Ottawa, March 4, 2003. 

Speaking to approximately 300 participants from a dozen countries at an Arctic contaminants symposium, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, today called upon the Government of Canada to maintain its commitment to the environmental security of the Arctic and health of Inuit by renewing the Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) for a further five years. The program is scheduled to sunset on March 31, 2003.

The 1997-2002 Canadian Arctic Contaminants Assessment Report (CACAR II), a compilation of research conducted through the NCP is being unveiled at the symposium. The report shows that nearly half of the mothers tested in Nunavut, Nunavik (northern Quebec) and the Inuvialuit region (Beaufort Sea) have levels of PCBs in their blood above the Health Canada level of concern of 5 micrograms/litre. Subtle effects on information processing, memory and attention in infants as a result of exposure to PCBs and mercury in the womb are to be reported at the symposium. Many outstanding questions remain, including the health effects of chronic exposures to individual contaminants and contaminant mixtures, new chemicals such as brominated flame-retardants released to the environment, and the role of certain nutrients in protecting the body against contaminants.

The data generated by the NCP enabled Canada to participate and, on occasion, lead international negotiations that resulted in a global convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs), opened for signature in Stockholm in 2001. This convention singles out the Arctic and its Indigenous peoples, and aims to reduce drastically the emissions worldwide of POPs that end-up in the Arctic threatening the health of Inuit. Canada was the first country to both sign and ratify the convention.

Ms. Watt-Cloutier said: renewal of the NCP is required if Canada is to live up to its responsibilities and duties in the convention. She added: Without the NCP, I dont see how Canada can effectively implement articles 10, 11, and 12 of the convention dealing with public information, awareness and education; research, development and monitoring; and technical assistance.

ICC participated in all negotiating sessions from 1998 to 2001 that resulted in the convention. Ms. Watt-Cloutier asked all at the symposium to note Article 13 (4) of the convention:

The extent to which the developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by the developed country Parties of their commitments under this Convention .

She added: Canada must remain true to the bargain finalized in Stockholm. Allowing the NCP to sunset would send entirely the wrong message to the developing world and countries with economies in transition, perhaps leading them to question their commitment to the convention. Many POPs that threaten the health of Inuit are released to the environment in developing countries.

On Wednesday March 5, ICC is launching at the Arctic Contaminants Symposium a book, two years in preparation: Northern Lights Against POPs: Combatting Toxic Threats in the Arctic. Published by McGill/Queens University Press for ICC Canada, this book documents how data generated through the NCP informed global POPs negotiations, and how the Government of Canada and other circumpolar states, aided by Inuit, Dene, and Yukon First Nations, together convinced the developing world of the need for the convention.


A summary version of the CACAR II report entitled CACAR II Highlights and the Scientific Technical reports are available through the NCP website: http:


Terry Fenge
Strategic Counsel to the Chair
(613) 722-7006


Stephanie Meakin
Technical Advisor Inuit Circumpolar Conference
Tel: (613) 563-2642
Cell:(613) 791-1925