An international Inuit group was not informed that Russian rocket stage with highly toxic fuel is set to splash down in waters they hunt for food, as The Star reports.
Okalik Eegeesiak, the Chairman of the Inuit Circumpolar Commission, said that both the federal government and the European Space Agency did not bother to inform Inuit in Canada and Greenland about the falling debris.
“Again, we had no knowledge of this and were not included in what is happening in our areas. Our communities are hearing through the media about what is happening,” she stated.
Russian rocket, which is a repurposed Soviet-era SS-19 ballistic missile, fuelled by hydrazine, bearing a European environmental monitoring satellite launches on Wednesday. Rocket’s second stage is to fall into the waters of Baffin Bay, outside Canada’s territorial waters but within its exclusive economic zone as well as the area of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act.
“These are leftover from the Cold War. They’re free as a result,” said Michael Byers, international law professor, describing the rockets.
According to the representatives of the agency, the fuel burns up before it hits the Earth. Eegeesiak says that the stage will fall into the North Water Polynya, which is the most productive and biodiverse place in the Arctic waters. Canada and Greenland hunt there often, as the waters are rich in whales, seals, polar bears and walrus.
“When the weather is clear, they go out for the chance of coming back with lunch and dinner. (We’ve) been very concerned about cumulative impacts these launches will have on our communities and food sources,” she said.
It was noted that there have been 11 such splashdowns over the past 15 years, which Inuit Circumpolar Commission protested. Eegeesiak said that “the Wednesday’s launch was again scheduled without letting local people know mocks federal promises of Indigenous consultation”.
“We don’t see it here,” she said. Protection of marine waters is also not evident here,” she added.
Canada as an associate member of the European Space Agency, routinely contributes more than $20 million a year to its budget. That, as to the federal documents, “allows Canada to be part of the (agency’s) decision-making process.”
“We are expressing our frustration,” said Eegeesiak, stressing that she did not see that Canada used that influence to protect Inuit interests.
The splashdown waters are so important that the Inuit from Canada and Greenland met to develop a plan for the area.
“We’d like to lead the management of the area. We’d like to work with our respective governments to push for no rocket launches into the area,” Eegeesiak stated.
The federal government did not comment on this.