the seismic testing."

Hasan will ask the court to simulcast to Iqaluit to ensure Nunavummiut able to make it to the capital can access the hearing.

That said, the hearing will consist solely of arguments about how the law should apply to this situation.

"None of our witnesses physically need to be there," he said. "There's no evidence left to submit."

Natanine is optimistic.

"I'm hoping that we're going to win, obviously," he said. "I feel really good about it. I think our case is really strong. You never know. The Conservative government, Conservative people, they're really after what they call development."

And he's concerned about the pace of development in Arctic waters.

"They've been saying that oil development won't happen for the next 30 to 50 years, but if it's going to take that long, why do we need the seismic data now? I don't believe them when they say it's 50 years away. They want the seismic data now. Once they get that, I don't think nothing's going to stop them."

An international youth advocacy group, the Youth Arctic Coalition, is throwing its support behind Clyde River.

A new YouTube video featuring youth "from Iqaluit to Taiwan" make statements of support in the video.

"There is a lot of talk about putting Northern peoples first," said Youth Arctic Coalition executive director Kass Forman.

"Proceeding with seismic surveying in the face of such opposition shows blatant disregard for that principle. Communities all over the world are standing up to decide how the development that affects them should proceed. We stand behind them."

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