The Qikiqtani Inuit Association won a court injunction August 8 that put a temporary halt to government-imposed seismic testing in Lancaster Sound, located near the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage.

Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) represents the communities of Resolute Bay, Arctic Bay, Grise Fiord, Clyde River and Pond Inlet. It first learned of the plan to carry out testing in the region when the communities received letters from the federal government. The letters informed the communities of the project, a German-Canadian joint exploration project to map the area, only after it had already been approved.

According to government documents, the purpose of the study was to examine the earth’s early history; they were to be carried out by Natural Resources Canada along with Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute.

Okalik Eegeesiak, president of the QIA, said that the communities were informed prior to the Association and Ottawa failed to engage them in consultations.

“There were no opportunities to oppose it and there was no way to consult or provide feedback and to be involved in any mitigation efforts,” said Eegeesiak.

Once more, as the feds had already carried out seismic testing in the area, the QIA were particularly concerned about the potential impact that the sound blasts would have on marine and wildlife, as the blasting can affect migration patterns. The seafood and wild game are the main sources of sustenance for these communities.

According to Eegeesiak, it seemed more likely that potential oil and gas exploration is prompting the costly seismic testing and not altruistic scientific inquiry.

Taking their case to court, the QIA was granted a temporary injunction against the testing by Nunavut Judge Susan Cooper. While the government argued that one of their consultant’s studies indicated that there would have little or no impact on game or on marine life, Cooper ruled that she had concerns about the study. In her ruling the Judge stated that the information presented in the study “supports the conclusion that there are impacts.”

According to the CBC, Prime Minister Steven Harper attacked Judge Cooper’s argument and told reporters in Vancouver that “The work being done there is not for oil and gas exploration.”

Eegeesiak does not believe Harper.

“If it was not about oil or gas then the research isn’t necessary because this research has largely already been done by the government back in the 70s and 80s. There is a federal government report dated 1989 by their own researchers that basically recommended that there was no further seismic research required now because it was already done in the same area,” said Eegeesiak.

While Cooper’s ruling was based on the potential for irreparable harm to the local wildlife and the communities that depend on them, the injunction is only temporary. Eegeesiak said that she is hoping that the Government does not pursue the matter any further, the course recommended by Nunavut MP and federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

Eegeesiak said that she and her people are not looking for a fight as their interest lies in working with both governments but if they had to go back to court, they would do so without hesitation.

Furthermore, the prospect of the government carrying out research to discover oil and gas supply right under the noses of the communities without their consultation or involvement is something that has enraged and insulted the QIA.

“They have to understand that they can not just walk all over the Inuit in our communities. We have to be involved in the planning. It is a lot more than just consultations that we are talking about, we have to be involved in the planning and feel comfortable that this not hurt the environment and the activities will not hurt our wildlife,” said Eegeesiak.