Canada & the Arctic 2008-2012

Written by  //  December 27, 2012  //  Arctic and Antarctic, Canada, David/Terry Jones  //  2 Comments

…the first principle of Arctic sovereignty is: Use it or lose it
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Resolute Bay, August, 2007

Photo: Sergeant Kevin MacAulay/Canwest News Service

CBC archives: Creation of Nunavut
On April 1, 1999, the new territory of Nunavut was born. It meant the Inuit gained self-rule and control over their own institutions.; Canadian Arctic Sovereignty prepared by staff of the Parliamentary Information and Research Service (PIRS) of the Library of Parliament; The Arctic: Questions and Resources (Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada); Oceans North Canada – Led by the Pew Environment Group; The Arctic and Canada’s Foreign Policy, Gordon Foundation
More on the Arctic ; also see Canada and the world in 2010 and Nov. 13, 2009 Economist: Canada’s northern goal — The Arctic is no longer the forgotten frontier
… for most Canadians, 80% of whom live within 200km (124 miles) of the United States border, the Far North (Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut) is a vast area never visited, largely unknown, usually forgotten and populated only by aboriginal peoples with quaint customs. All that will start to change in 2010
ArcticNet is a Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada that brings together scientists and managers in the natural, human health and social sciences with their partners from Inuit organizations, northern communities, federal and provincial agencies and the private sector. The objective of ArcticNet is to study the impacts of climate change in the coastal Canadian Arctic. Over 145 ArcticNet researchers from 30 Canadian Universities, 8 federal and 11 provincial agencies and departments collaborate with research teams in Denmark, Finland, France, Greenland, Japan, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the USA.


Izok Corridor Deal: Harper’s Cabinet Mulls Massive Chinese Resource Project In Arctic

(Canadian Press via HuffPost) Some time in the new year, four federal ministers are to decide how to conduct an environmental review for the Izok Corridor proposal. It could bring many billions of dollars into the Arctic but would also see development of open-pit mines, roads, ports and other facilities in the centre of calving grounds for the fragile Bathurst caribou herd.
“This is going to be the biggest issue,” said Sally Fox, a spokeswoman for proponent MMG Minerals, a subsidiary of the Chinese state-owned Minmetals Resources Ltd.
It would be hard to exaggerate the proposal’s scope. Centred at Izok Lake, about 260 kilometres southeast of Kugluktuk, the project would stretch throughout a vast swath of western Nunavut.
Izok Lake would have five separate underground and open-pit mines producing lead, zinc and copper. Another site at High Lake, 300 kilometres to the northeast, would have another three mines.
6 September
Elizabeth May: Stephen Harper and the melting Arctic
(Island Tides) Stephen Harper has promised the creation of a new Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) to be built in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. This is one of the more bizarre announcements. It was first pledged in the 2007 Speech from the Throne claiming the government would “build a world-class Arctic research station that will be on the cutting edge of Arctic issues, including environmental science and resource development. This station will be built by Canadians, in Canada’s Arctic, and it will be there to serve the world.”
It is bizarre because at the same time that the Harper Conservatives are pledging millions to build a new research facility from the ground up, they are shutting down a world respected facility further north, closer to the North Pole. The PEARL station (Polar Environmental and Atmospheric Research Laboratory) at Eureka on Ellesmere Island, recently had $10 million invested in state of the art equipment to monitor ozone depletion and the build up of greenhouse gases.
31 August
The World gets green light to transit Northwest PassageArctic_The World
Canadian Coast Guard ready to supply assistance if needed
(Nunatsiaq online) More than 100 years after Norway’s Roald Amundsen successfully sailed through the Northwest Passage on a small sloop with a crew of six, history may be made again along that route in 2012.
If successful in its west-to-east transit of the passage, a 196.5-metre ship called The World, which bills itself as “the largest privately owned residential yacht on earth,” will become the largest passenger vessel to complete a journey that was once perilous and nearly impossible.
After two days anchored outside Cambridge Bay, where local residents gave its 508 passengers and crew a taste of Nunavut culture, The World is now heading towards Victoria Strait and Larsen Sound.
27 August
PM Harper ‘owns’ North as public policy issue
‘They owned it before they secured their first majority government,’ says Poelzer.
(Hill Times) The opposition may be taking every chance to deride the Prime Minister’s photo opportunities during last week’s Arctic tour, but experts on policy and communications are crediting Stephen Harper with making Canada’s North a distinctly Conservative policy issue.
“Of the three major national parties, they own the northern issue,” University of Saskatchewan political science professor Greg Poelzer said of the governing Conservatives. “They owned it before they secured their first majority government and have continued to since then.”
23 August
Leona Aglukkaq Named Canada’s Chief At Arctic Council
The federal health minister will lead the international Arctic Council next year as it grapples with whether to allow other countries at the table.
Canada assumes leadership of the eight-nation body in 2013, and the prime minister announced Thursday in Nunavut that Leona Aglukkaq is his choice as Canada’s official ambassador.
Canadian High Arctic Research Station
The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) will provide a world-class hub for science and technology in Canada’s North that complements and anchors the network of smaller regional facilities across the North. The new Station will provide a suite of services for science and technology in Canada’s North including a technology development centre, traditional knowledge centre, and advanced laboratories. See Arctic Institute News 27 Feb-4 March below. Empty promises?

New NWT’s national park boundaries leave critical wildlife habitat unprotected, critics say
(RCI net) On the second day of his annual northern tour, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stopped in Moose Pond, NWT, to announce the creation of Canada’s 44th national park, the Naats’ihch’oh National Park Reserve.
“Today’s announcement will ensure that almost the entire length of the South Nahanni River, its tributaries, and most of its watershed will now be protected within our national parks system,” he said.
But critics caution that protecting only part of the Nahanni watershed is just not good enough.
Stephen Harper renews hunt for Franklin ships long lost to the Arctic depths
22 August
Harper touts new Northern park reserve during annual Arctic tour
Prime Minister Stephen Harper turns his eyes today from the mineral riches of the North to its recreational riches.
On the second full day of his annual northern tour, he visited the site of a new national park reserve in Norman Wells, a small community about 680 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife.
Initial proposals for the park reserve suggested the newly protected area would actually be much larger, with data on Parks Canada’s website saying about 7,600 square kilometres were under consideration. … Parks Canada has since announced the closure of services at many parks, including in the North, and locals are concerned about the implications for tourism. But at a stop at a mine in Yukon on Tuesday, Harper wouldn’t commit to reversing the cuts
21 August
Stephen Harper: Canada’s future lies in its northern resource riches
(Toronto Star) Prime Minister Stephen says Canada’s future lies in the exploitation of the nation’s northern resource riches, branding it as a “great national dream.”
Harper kicked off his annual tour of northern Canada here Monday with a bullish vision that sees the country’s prosperity fuelled by the untapped Arctic resources.
20 August
Harper to announce new national park during northern tour
(CBC) Making 7th trip to the North as prime minister
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will announce the creation of a massive new national park in the Northwest Territories during his summer tour of the Canadian North, CBC News has learned.
The Brandon Sun points out in A not-quite Midas touch: Harper heads to Arctic with mixed record , “it seems that what Harper tries to turn to gold in his visits up North doesn’t always stay that way. Many projects he has announced for the region in recent years are behind schedule and some places he stops later find themselves falling on hard times.
“Last year, Harper visited the Kluane National Park, home of Mount Logan, Canada’s highest mountain. There, he announced a new visitor’s centre and extolled the region’s “lush valleys, immense ice fields (and) spectacular mountains.” But a research station located just outside its gates has since had its federal funding cut, and the last federal budget will also see the national park’s services cut as well.” And now he’s announcing a new park?? Budget cuts, delayed development hang over Harper’s annual Arctic trip
3 August
Ice science meets Inuit legend in search for Franklin’s ships
There are few clues in the great mystery surrounding what happened to Sir John Franklin’s ships in the 1840s, in the frigid waters of the Canadian Arctic.
But searchers hoping to find the 19th-century British vessels this summer are looking at two vastly different sources to guide their quest: oral histories told years ago by the Inuit, and hints that can be read in today’s satellite photos about how sea ice forms and shifts around.
Sometimes the clues from the two sources line up. Sometimes they don’t. But searchers agree they are the best guide so far in the drive to find HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in the Arctic waters off the coast of Nunavut.
16 May
Reviving Arctic oil rush, Ottawa to auction rights in massive area
(Globe & Mail) Ottawa has placed 905,000 hectares of the northern offshore up for bids, clearing the way for energy companies to snap up exploration rights for an area half the size of Lake Ontario. The scale of the offer indicates eagerness in the oil patch to drill for new finds in Canada’s northern waters less than two years after such plans were put on hold following the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico and a major Arctic drilling safety review.
The Arctic exploration auction resumes as the Harper government is promoting greater development of the country’s resources. It has taken steps to speed regulatory approvals for major energy projects such as the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, promising to limit the ability of environmental groups and other opponents to block or delay new developments. [Emphasis added]
11 May
Climate change and the corporate scramble for the Arctic
( As the world gets warmer, our ice and frozen earth begin to melt. While this may benefit countries and corporations interested in profiting off of Arctic resource extraction, the harm to Mother Earth and the Indigenous peoples of the Arctic cannot be undone. …
In an April 3, 2012, speech by Finnish President, Sauli Niinistö, at the ‘Arctic Dimension’ forum, he mentions a desire to resolve tensions between Indigenous Arctic peoples and the need for economic exploration of the environmentally sensitive area:
“The Arctic region has become a strategic area of interest in global politics thanks to new shipping routes and an abundance of natural resources. In the future, the Arctic region may become Europe’s principal energy source besides providing access from Asia to Europe and North America. As economic activities in the Arctic region increase, Finland and the other Arctic countries must ensure that everything done in the region respects the traditional ways of life, culture and livelihoods of the indigenous peoples. In Finland, this concerns our only indigenous people, the Sámi.”
On the other hand, Harper’s numerous tours of the Canadian Arctic is a marker that our Arctic is open to both exploration and exploitation; the issue of defence and sovereignty less about protecting the Inuit and other Indigenous nations from foreign invasion and more about Harper and the government of Canada wanting to protect their interests. [emphasis added]
4 May
Traditional Knowledge Goes Global
The Canadian Arctic is the hub of international research activities, including dozens of projects that were initiated under International Polar Year (IPY). For the past five years, more than 30,000 scientists and researchers from over 60 countries have pursued an ambitious research agenda in the Earth’s two polar regions – the Antarctic and Arctic – many of them in Canada’s North. The projects focussed on everything from ozone depletion, to mapping changes to sea ice and oceans, to finding solutions to climate change challenges and ensuring healthy diets for Inuit people whose traditional lifestyles have evolved dramatically.
Arctic Institute News 27 Feb-4 March
Arctic science continues to struggle for funding, as Canada’s farthest-north research station has been largely defunded, and will now be operational only on an ad-hoc basis. This means an end to year-round collection of unique atmospheric (and other) data, damaging atmospheric science not just in Canada but worldwide (CBC). Nevertheless, researchers continue to track the change in carbon balance (for better or for worse) that is likely to come from a thawing Arctic (National Environment Research Council), as well as how much solar energy the Greenland ice sheet absorbs from June through August each year.
14 February
Russia, Canada neighbours? Seabed territorial push could bring borders together
wo Canadian legal scholars have published a study showing how the push by northern nations for extended seabed territory in the Arctic Ocean could soon find Canada negotiating a maritime boundary with a new next-door neighbour: Russia.
Most of Canada’s borderlands and boundary waters separate this country from the United States, including Alaska in the northwest corner of the continent. Canada also has maritime boundaries with Denmark (between Ellesmere Island and Greenland) and France, which oversees the tiny islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon south of Newfoundland.
But the possibility that Canada and Russia might one day share a border has, until now, seemed unimaginable given the vast ocean distances separating the two countries, and the relatively modest 370-kilometre (200-nautical-mile) offshore zone within which nations are permitted to exercise exclusive jurisdiction and resource rights.


19 December
Environmental group encouraged by Arctic drilling report
(RCI) The National Energy Board has released its final report on offshore drilling in Canada’s ecologically sensitive Arctic waters. The Pew Environment Group’s Oceans North Canada says it’s encouraged by the report’s proposals but would like to see more rigorous requirements for dealing with potential spills.
27 November
Ottawa moves ahead with High Arctic military centre
(CBC) Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised an Arctic warfare training facility in 2007. The facility looks like it will now become reality, but with a few changes to the original plan. The new facility will focus mainly on training for disasters.
10 November
Canada’s Tiny Arctic Port Faces Uncertain Future
(Planet Ark) Every summer for three months, the Hudson Bay ice breaks up and ships load Canadian Prairie grain for export, putting more than 100 people to work in the tiny northern Manitoba town of Churchill.
The town of just 900 – well known for the polar bears that often wander through its streets – is Canada’s only Arctic port. But that key driver of the local economy could become as endangered as the polar bear next year when the Canadian Wheat Board, the port’s biggest shipper, loses its monopoly on marketing Western Canadian wheat and barley.
9 October
Arctic patrol ship contract to set sail by summer
designs complete; Yards to build vessels will be announced soon
(Montreal Gazette) The Canadian Forces expects to have a contract in place for a new fleet of Arctic patrol ships by next summer, the first major purchase under the government’s soon-to-be announced national shipbuilding strategy, according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.
The Royal Canadian Navy wants to acquire six to eight ships to conduct surveillance along Canada’s coasts, including in the Arctic. But under the new plan, the first AOPS would be ready to deploy to the Arctic for a four-month operation “circa 2015,” according to the briefing given to defence analysts.
Canadian scientists are alarmed by Arctic ice melt
Canada’s Arctic ice shelves are melting rapidly, losing almost half their size in the past six years, according to research published by Carleton University. Canadian scientists say the melting provides significant evidence of global warming trends as the shelves have existed for 4,500 years. The Globe and Mail (Toronto)/The Associated Press (9/29), The New York Times (tiered subscription model)/Green blog (9/28)
26 August
Ottawa reverses shutdown of water monitoring stations in NWT
(Globe & Mail) Environment Canada’s plans to shut down most of the federal water monitoring stations in the Northwest Territories have been quickly reversed after an outcry from territorial politicians and aboriginal leaders. “That was not authorized and the Minister (of Environment) has ordered those to be started back up again,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said. Oh, really? Anonymous civil servants at EC did this all on their own? This wouldn’t be a bit of a stand-off over the cost-cutting required of EC?
Harper stands firm on sovereignty as China eyes Arctic resources
(Globe&Mail) China … has begun to take a hard look at the potential that lies under what was once a frozen ocean, especially the commercial and shipping possibilities, and has asked for special observer status in the Arctic Council.
… Of particular concern is jurisdiction over the regulatory regime. Canada wants to be able to regulate the ships that ply the Northwest Passage, for instance, to ensure that they will not create environmental problems or engage in inappropriate or illegal activities.
But China is especially keen on being able to use those waters to reach markets in Europe and has established a special relationship with Iceland, which could provide deep-sea ports when the passage becomes a reliable transport route as climate change melts the sea ice.
22 August
Canada Escalates Its Arctic Presence
(WSJ) Prime Minister Stephen Harper flies this week to Canada’s High Arctic, where troops are conducting the country’s largest modern-day Arctic exercise, amid heightened global jostling over the region’s natural resources.
The exercise, called Operation Nanook, involves more than 1,000 Canadian troops. Military aircraft and navy vessels, and—for the first time—pilotless drones are taking part. Mr. Harper is also expected to unveil several economic initiatives aimed at developing the increasingly accessible Canadian Arctic.
Melting ice—blamed by many scientists and governments on global warming—promises to open new shipping routes and make oil and mineral deposits there more accessible. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that already-discovered onshore Arctic fields contain about 10% of the world’s known, conventional petroleum reserves. The agency thinks there could be another 90 billion barrels of oil—just a little less than the reserves of a super producer like Kuwait—still undiscovered, especially in the largely unexplored offshore.
21 August
Canadian military developing stealth snowmobile
(CTV) The Department of National Defence plans to develop a new stealth snowmobile for covert military operations in Canada’s Arctic, with $550,000 set aside to build a prototype.
Ottawa has posted a public tender for a hybrid-electric snowmobile that would allow Canadian Forces soldiers to swoop silently across the frozen landscape.
The vehicle would perhaps be the most unconventional tool in the arsenal of a Conservative government promising to beef up Canada’s military might in the North.
The nature of these future clandestine assignments is unclear from the federal tendering document. But one thing is clear: silence is priority No. 1.
1 August
Arctic oil spill cleanup impossible one day in five: energy board report
(Globe & Mail) A newly released report commissioned by Canada’s energy regulator has concluded that clean-up efforts for an offshore oil spill in the Arctic could be impossible at least one day in five because of bad weather or sea ice.
And a spokesman for one environmental group said that a recent U.S. study suggests even that figure could be underestimating the risk.
25 July
Militarisation de l’Arctique: des dépenses inutiles
(La Presse) Depuis 2006, l’armée canadienne dépense des dizaines de millions de dollars rien qu’en patrouilles aériennes au-dessus de l’Arctique, a appris La Presse. Mais ce sont des miettes en regard de la dizaine de milliards qu’Ottawa entend investir dans les prochaines années pour la militarisation de cette région. Selon certains experts, il s’agit d’une «course aux armements» inutile et dangereuse devant une menace exagérée.
Le Canada tente de faire croire qu’il est «assiégé», mais son attitude et cette escalade militaire nuisent à sa réputation, estime le professeur Stéphane Roussel, de l’Observatoire de la politique et de la sécurité dans l’Arctique (OPSA) de l’UQAM: «Certains enjeux sont réels, en particulier en raison des changements climatiques, qui vont accroître la présence humaine et les questions économiques. Cela va donc nécessiter des services de la part des gouvernements, qui ne peuvent plus traiter cette région comme un désert. Mais l’Arctique ne sera pas, contrairement à ce qu’on nous répète, le prochain terrain où les puissances vont s’affronter.»
19 July
John Ibbitson: Harper gears up for another round of Arctic chest-thumping
Next month, as he has every summer since becoming Prime Minister, Stephen Harper will travel to the Arctic, trumpeting his Conservative government’s resolve to assert Canadian sovereignty in the Far North against all comers.
Little of what he says will accord with reality. But it will all make for splendid political theatre, which is the whole point.
3 July
Military plans a show of force in High Arctic
With Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan winding down, the military is preparing a greater show of force in the High Arctic just as Russia is expanding its own presence in the region.
While in Kandahar this weekend to mark the end of Canadian troops’ military mission in Central Asia, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said this summer’s instalment of an annual military exercise in the Arctic will be the largest such operation in recent history.
8 January
Sovereignty and responsibility
(Ottawa Citizen Editorial) The eight members of the Arctic Council — including Canada — are poised to sign a search-and-rescue treaty this year that will telegraph to the world that they have the North covered. It is an important step toward a bigger role for the Arctic Council and enhanced security in the North.
The treaty, expected to be signed in May, will likely force Canada to upgrade its search-and-rescue capabilities in the Arctic, something that is becoming more crucial as traffic increases.


1 September
Polar Commission without board for almost two years
During his trip to the North last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced with great fanfare that Canada would be building a new world-class Arctic research station in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.
“This will be a world-class centre for science,” Harper told reporters on Aug. 24. “It will be a tangible expression of this government’s determination to develop and protect all of our true.”
Yet Embassy has learned that Canada’s lead agency in Arctic and Antarctic research, the Canadian Polar Commission, has been operating without a board of directors for almost two years. Former members and experts say this has left the commission voiceless and without clear research priorities for an area of increasing priority for this country.
Canada readies Arctic research center

Canadian authorities say a new research installation in the Arctic at Cambridge Bay will be dedicated to studying climate change and the effects it is having on the northern region. The research station, set to begin full operations in 2017, will be open year-round and will also look at how the Arctic environment and technology can contribute to sustainable development. The Toronto Star (8/24)
23 August
Arctic sovereignty a priority: Harper

“The first and highest priority of our northern strategy is the protection of our Arctic sovereignty,” Harper said, speaking to reporters. “And as I have said many times before, the first principle of sovereignty is to use it or lose it.”
20 August
(RCI) The Canadian government has apparently shifted its emphasis in international relations in the Arctic. Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon laid out the shift in a document entitled Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy (pdf), which says one of the priorities in the North is to resolve the many border disputes there and to establish a “rules-based” area. The government had previously emphasized military presence in the Arctic to underline Canadian sovereignty. During the 2005 national election campaign, the governing Conservatives promised to buy three large, armed icebreakers to patrol Arctic waters, to build a deep-water port and to establish an Arctic warfare training centre. The port and training centre are being assembled but the plan for icebreakers has been scaled back to smaller patrol ships. The U.S. and Canada disagree over the border in the Beaufort Sea, while Canada and Denmark dispute sovereignty of an island off Greenland. (CBC) Arctic sovereignty ‘non-negotiable’: Harper (DFAIT) Statement on Canada’s Arctic foreign policy: Exercising sovereignty and promoting Canada’s Northern Strategy abroad
28 July

Canadians discover long-lost ship ‘fundamental’ to Arctic sovereignty
The ship whose crew discovered Canada’s Northwest Passage found 155 years after it was abandoned and disappeared in this isolated Arctic bay … may bolster Canadian claims to Arctic sovereignty.
26 July
Work underway to resolve Beaufort Sea boundary dispute
Canadian and U.S. government experts met quietly in Ottawa last week to begin trying to resolve a long-standing boundary dispute in the Beaufort Sea, a Canadian diplomat revealed Monday.
This summer’s joint Canada-U.S. survey, the third consecutive year in which researchers from the two countries have agreed to collaborate on mapping the Beaufort sea floor, will also include a sonar probe of the contested area itself for the first time.
25 June
Pipeline hopes, questions linger at N.W.T. show
Arctic offshore drilling was the main theme of the two-day conference, which wrapped up Thursday, but delegates also talked about how the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could impact the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline.
Bob Reid, president of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group — one of the stakeholders in the Mackenzie project — said the massive spill has given the oil and gas industry a black eye, but it could also raise demand for northern gas.
24 June
Canadian Arctic research gets a $33 million boost
A group of researchers at Laval University in Quebec will receive $33 million over seven years to study how ecosystems react to climate change in the Canadian Arctic.
The federal government is contributing more than $10 million by creating a new research chair on the Arctic frontier.
Headed by oceanographer Marcel Babin at Laval University the group will study the impact of global warming on water, ice and life forms in the Arctic. “The Arctic is really the place in the world where the impact of those changes is the most important,” Babin said Tuesday in Quebec City.
10 June
Oil drilling in the Arctic – Facing a freeze
Governments are reviewing plans to open Arctic waters to oilmen
(the Economist via Canadian Science Policy Centre) Canada’s stay on drilling, like a similar one imposed in America, is temporary. But environmental groups and some indigenous people advocate more lasting restrictions, on the ground that the Arctic is particularly ecologically fragile, far from clean-up crews and blanketed for much of the year in oil-trapping ice.
8 June
John Ibbitson: A call for a new kind of Canada: Report urges NORAD responsibility for North
Canadian think-tank calls for greater integration with the United States, including jointly managed border crossings
How to manage the Northwest Passage: Give it to NORAD.
A new report from the next generation of Canadian foreign policy thinkers upends conventional wisdom on how Canada should make its way in the world. A copy of the report, which is to be released Tuesday, was obtained by The Globe and Mail.
Open Canada: A Global Positioning Strategy calls for deeper integration with the United States, including jointly managed border posts and land swaps to accommodate them.
27 May
Inuit join call for moratorium on offshore oil drilling in Northern Canada
(RCI) The leader of the group representing Canada’s Inuit people has called for a moratorium on offshore drilling for oil and natural gas in the Arctic. Mary Simon says drilling should stop until safeguards are put into place to prevent disasters like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. Mrs. Simon made the demand in a speech in Ottawa to the Economic Club of Canada.  … In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday, Simon calls for “an immediate pause or ‘time out’ on drilling in the Beaufort Sea in order to take stock of environmental risks and needed risk reduction and mitigation measures.”
27 April
Dogged diplomats steal the show in Canada-Denmark High Arctic exercise
Charlie, a white and brown Greenlandic sled dog, may have done more over the past two weeks to ease Arctic relations between Canada and Denmark than any human diplomat since 1973 – when the two countries first fell into disagreement in this region over ownership of a rocky outcropping in the Nairn Strait called Hans Island.
20 April
Environmental impact of northern resource development ignored: AG
The Harper government is failing to assess all of the environmental impacts of oil and other resource development in Canada’s North while it lacks a clear strategy to co-ordinate sustainable jobs in the region, Auditor General Sheila Fraser said Tuesday in her latest report to Parliament.
8 April
Lawrence Cannon:Russians ‘playing games’ in Arctic: with a plan to deploy paratroopers to the North Pole this spring.
5 April
Cannon launches PR tour to highlight Canada’s Arctic claims
(Canadian Press) Cannon will visit scientists conducting the fieldwork necessary to prepare Canada’s submission to the United Nation’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
Canada has until 2013 to present its case to the UN panel, and is laying the groundwork for a submission that would call for extending Canada’s borders well beyond the 200-mile nautical limit.
29 March
John Ivison: How to keep a cool head in the Arctic – West told to reset Cold War image of Russia
As former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler noted in a weekend speech unencumbered by any hint of diplomacy, foreign policy in this country is increasingly an appendage of domestic politics.
The Conservatives’ Arctic sovereignty policy is an example where a reasonable argument could be made that an external threat has been exaggerated in order to bolster its image as the party that stands on guard for thee.
Canada will take Arctic lead: Cannon
Foreign minister downplays ‘snub’ of other nations not invited to Arctic summit
28 March
Arctic summit highlights tensions, competing interests
(National Post) As the foreign ministers of five Arctic coastal states gather Monday for talks near Ottawa on the economic and environmental challenges facing the planet’s polar frontier, difficult questions linger over the region’s geopolitical future — highlighted by the exclusive guest list of the “Arctic Summit” itself.
28 February
Ottawa asserts sovereignty in Arctic with shipping rules
More traffic expected in future. Larger ships and those carrying dangerous goods will have to register
18 February
Cannon to meet with arctic stakeholders
Facing criticism from Northern aboriginal leaders and Iceland’s top diplomat over their exclusion from a five-nation “Arctic Summit” to be hosted by Canada next month, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has pledged to meet with a full spectrum of circumpolar stakeholders ahead of the controversial March 29 gathering of Arctic foreign ministers in Chelsea, Que. But his peace offering fell short of opening the summit to other stakeholders.
Canada called out by Arctic allies
17 February
Iceland, Finland and Sweden frustrated at non-invitations to Arctic summit.
(Embassy Magazine) On March 29, Canada will host a conference of foreign ministers from the five Arctic Ocean coastal states in Chelsea, Que., hours before the opening of a G8 foreign ministers meeting in nearby Gatineau.
However, the other three permanent members of the council—Sweden, Finland and Iceland—have not been invited to the Chelsea conference, ostensibly because they do not possess coastlines with the Arctic Ocean.
3 February
Canada to host Arctic summit in March
Canada is angling to assume a leadership role in international polar affairs by convening a meeting of Arctic foreign ministers in March ahead of a G8 gathering to be held in Quebec, Canwest News Service has learned. The Arctic summit, scheduled to take place just north of Ottawa in Chelsea, Que., is aimed at encouraging “new thinking on economic development and environmental protection” in a way that would allow the five Arctic Ocean coastal states — Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark and the U.S. — to exploit opportunities for oil and gas production while preserving fragile ecosystems
14 January
Canada needs a polar policy
(Nature magazine) A lack of coordination in Arctic research funding leaves scientists without the support they need for fieldwork. John England outlines how Canada can set things right, and show leadership in the north.
The underlying problem is the lack of a national polar policy, which would commit Canada to clear objectives and better coordinate research activities. The need for such a policy topped the list of recommendations in a 2005 NSERC report called From Opportunity to Action: A Progress Report on Canada’s Renewal of Northern Research. The lack of such a policy leaves many Canadian scientists feeling voiceless and chronically insecure about research support.
Polar advancement
Now is an opportune time to apply pressure to change this, given the country’s increasing demonstrations of interest in the Arctic. In 2008, the Canadian government announced the establishment of a world-class High Arctic Research Station (location still undecided), and the construction of a new icebreaker. Can$85 million was awarded in 2009 to refurbish 18 research stations across the north. A Network of Centres of Excellence, called ArcticNet, was established in 2003. And six, ten-year NSERC Northern Research Chairs were set up in 2002 to promote scientific excellence and northern partnerships.


26 August
Pierre Leblanc: Secure the Arctic environment
(Montreal Gazette) Some claim that sovereignty and security are not well understood. That may remain so until there is a major disaster in the Arctic Archipelago, something akin to the Prestige oil tanker that polluted the coast of Spain in 2002. The clean-up operation cost in excess of 2.5 billion euros ($4 billion) in an area close to port facilities and manpower.
I estimate that it would be at least $10 billion to do a similar clean up anywhere along the Northwest Passage especially if the oil is mixed with ice. With such a bill to swallow there would very quickly be a discussion as to who has sovereignty rights over what area, who authorized the ship to come through, who can take legal action to recover the costs, who will co-ordinate the clean-up and to what environmental standards, etc. Since the Northwest Passage is in Canadian internal waters there is no discussion; the Canadian government has full authority over those waters.
15 July
Melting ice threatens polar life
(FT) The Canadian Arctic is facing another year of open water with the summer break-up of sea ice ahead of schedule in many key parts of the northern archipelago, underlining the impact of climate change as increased traffic through the Northwest passage spells further environmental damage
29 June
Canada is ‘Arctic superpower’: Cannon
Downplaying Russia’s recent “jockeying” for position in the emerging polar oil rush, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has declared Canada an “Arctic superpower” that will be guided by science, international law and “world-leading Canadian technology” in securing its claim to resource riches in the North. Mr. Cannon, who made a global media splash earlier this year by saying Canada “will not be bullied” by Russia over contentious undersea territory near the North Pole, [said] that the Conservative government is “quite confident” about obtaining — under the terms of a UN treaty — vast new stretches of polar seabed beyond the country’s 370-km offshore economic zone.
24 May
Canadian mapping flights venture into Arctic claimed by Russia: federal officials
Federal officials have confirmed that Canada’s Arctic mapping flights have ventured beyond the North Pole into areas claimed by Russia. The flights are the first step towards building a case that Canada’s Arctic sovereignty could reach past the Pole despite Russia’s determination to extend its own northern footprint. Canada and Denmark recently completed a series of joint mapping flights from three remote northern airstrips to begin studying the series of undersea mountains and ridges that will determine how the United Nations will divvy up most of the Arctic Ocean.
Canada’s Governor General, Michaelle Jean, is proposing a university in the Arctic so Inuit youth can get a degree close to home and benefit from economic activity expected in their region.
10 May
Ignatieff supports changing Canada’s two-ocean motto
Federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he backs the idea of changing Canada’s official motto to “From Sea to Sea to Sea” — a symbolic step to recognize the country is bounded not just by the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but also by the Arctic Ocean along an increasingly important northern frontier.
April 2009
Cleaning up the Arctic
NRC is helping to clean up contaminated sites in the Arctic by harnessing naturally occurring soil bacteria. Building on more than a decade of research, scientists at the NRC Biotechnology Research Institute (NRC-BRI) in Montréal are monitoring and enhancing the bioremediation of contaminated soils at Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert, Eureka and other communities in Nunavut.
23 January
Obama unlikely to move soon on Arctic policy
(Nunatsiaq News) Canadian visit welcomed, but Northern issues low on agenda [Good article on issues of Northwest Passage & Bush policy directive of Jan. 9]
22 January
(RCI) It could be expensive to support Canada’s sovereignty claim in the Arctic. The Defence Department estimates it will cost the military about $830-million a year. And, that figure does not include the $4-billion dollars in non-military items, including new icebreakers, a deepwater port, and a support base. The head of the army, General Andrew Leslie, says Canadians should view the money as an investment. Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic is being challenged by a number of countries, including the United States and Russia.
14 January
Opinion: Canada and the Northwest Passage – Sovereignty versus Heritage
(Digital Journal) Though an accord is not out of the question, there is no question that Canadian officials – from think tank employees to opposition parties to concerned citizens to Stephen Harper himself – will be inquiring into ways to protect Canadian interests while respecting both the international community and the environment.
This issue is far from settled, and as the Canadian federal government faces parliamentary turmoil, as the US inaugurates a new administration, as the world faces both economic recession and international conflicts, sorting out the matter will take a great deal of time. If one conclusion can be made at this point, it is that we are better served by taking a great deal of time to sort the matter out correctly now, than to act rashly and not pay dueful attention to the many concerned stakeholders.
13 January
Arctic sovereignty not threatened by U.S. or European policies: Cannon
On Monday, in one of his last acts as U.S. president, George W. Bush released a 10-page Arctic policy spelling out American priorities.
Bush said his country’s presence in the North should grow. He repeated U.S. claims that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway and emphasized the need for his country to have access to the region’s untapped energy resources.
Last November, the European Union released its own discussion paper in which it said that rules for shipping, fishing and drilling in the North should be established by international agencies, not just the states with Arctic coastlines.


19 November
Moving beyond Arctic sovereignty
Much of the discussion about Canada and the Far North focuses on “Arctic sovereignty.” And in the minds of many, this evokes the image of a threat to Canada. Somehow, the country is in danger of losing its sovereignty in the Arctic. If we don’t “use” the Arctic, we will “lose” it. This whole notion is misplaced. Focusing on it obscures real future challenges in the Arctic and opportunities for Canada to redefine itself as an Arctic leader. It’s time to move beyond our perpetually defensive Arctic posture.
21 September
(RCI) Campaigning in the Canadian territory of Nunavut on Saturday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised that if his Conservative Party is re-elected on October 14, it would created a regional development agency for northern Canada. The agency would bring together existing northern development offices into one place. It would also create a satellite office in the North.
20 September
(RCI)  Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government is concerned not only with Russia sovereignty claims in the Arctic but also its actions in the region. … the prime minister cited Russia’s testing of Canadian airspace and other actions elsewhere in the world that “may indicate some desire to work outside of the international framework.” Mr. Harper says Canada will continue to put forward its claims and to back them with science. … earlier this week, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said rapid legislation is needed to delineate Russia’s southern zone in the Arctic. The U.S. state department reacted by saying such legislation would have no value in international law.
16 September
Arctic Oil and Gas Rush Alarms Scientists
(IPS) UXBRIDGE, Canada – As greenhouse gas pollution destroys Arctic ecosystems, countries like Canada are spending millions not to halt the destruction but to exploit it.
13 September
Mackenzie pipeline at risk: NWT Premier
(FP) The Mackenzie line has enjoyed a lead because it has nearly concluded regulatory reviews — however, the Alaska line is closing the gap now that it has a sound business case thanks to incentives recently approved by Ms. Palin’s administration.
3 September
Major ice-shelf loss for Canada
(BBC) The ice shelves in Canada’s High Arctic have lost a colossal area this year, scientists report.
The floating tongues of ice attached to Ellesmere Island, which have lasted for thousands of years, have seen almost a quarter of their cover break away.
…Over the past 100 years, this expanse of ice has retreated by 90%, and at the start of this summer season covered just under 1,000 sq km (400 sq miles).Much of the area was lost during a warm period in the 1930s and 1940s.
TransCanada Gets Alaska Governor Palin’s Approval for Pipeline
Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) — TransCanada Corp., the nation’s largest pipeline company, won approval from Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to build a $27 billion pipeline to carry natural gas from the Arctic to U.S. markets.
28 August
(RCI) Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced a new flagship icebreaker for the Coast Guard. The $720-million vessel will be called the John G. Diefenbaker, after a former Conservative prime minister. The ship will replace the current flagship, the Louis St-Laurent, in 2017. Mr. Harper, who is making a three-day visit to the North, used the occasion in Inuvik, NWT, to remind his listeners of his government’s initiatives such as major military infrastructure and the creation of new parks and protected areas in the Arctic. Critics claim that of the initiatives will benefit few actual residents. Mary Simon, the head of the Inuit Taparisat Kanatami group, says military infrastructure is welcome but that the Conservatives should consider “the human dimension.”
Canada Wants More Study on Polar Bear Protection
(Reuters/Planet Ark) INUVIK, Northwest Territories – Canada, criticized by environmentalists for not adequately protecting polar bears from the effects of climate change, said on Thursday it will take more time study its next step.
A scientific panel on Thursday released detailed findings of an April review that classified the bear population as a “special concern,” but not endangered or threatened with extinction.
The government has created a national round table to consult with a variety of groups, including residents of the Arctic, on how best to protect the bears, Environment Minister John Baird said.
27 August
Harper talks tough on Arctic enforcement
It will become mandatory for all large ships sailing into the Northwest Passage and Canada’s other Arctic waterways to report to the Canadian Coast Guard, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised Wednesday.
Harper said he also wants to toughen environmental regulations in Arctic seas by expanding the range of the country’s anti-pollution legislation.
The prime minister made the announcement Wednesday morning on his arrival in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. as part of a three-day tour of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
16 August
The Canadian government has organized an expedition to find two sailing ships lost in the mid-19th century in the Arctic while trying to find the Northwest Passage. Sir John Franklin led the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror on an expedition in 1845 to chart the famous passage. The ships disappeared three years later after becoming trapped in ice near King William Island, when the crews abandoned them. Environment Minister John Baird announced on Friday that his department will pay $75,000 to enable Parks Canada to mount a six-week expedition to try to find the vessels. The efforts comes as the government is seeking to assert Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic, at a time when melting ice due to climate change is making the Northwest Passage practicable.
24 July 2009
Heavy haul in the high north
CANADA: Within a few years, Baffin Island in the Arctic archipelago will see construction of the world’s most northerly railway, currently being designed by Canarail. The harsh environment poses daunting challenges in terms of design, construction and operation.
15 August 2008
David Jones: Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage

2 Comments on "Canada & the Arctic 2008-2012"

  1. Icebreaker September 11, 2008 at 12:53 am ·

    Why do ships take so long to build and replace older models? For example, the icebreaker John G. Diefenbaker you mentioned won’t be in service until 2017 – that’s 9 years away! Surely they can build it quicker than that to start protecting the Arctic with more impressive technology….

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