May 17, 2004, Iqaluit, Nunavut

Inuit leaders, elders, community members and the former Chair of the International Negotiating Committee, Dr. John Buccini, celebrated the entry into force today of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), with a traditional feast of seal, caribou, whale and char. The Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) was a key advocate for this international Convention to ensure the security of their traditional food. ICC in partnership with the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) believed there was no better way to celebrate than through a feast of the very foods that once were laden with the chemicals listed in the Stockholm Convention.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Chairperson of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference was encouraged that once the Convention is in force, Inuit will see a reduction in these POPs, and new chemicals entering the Arctic. The Inuit Circumpolar Conference together with other indigenous peoples took an active part in the negotiations leading to the signing of the convention. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, put a human face on the POPs issue and poignantly expressed to the world the concerns and connection Inuit have with the land and the animals and the effect that these contaminants have on her people. “There may only be 155,000 Inuit in the entire world, but the Arctic is the barometer of the health of the planet and if the Arctic is poisoned so are we all”.

Although never produced and rarely used in the Arctic, the “Stockholm” chemicals have been found in the traditional food Inuit depend on for their nutrition, culture and spiritual identity. Because these chemicals biomagnify and bioaccumulate mainly through the marine food chain, they are also present in the blood and breast milk of Inuit themselves. Persistent organic pollutants have been linked to a variety of health problems damage to peoples immune systems, reproductive and neurological systems.

The Stockholm Convention signals a new era of global chemical management and global responsibility for protecting the planet, we now have a lot of work to do to ensure more countries continue to ratify the Convention, that countries have the capacity to meet the obligations and that Canada continues to be a leader and that we move beyond the obligations of the convention and ensure all Canadians, especially our children, live free of concern from toxic chemicals in our environment. Although the Convention was signed by over 100 countries in 2001, the Convention had to wait for more than 50 countries to officially ratify it before the convention could “Enter into Force” and the obligations could take effect.

Watt-Cloutier believes that Canada can continue its leadership role by ensuring that effective research and monitoring continues in the north, as the Arctic is a “sink” for many of the chemicals used globally are brought north through the atmosphere. “We should not be complacent” stated Watt-Cloutier, “new chemicals can be added to the Convention and we should ensure that chemicals of concern in the Arctic such as the pesticide Lindane, and a class of chemicals known as brominated flame retardants are candidates for addition to the Stockholm Convention”. Canadas leadership on POPs can be further demonstrated by injecting additional funding into the Canada POPs fund and other programs designed to help less developed, and countries with economies in transition deal with their chemical legacies.

Canada was a key participant in negotiating the treaty. Canadian data, mainly produced through the very successful Canadian Federal Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) of the Arctic Council showed that many of the chemicals dealt with under the Convention have been found at levels of concern in people and the environment, particularly in Inuit.

The Inuit journey towards the Stockholm Convention is available in, “Northern Lights Against POPs” available online at Published in 2003, by Queens/McGill University Press this book offers the reader a rare glance at the entire POPs story told by the people who made it happen.

For More Information, Please Contact:

Stephanie Meakin, Technical Advisor, ICC 613-258-9471
Terry Fenge (Strategic Council To The Chair) And Miali Coley (Executive Assistant To The Chair), ICC 867-979-4661