Canada & the Arctic 2013 – 2016

Written by  //  September 2, 2016  //  Arctic and Antarctic, Canada  //  1 Comment

The Arctic, country by country
Laura Neilson Bonikowsky | October 4, 2012
(Diplomat) Our eight-country primer takes you to each of the council’s member states
and offers a breakdown of their Arctic territory, interests and claims.
Arctic Deeply
independent digital media project dedicated to covering Arctic issues

Canadian navy to decommission its last research vessel, leaked documents reveal
(National Post) The Canadian navy’s last research vessel will be decommissioned, leaving the country’s defence scientists without their own ship to conduct research in the Arctic and other locations, according to documents leaked to Postmedia.
The Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel Quest, an oceanographic research ship used by the navy and Defence Research and Development Canada, was sidelined in 2014 as a result of cost-cutting by the Conservative government.
In a 2012 article in the Canadian Naval Review, Mark Tunnicliffe, a retired navy officer, noted the vessel has a mandate of not only contributing to acoustic systems development but an “entire range of technologies and concepts needed to support the requirement specifications for the next generation of Canadian warships.”
Friday afternoon, an internal Department of National Defence (DND) email announced that the ship was being decommissioned.
11 March
Trudeau in DC: What went down, other than a fancy dinner
In between photo ops and poutine offerings, leaders did manage to discuss policy on Thursday — here are the top takeaways.
(Open Canada) … here’s what went down on the policy end of things — as detailed in a joint statement released Thursday.
New bilateral environmental protection for the Arctic
Trudeau and Obama announced a new partnership to confront the challenges facing the Arctic region, such as ecosystem changes brought on by rising global temperatures. The plan emphasized partnerships with Indigenous groups, science-based leadership to conserve biodiversity and building “a sustainable Arctic economy.” The two leaders also pledged to support Arctic communities, in particular respecting the rights and territory of Indigenous peoples. With Indigenous partners in particular, they intend to develop a plan and timeline for renewable energy projects and to advance the resilience of these communities to climate change.
Both governments have already said they would protect at least 17 percent of Arctic land areas and 10 percent of marine areas by 2020, but Thursday, they announced a new, more ambitious conservation commitment will come later this year.
(No mention of course of the fact that the Obama administration conditionally approved a plan proposed by Royal Dutch Shell PLC last year to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea off of Alaska’s North Slope. But there are undoubtedly topics of conversation that have not made it into the press. Putin, anyone?)
16 February
The Canadian Government Must Show its Arctic Plan
by John Higginbotham  

Considering the new government’s broad priorities, comprehensive Arctic development should be at the heart, not the margin, of its climate change, infrastructure investment, defence and indigenous engagement priorities.
Canada’s Arctic neighbours have developed impressive new Arctic plans and investments, but there is no sign yet of what Canada’s new Liberal government will do. Arctic development should be at the heart of its climate change strategy, infrastructure investment, defence and indigenous engagement priorities
During one of the 2015 election debates, Justin Trudeau accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of lacking an Arctic policy, calling it “Big Sled, No Dogs.”
There is no sign yet of new Liberal government action on the Canadian Arctic, or how to lead, organize and pay for a planned approach over the longer term. Meanwhile, Arctic issues have become critical as climate change opens the Arctic Ocean and international involvement grows.
11 February
A Better Way to Build Icebreakers: Collaboration
Why pay more than $1 billion for a new icebreaker when it costs $150 million to make one in Finland – and where they are used for only part of the year? Canada, the U.S. and Finland could share these vessels, a joint venture that would increase the number of much-needed ice-ready ships in the changing Arctic
There are about 110 icebreakers in the world – and the global fleet is aging rapidly. The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St. Laurent has been in service since 1969 and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star was commissioned in 1976. Both are near the end of their effective lifetimes, and both countries have recently announced replacement programs with price tags of around $1 billion.
More than 60 percent of the global fleet of icebreaking vessels were designed and built in Finland. Many of these are being used in the Baltic Sea during the winter, when the waters freeze over, to keep ports and sea lanes open for trade. And only three or four icebreakers – out of a fleet of 25 – operate outside of the Baltic Sea when they are no longer needed locally. The others just rest by the quayside.
But a holistic look at the global icebreaker fleet suggests there may be alternatives to such high-priced purchases with long timelines. More than 60 percent of the global fleet of icebreaking vessels were designed and built in Finland. Many of these are being used in the Baltic Sea during the winter, when the waters freeze over, to keep ports and sea lanes open for trade. And only three or four icebreakers – out of a fleet of 25 – operate outside of the Baltic Sea when they are no longer needed locally. The others just rest by the quayside.


8 December
Welcome to the Launch of Arctic Deeply
The rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice is creating economic, social and environmental challenges that call for global discussion and new policies. But sound information on the Arctic is scattered and incomplete. It’s time to bring more depth and understanding to these issues
That’s why we’re pleased to share the launch of Arctic Deeply, a news and information platform designed to support discussion and capture new thinking on Arctic issues.
The site features original reporting and analysis developed to serve a community eager for information from diverse perspectives on a broad spectrum of Arctic issues.
5 November
tootoo_trudeauHunter Tootoo, minister of the Arctic Ocean: ‘He wanted me in that portfolio just to remind all Canadians that we have a third ocean’
(CBC) Tootoo’s appointment signals to the rest of the world that Canada is taking its role in the Arctic seriously, according to Michael Byers, the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia.
“Canada has the longest coastline of any country mostly because of the 19,000 Arctic islands that exist in Nunavut and it is therefore our longest and arguably our most difficult coastline and one that needs a minister that fully understands that fact.”
Coast Guard ‘essential’ in the Arctic
Byers also notes that the second part of Tootoo’s portfolio – the Canadian Coast Guard – should not be overlooked,
“The role of the Canadian Coast Guard in the Arctic is absolutely essential,” he said.
“It’s important to have a minister who can champion that agency, who can ensure that there are new icebreakers, who can address the difficult question which needs to be addressed right now as to whether the Harper government’s planned construction of light ice-strength Arctic offshore patrol ships is indeed the best use of $5 billion or whether two or three or four new Coast Guard icebreakers would provide much better value for money.”
Arctic MP named to federal cabinet in Canada
(RCI) The newly-elected MP from Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut has been named minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Hunter Tootoo was sworn in along with the rest of the new Liberal government during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa on Wednesday.
Shortly after the swearing in ceremony, environmental group Greenpeace said the appointment of a northerner to the Fisheries and Oceans post was a positive move for the environment.
“As the MP for Nunavut, Mr. Tootoo is perfectly placed to be a strong advocate for the North, and can ensure that the Arctic Ocean is prioritized as part of the Liberals promise to increase the amount of protected marine and coastal areas from 1.3 per cent to 5 per cent by 2017 and 10 per cent by 2020,” Jessica Wilson, head of Greenpeace Canada’s Arctic campaign, said in a news release.
Other cabinet appointments closely watched by the North include indigenous affairs and environment.
Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna was sworn in as minister of Environment and Climate Change.
Carolyn Bennett, an MP for the riding of Toronto-St-Paul’s, was named Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
21 October
Blog: What does Trudeau win mean for Arctic?
(RCI) In addition, a record ten indigenous MPs were elected to Parliament, including one Métis member from the Northwest Territories and an Inuit member from Nunavut. The Arctic was not a hot topic of debate during the election, but the change of power in Ottawa will still inevitably affect Canada’s Arctic policy.
Under Harper’s watch, the Arctic has changed significantly, both due to external forces and his government’s own actions. When Harper came into power in 2006, climate change was still a relatively minor worry. Al Gore’s breakthrough documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was only released two years prior, for instance, and Hurricane Katrina had not yet struck. The Arctic ice cap, while steadily declining, had not yet plummeted to the record minimum it would reach in 2012.
Trudeau: Following in his father’s footsteps or setting a new path in the Arctic?
Justin Trudeau is now the new leader of the world’s second largest Arctic country. What can his words and actions since becoming a Member of Parliament in 2008 say about how he might shape Arctic policy? …
Canadian continental shelf: Yet while Harper asked scientists to redraw Canada’s claim to its northern continental shelf, Trudeau diverged. He stated, “I am going to defer to scientists. There has been an awful lot of work done over the past years, and even decades, on mapping out the undersea floor of the North Pole to align with the United Nations regulations. … And I don’t know that it is a place where we need necessarily to have political interference. I trust our scientists and oceanographers in terms of how we’re mapping it.”
The biggest test of Trudeau’s policy in the Arctic may not be what he does directly in the region, but rather what he does with regard to climate change. While many are hopeful that the Liberal leader might restore Canada’s credentials as an environmentally-conscientious nation rather than a tar-sands-spewing, pipeline-laying energy superpower, The Guardian voiced more caution. Suzanne Goldenberg reported, “In his victory speech on Monday, there was no mention of climate change, and he was criticised for being vague on the issue during campaigning.” Trudeau also supports Keystone XL, though he opposes Northern Gateway, the pipeline that would transport tar sands oil through British Columbia. While Trudeau might be tougher on the oil sands industry, it would be foolish to think he will shut it down. Whether or not he will promote oil development in places like the Beaufort Sea has yet to be seen, but with the U.S. cancelling lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in part due to minimal industry interest, it’s hard to imagine the conditions will be all that different in Canada.
Banner- Canada's Arctic Council Chair 800x150-EngCanada’s Arctic Council Chairmanship

Canada’s northern strategy – Exercising Our Arctic Sovereignty
With 40% of our landmass in the territories, 162,000 kilometres of Arctic coastline and 25% of the global Arctic – Canada is undeniably an Arctic nation. The Government is firmly exercising our sovereignty over our Arctic lands and waters – sovereignty that is long-standing, well-established and based on historic title, international law and the presence of Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples for thousands of years.
At the same time, international interest in the Arctic region is growing, in part as a result of possibilities for resource development, climate change and new or longer access to transportation routes. Canada is demonstrating effective stewardship and leadership internationally, to promote a stable, rules-based Arctic region where the rights of sovereign states are respected in accordance with international law and diplomacy.
Canada has long been working with its international Arctic neighbours in areas such as search and rescue, icebreaker operations, fish and wildlife conservation, transportation, research, energy and environment. The Government will continue to strengthen this cooperation, while advancing our priorities for the Arctic region.

28 July
Conservative insider won huge contract to build Harper’s Arctic project
(National Observer) A hugely expensive public contract to build an Arctic research station —promoted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper —went to a joint venture that included a company run by a Conservative Party insider with close ties to Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the National Observer has confirmed.
An $85-million construction contract to build the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) was awarded in June 2013 to a partnership between EllisDon and NCC Dowland Construction —the latter is controlled by a prominent Iqaluit businessman, Greg Cayen, who has been a key planner behind Leona Aglukkaq’s two federal election victories.
Don’t miss this part of the article: Dowland companies spectacular business failures
20 April
NEB to defend Nunavut seismic program in court
The Inuit community of Clyde River is challenging the National Energy Board in federal court Monday, saying its approval of seismic testing for oil and gas potential in the waters of the eastern Arctic could threaten their traditional way of life.
The NEB approved last June a plan by Norwegian company, Petroleum Geo-Services Inc. (PGS), to undertake the seismic work in the Baffin Bay and Davis Strait off Nunavut over the course of the next five years. Oil companies currently have no operations in the area, but Royal Dutch Shell PLC does have leases northwest of the site, near the mouth of Lancaster Sound.
4 March
Arctic Council leaders want more indigenous representation
Housing, mental health and the high costs of living in the North are a few items on the agenda of Arctic Council meetings underway in Whitehorse.
Joe Linklater, chair of the Gwich’in Council International, a member organization, says he wants to see more involvement of indigenous people at future meetings. He says that that will help the council tackle the problems faced by indigenous people.


18 December
Why Denmark Should Own The North Pole Instead Of Canada
(HuffPost) If the facts can end up arbitrary, then a few more arbitrary considerations can’t hurt. How do Canada, Denmark and Russia stack up in popular country comparisons? On the indices that measure, in one way or another, good governance?
If the pole went to the country that can best govern it, the winner is Denmark. In second place, Canada would not be bad, especially relative to Russia. But between the two, as one expert told the CBC, “there’s absolutely no doubt that the North Pole is most definitely closer to Greenland than it is to Canada.” Still, here are some alternative factors to consider:
16 December
Denmark claims North Pole through Arctic underwater ridge link from Greenland
(Global) An Arctic expert says an unspoken agreement between Arctic nations on how to divvy up northern seas is all but dead now that Denmark is presenting scientific data that it says gives it a claim on waters past the North Pole.
The claim, which was to be filed with the United Nations in New York on Monday, will force Canada into tough future negotiations on overlapping claims instead of being able to rely on deals worked out in advance, said University of British Columbia international law professor Michael Byers. … Last December, Canada surprised its Arctic neighbours when it made its own filing under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea. It said the Arctic component, which had been widely expected to stop just short of the North Pole, wasn’t complete and that it would eventually include data backing up a claim that would include the Pole and waters beyond.
12 November
Tromsø hosts 4th meeting of Scientific Cooperation Task Force
(Arctic Council) At the most recent meeting in Tromsø, the Task Force noted the positive and valuable work that has been done towards a possible memorandum of understanding to enhance the exchange of data, access to scientific infrastructure, and simplification of movement of scientists and their equipment, all of which relate to the goal of enhancing scientific cooperation in the Arctic. …
Due to the complex character of the issues at hand, the Task Force co-chairs decided to recommend to Senior Arctic Officials that at the April 24-25, 2015 Ministerial meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Arctic Council Ministers be asked to support a continued mandate for the Task Force, with a view to working towards a legally binding agreement on international scientific research cooperation among the eight Arctic states during the U.S. chairmanship (2015-2017).
21 September
Fednav’s Nunavik completes historic Northwest Passage voyage to China
(Maritime Magazine) After departing from Deception Bay in northern Québec on September 19 with a cargo of nickel concentrate, Fednav’s Nunavik completed its historic voyage through the Northwest Passage to its destination port in China on October 15.
The newest and most powerful icebreaking ship in the fleet of Montreal-based Fednav was the first to transit the NWP completely and unescorted with an Arctic cargo, which was unloaded at the port of Bayuquan, Liaoning Province, China.
Master of the 31,700 DWT bulk carrier was Captain Randy Rose, a mariner with 25 years of experience in Arctic shipping. And the chief engineer was Gary Bishop, who was on board to initially take delivery of the Nunavik in Japan before proceeding through the Panama Canal to Deception Bay and then to China via the NWP.
By favouring the NWP over a traditional route via the Panama Canal, the Nunavik saved about 5,000 nautical miles or 20 days sailing time and more than 1,300 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo Tim Keane/Fednav)
18 September
2015 Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting Announced
The next Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting will take place in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada on 24-25 April 2015. .. The 2015 Ministerial Meeting will mark the conclusion of Canada’s chairmanship (2013-2015) and the beginning of the United States’ chairmanship (2015-2017). The choice of Iqaluit has historical significance, as the inaugural Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting (1998) also took place in Iqaluit.The meeting will be preceded by an event in Ottawa on 23 April to showcase the Council’s accomplishments during Canada’s chairmanship.
13 September
Canada uses Franklin expedition wreck to boost North-West Passage claim
A shipwreck from 1845 and warming Arctic waters are fuelling a maritime dispute with the US
(The Guardian) … [Toronto Star columnist Tim] Harper thinks that the prime minister’s statement is a conscious move by the Canadian government, aimed at establishing Canada’s de facto sovereignty over the North-West Passage in the collective psyche.
“The way [Stephen Harper] made Arctic sovereignty a priority when he came to power – he is trying to counteract the US view that this is an international waterway,” he said. “The more activity, the more high-profile actions – which this certainly was – it makes a sort of de facto case. It reinforces in the public and international consciousness that this is a Canadian waterway.”
He said nobody would go so far as to suggest that finding the ship made a legal case for sovereignty – the ship is, after all, British – “but it helps as a symbolic case”.
The disagreement between Canada and the US dates back as far as the Reagan administration. In 1985, a US icebreaker called the USCGC Polar Sea navigated the North-West Passage without Canadian authorisation, which caused outrage in Canada – outrage the Soviet Union stoked by officially backing Canada’s position.
In the wake of the controversy, Canada’s drew lines around its outer Arctic limits, and has since claimed everything within those lines as “internal waters”. But the US never recognised that move as legitimate
Report suggests shipping Alberta oil Through the Arctic
(CBC 180) Alberta wants to get its oil from the oilsands to foreign markets. But so far, most plans for new pipelines face significant opposition. In B.C., First Nations, environmentalists, and even governments threaten to hold up the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain projects. In the U.S., President Barack Obama keeps delaying a decision on Keystone XL. And east of Alberta, the proposed Energy East pipeline is still a few steps away from hearings, but will likely face opposition when it gets there. So if Alberta’s neighbours are reluctant to let its oil through, what to do?
Scott Tiffin says the solution is easy: go north … not only is it possible to transport bitumen from the oilsands, through the Arctic, and out to other markets, but doing so would help develop new industry in both Alberta and the north. [He] co-wrote a report “An Arctic Energy Gateway for Alberta.” for the government of Alberta saying just that.
11 September
PMO downplayed rich Inuit link to discovered Franklin ship
The Franklin expedition ship found by researchers on the Arctic seabed has a detailed and colourful history within Inuit oral tradition, yet the Inuit garnered only one 17-word sentence among the press releases and backgrounders released by the Prime Minister’s Office at the time after Tuesday’s announced discovery. … According to the historical record, the Inuit provided several detailed accounts of their encounter with the wrecked ship south of King William Island to 19th Century and early 20th Century explorers who went searching for the ill-fated Franklin expedition and its two lost ships. It’s unknown which of the two ships was found south of the island.
10 September
The Franklin discovery’s not about what, but where
This finding … offers further irrefutable proof, if any were needed, that Franklin discovered a navigable Northwest Passage as far south as King William Island. Recently, several historians have argued that because a stretch of coastline remained unmapped into the 1850s, that section had yet to be discovered. Clearly, Franklin sailed right along that unmapped coast, and left evidence that he had done so.
9 September
Franklin ship press releaseFranklin ship discovery: Stephen Harper’s full statement
Lost Franklin expedition ship found in the Arctic
Queen sends congratulations on image believed to be HMS Erebus or HMS Terror
Sir John Franklin’s Doomed Ship Just Turned Up in the Arctic After 170 Years
The two ships disappeared in 1846 during a British expedition trying to map the Northwest Passage
(The Smithsonian) Now, Franklin’s two ships have been found, and they offer tantalizing details about the explorer’s fate and final days. A remotely operated vehicle deployed by Parks Canada returned from a mission near Nunavut’s King William Island with sonar images depicting a “largely intact ship,” National Geographic reports. Experts believe that ship is either the Erebus or the Terror.
The freezing waters, National Geographic continues, might very well have preserved some of the crew’s documents and diaries, which could offer first-hand accounts of what befell the expedition. Until now, only vague hints—an Inuit who said he saw one of the ships sink, a few graves containing chipped bones, possibly indicating cannibalism—have been available.
“The Inuit have said for generations that one of their hunters saw a ship in that part of the passage, abandoned and ended up wrecking…. It’s exactly where this guy said it was,” CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge told CBC News. “Finding the first vessel will no doubt provide the momentum — or wind in our sails — necessary to locate its sister ship and find out even more about what happened to the Franklin expedition’s crew.”
29 August
Putin thinks of the past when talking Ukraine – but the Arctic is where he sees Russia’s future
Speaking at a Youth Camp outside Moscow, Putin broke away from talking about Ukraine, and indicated that Russia’s future really didn’t really lie to its west, but instead in the north. “Our interests are concentrated in the Arctic,” the Russian president said, according to Reuters. “And of course we should pay more attention to issues of development of the Arctic and the strengthening of our position [there].”
For the world, Putin’s comments should serve as a reminder that before the whole Ukraine crisis blew up, the Arctic Circle was the issue causing tension with Russia. And even if we forgot about that, Putin hasn’t. The Arctic means a lot to Russia. Much of the country’s northern land mass sits in the Arctic circle, and Russia is one of just eight countries that sits on Arctic Council, a supranational organized devoted to the region (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the United States are the others).
26 August
Stephen Harper raises spectre of Russian threat in Arctic speech to troops
An emboldened Russia is a threat to it neighbours in the Arctic and Canada must be ready to respond to any Russian incursions in the region, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday as he ended his yearly tour of Canada’s North.
In a chest-thumping address to troops who took part in a series of military manoeuvres off the coast of Baffin Island, Harper spoke of how Canada must never drop its guard in the face of growing Russian aggression.
19 August
Stephen Harper heads north on annual Arctic journey
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will visit Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut over annual six-day trip.
t’s Harper’s ninth annual visit to the North, and likely his last before the 2015 election campaign begins in earnest. Harper has attempted to link his party directly to the development of the North, including non-renewable resource extraction both on land and in Arctic waters.
The trip will also include Harper’s participation in Operation Nanook, the Canadian Armed Forces annual “sovereignty exercise” in the North. According to the Forces, the operation will include responding to a simulation of a 50-passenger cruise ship grounded off of York Sound, Nunavut, from Aug. 20-23.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Harper will also “showcase new initiatives, partners and technologies” that are involved in the search for the Franklin expedition, the doomed 19th-century British voyage to discover a route through the Northwest Passage.
The 2014 search for Captain Franklin’s ships, the Erebus and the Terror, is one of the largest to date. Harper has been said to have a personal interest in locating the wrecks of the ships, which were lost somewhere near King William Island in the late 1840s.
7 July
Michael Byers: Who Owns the Arctic?
Arctic Sovereignty and International Relations

25 June updated 7 July in OpenCanada
Jeremy Kinsman — Arctic Sovereignty: Fear and Loathing Over Santa’s Workshop
(Policy Magazine July|August 2014) Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Canada’s Stephen Harper espouse respective nationalist narratives about the North that dwell on threats. The two countries, according to Icelandic Arctic expert Nikolaj Petersen, have become the Arctic region’s “most militaristic” in tone. Who knew the Arctic Ocean’s melting would prompt a Russia-Canada territorial competition for the North Pole that is itself more rhetorical than real, riddled with inflated nationalist identity-fiction on both sides?
Russia is the dominant Arctic presence. Of four million Arctic inhabitants, two million are Russian citizens; 650,000 are Alaskans, and 115,000 are Canadians (half indigenous).
The Arctic Council needs a stronger mandate for cooperative action without encroaching on the need for consensus among the eight sovereign members. US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said in 2010 that the Arctic is a test-case of the international community’s ability to deal with the great trans-national issues of the 21st century. But progress requires belief in multilateralism and resolution to tackle climate change, where Canada sadly lags in official belief or effort.
The Arctic region badly needs fresh policy leadership on the bilateral level. Mary Simon urges Canada and the US to be “first movers” on Arctic climate change strategy. More convergence with the US might even, in P. Whitney Lackenbauer’s concept, lead to a “grand compromise” comprising a bilateral deal on the Beaufort Sea and on continental energy supply and climate change.
Comment from one Friend of Wednesday Night: the article fails to highlight Canada’s total unpreparedness to operate in or defend our share of the Arctic – the Finns have more icebreakers than do we! And the Russians have a whole Arctic navy!
7 May
Inside the Issues 4.25 | Arctic Governance
(CIGI online) How is the Arctic changing and what are the implications for Canada? This week, CIGI Senior Fellow John Higginbotham speaks with host Andrew Thompson on issues surrounding Arctic governance. Touching on both opportunities and challenges in the Arctic, Higginbotham notes that, “It’s time for a fresh look at Canada’s Arctic policies.” The conversation also includes commentary on the Arctic Council, shipping and trade, aboriginal rights and sustainable development.
15 April
Ottawa upbraids Russian envoy, skips Arctic Council meeting over Ukraine
The federal government called in Russia’s ambassador to Canada for another dressing down and announced it would skip Arctic Council meetings in Moscow this week in response to escalating tensions in Eastern Ukraine.
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Tuesday that Canada’s decision to boycott the meetings meant it was taking a “principled stand” against Russia over the situation in Ukraine. The Arctic Council’s task force on black carbon and methane was scheduled to meet in Moscow for three days this week, according to the Council’s website.
24 March
Exxon Valdez oil spill mapExxon Valdez 25th anniversary: the North deserves a better future
By opening the Canadian Arctic to oil and gas exploration, the Conservative government is setting the course for more oil spills and new tragedies. The Arctic Council, which Canada is now chairing, has done nothing to fight against this fate. Moreover, it is helping it come true.
Rather than striving to avoid repeating history, the Arctic Council, with its passive leadership and pro-business agenda, is paving the way for similar tragedies on our Arctic coastlines.
… Fast forward 25 years to 2014. While two generations of fishermen continue to cope with the aftermath of this catastrophe, the Arctic Council—a body whose original mandate included ensuring sustainable development and pan-Arctic environmental protection —will meet in Yellowknife, just one day after the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez, to continue to peddle its year-old document meant to address exactly this kind of disaster. It’s called the Co-operation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic, and as only the second legally binding document in the council’s 18-year history, they are very proud of it.
So as the council meets in Yellowknife, the real question is: had this agreement been in place 25 years ago, would it have altered the outcome of that fateful day?
The truth is that it wouldn’t have made a difference.
How will the crisis in Ukraine affect the Arctic Council?
( There has been much high-blown rhetoric about the Arctic recently. Articles and commentary abound on it the “race for resources” in a region opening up due to climate change. Others have pointed to it as a potential flash point between Russia and other states. Russia is seen as playing geopolitical hardball by planting flags at the North Pole and expanding its military reach in the region. Canadian politicians have also been known to turn up the rhetoric when talking about potential Russian threats to Canada’s northern borders.
The Arctic Council, currently chaired by Canada, may continue to be insulated from wider geopolitics, says Timo Koivurova, research professor and director of the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law, Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland in Rovianemi, Finland. In a recent interview Koivurova, a long-time observer of the Arctic Council, said that the Arctic states managed to continue their co-operation on environmental and sustainable development issues through the war in Chechnya and the short conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008.

Globe & Mail: The North
Myth, reality, future
Globe journalists and local voices explore the unprecedented change to the climate, culture and politics of Canada’s last frontier
Ian Brown: The Magnetic North
Only Arctic nations should shape the North, Harper tells The Globe
Stephen Harper says the Arctic should be the domain of countries with territory there and he would oppose efforts to grant influence to outsiders in a region attracting growing global attention amid climate change and the hunt for resource riches.
Myth versus reality in Stephen Harper’s Northern strategy
it was here, in August, 2007, that Stephen Harper made one of his regular stands for Canada’s sovereignty in the North. The Prime Minister travelled to Nanisivik’s wharf – the only deep-water port in the Canadian Arctic – to announce with great fanfare that he would build the first permanent Arctic naval facility here.
Only a few weeks earlier, Mr. Harper’s then-18-month-old government had unveiled plans to build as many as eight military vessels specifically designed for the North, “Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships” (AOPS), a purchase the Conservatives called the “the most effective way to assert Canada’s authority, independence and sovereignty” in northern waters.
So far, the reality has proved much more modest.

Mike Blanchfield: So far, so good: Russia’s Ukraine moves not yet spilling into Arctic Council
(Ottawa Citizen) Like a pristine winter landscape, all looks surprisingly serene among Russia, Canada and their fellow Arctic Council members.
But just beneath the unblemished surface, political fault lines are forming, a ripple effect of the crisis between Russia and Ukraine.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canada’s allies in the G7 and NATO may have ostracized Russia over its occupation of the Crimean Peninsula, but at the Arctic Council, it appears to be business as usual, at least for now.
Canadian officials say Russia will be at the table later this month when the eight-country council next meets, even as tensions in Ukraine continue to simmer.
Canada is the rotating chair of the council and all countries appear to want to deal with the boundary, economic and resource issues that are at the heart of the alliance’s work in the Far North.
Canada will host the next meeting of the council in Yellowknife March 25-27.
7 February
Prime Minister Harper Risks Isolation with Imaginary Arctic Threats
by Joël Plouffe and Heather Exner-Pirot
CDFAI Fellow, Joël Plouffe and Heather Exner-Pirot of the University of Saskatchewan argue that as the current chair of the Arctic Council Canada must use its position to advance common interests in the circumpolar world at a time when the Arctic is going through unprecedented changes. To address these numerous and unprecedented challenges, efficient planning, extensive cooperation and knowledge-sharing are needed to guide comprehensive policy amongst Arctic states.
(Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute) Since last May, Canada has chaired the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum established in 1996 by the Ottawa Declaration. It acts as the core framework for circumpolar cooperation and collaboration between the eight Arctic states and six indigenous groups who are Permanent Participants. In this way, these actors work together to promote environmental protection and sustainable development across the Arctic.
As current Chair of the Council, it is in Canada’s interest to use its position and agenda to advance common interests in the circumpolar world at a time when the Arctic is going through unprecedented changes.1To address those numerous and unprecedented challenges, efficient planning, extensive cooperation and knowledge-sharing are needed to guide comprehensive policy amongst the Arctic states.
But Stephen Harper’s sovereignty rhetoric is proving detrimental to Canada’s ability to promote its interests within the Arctic Council and beyond.
30 January
Ron Huebert: Is Canada ready for Russia’s hardball approach to the North Pole?
(Globe Mail) This summer, the Smolensk – an Oscar II class nuclear-powered and nuclear-missile-carrying submarine will go to the North Pole to raise the Russian flag. Her captain said in late December that this was a major mission for the submarine, which is just coming out of a two year refit.
Let’s be clear so there is no misunderstanding on this action. A Russian captain is only allowed to say what is official policy – their public comments are more tightly controlled than even Canadian bureaucrats, scientists and military officials. A Russian navy submarine is also an instrument of the state. There can be no doubt that unlike Mr. Chilingarov’s 2007 trip with French submarines, this is a clear expression of state policy. When the captain of the Smolensk goes to the North Pole to plant the Russian flag he is making a clear official political statement by the most powerful military instrument of the Russian state.
What should be the most disturbing for Canadians is that this announcement comes immediately after Canada has indicated that it may be including the region near and surrounding the North Pole in its submission regarding the outer limits of its continental shelf. The timing of the captain’s announcement of this mission is not a coincidence. The Russians have been sending their nuclear submarines into Arctic waters since the Cold War; planting flags is not a normal part of missions.
This is clearly a message to Canada that the Russians see the North Pole as theirs. This action is also a repudiation by Russia of the promises made by all five Arctic states that can establish an extended continental shelf in the Arctic not to use military actions to support or sustain their relevant claims.
23 January
Sovereignty is Canada’s top priority in the North, Baird tells Davos forum
(Globe & Mail) The Harper government sees sovereignty as the top focus of its Arctic strategy, Foreign Minister John Baird told an international audience, stressing that Ottawa will continue to work with Canada’s neighbours in the North to establish boundaries.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr. Baird said Ottawa is also looking to strengthen regulations of the oil-and-gas and mining sectors, as well as ocean shippers, in the region. … He said the government’s third priority is environmental protection, and pointed to a need for better rules for resource extraction and shipping. “One major spill in the Arctic will close the industry for one generation, two generations, three generations.”
17 January
Arctic highwayWhat Arctic highway project tells us about Canada’s plans for North
(RCI) Construction on Canada’s long planned Arctic highway project in the western Arctic got underway this month.
The project will connect the Arctic community of Inuvik, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, with the community of Tuktoyaktuk, 137-km kilometres north on the Beaufort Sea coast.
Oil companies real beneficiaries of Canada’s Arctic highway extension
(Eye on the Arctic blog) Harper, no stranger to Canada’s North thanks to his annual summertime trips to the region, unsurprisingly took the opportunity to travel to Inuvik to mark the start of road construction. Hearkening back to a former leader of Canada who was also a champion of big, state-sponsored projects in the Arctic, Harper announced, “I am tremendously proud that our Government’s investment in this job creating, all-season Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway will, for the first time by road, connect and unify Canada from sea to sea to sea. This historic project realizes the visionary initiative of Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker back in the 1960’s.” … Fast forward over half a century, and despite increased awareness of the people living alongside resources in the Arctic, the development of commodities is still the real impetus for bringing infrastructure to the north. As the Globe and Mail explains, the all-weather, 24/7 highway will be “an engineering feat that should reduce the costs of petroleum exploration in the Beaufort Sea.”
… The $300 million in spending, however, does make sense in light of Harper’s strategy to cement Canada’s status as an “emerging energy superpower,” as he stated in 2006. The real beneficiaries of highway to Tuk will be the oil companies. They will save much more than the $1 million saved by the hamlet’s residents. Bob Ball, BP Operations Manager, North American Arctic Exploration, estimated that the all-weather road could reduce the company’s total cost of operations in the Beaufort Sea by 15%, as the road will facilitate overland transport during the current shoulder seasons of spring and fall. The 2010 study by the NWT Department of Transportation also looked specifically at how the road would benefit the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. Though the project is currently on hold, road construction would have delivered $20-30 million in total increased revenue to the federal government. The oil companies, in contrast, would have received some $347 to $516 million in additional cash flows over 45 years – a disproportionately large benefit.


16 December
Richard Janda*: Our North Pole claim is all about oil, not saving the environment
In 2007, The Globe and Mail’s Brian Gable drew a sadly prescient cartoon depicting two polar bears clinging to a lone piece of ice in the Arctic Ocean as prospectors went searching for the oil and gas bonanza lying underneath. The bears could only marvel that the Latin name for our species means “wise men”. Yet here we are a few years later locked in a high stakes competition with Russia and Denmark to claim to the North Pole principally because, as the Statement on Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy makes clear, we seek “the responsible and sustainable development of oil and gas in the North.” Sadly, as Mr. Gable’s polar bears apparently know better than us, there probably is no such thing.
Only if we can destroy the Arctic ice sheet, which reached its record minimum in 2012, do the huge economic payoffs dreamt of by our northern strategists become fully feasible. By ridding ourselves of that pesky protective barrier, the glistening deep-water ports, booming Northwest Passage maritime traffic, and bristling forest of oil platforms finally can come to be. Thus it is sadly apparent that the current government, far from denying the impacts of climate change, is committing the country to profit from its eventuality. In so doing, we will succumb ever more deeply to our fossil fuel addiction at the same time as we bear witness to its ravages.
*Richard Janda is a professor at the Faculty of Law, McGill University, and an associate member of the School of Environment
10 December
Putin One Ups Canada’s North Pole Claim With More Russian Military
(Canadian Press) Russian President Vladimir Putin is pawing the snow over Canada’s claim to the North Pole.
A day after Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird confirmed Canada is extending its Arctic territorial claim beyond the area mapped by federal scientists, Putin responded Tuesday with a highly visible message to the Russian military. … Last week, Canada made a formal scientific submission to the United Nations claiming 1.2 million square kilometres of seabed under the Atlantic, as well as a preliminary claim in the Arctic Ocean.
Baird held a news conference Monday on Parliament Hill where he asserted the Arctic claim will include the North Pole, although Canada has yet to do the mapping work to support its bid.
Harper signals Canada’s interest in owning the North Pole
(CTV) The Canadian government is making it known it wants control over the North Pole.
They were expected to submit an application to the UN Commission tasked with evaluating which countries can claim parts of the Arctic Friday, but they only submitted a partial application. The government has spent $200 million to survey the area, but missed an important section – the North Pole. Arctic expert Rob Huebert says to Kevin Newman Live why they didn’t is the million-dollar question. …
This claim is about a lot more than just the North Pole, it’s about a swath of the Arctic seafloor that covers about 1.7 million square kilometres. It’s guessed there are a lot of resources including oil and gas in the area and many countries are hoping to have claim over those rights in the future. The Arctic is believed to contain as much as one-quarter of the world’s undiscovered energy resources.
4 November
Why We Aren’t Ready for an Active Arctic
( Located far away from the Arctic, both geographically and consciously, federal governments in Washington and Ottawa have been slow to action, preoccupied with what they perceive as the more pressing concerns of voter-rich locations farther south. Nowhere is this more apparent than in emergency preparedness and response. As activity increases in the North, the inherent risks need to be dealt with before there is a major incident which harms the environment, or worse, leads to loss of life.
Building the capacity to deal with emergency situations needs to be high on the North American agenda. By contrast, the European Arctic maritime territories (e.g. Norway, Russia and Iceland) have long been integrated within their national economies, given the countries’ relative Arctic focus related to milder climatic conditions. As a consequence, emergency management capabilities are generally better developed, as activity levels have also been higher in this part of the Arctic.
22 October
Harper is Not Putting Canada (or the Canadian Arctic) First
( … while Canada has been slow to implement the essential resources for its Arctic sovereignty, other states have been far more efficient and aggressive in staking their claims in an increasingly complex Arctic Region. Arctic states, like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Russia and the United States have all invested substantially in their northern development and military technology, while Arctic-interested states like China, India and Great Britain have also begun to seek opportunities in the high north for resource extraction and military superiority.
According to the Throne Speech, “Our Government is securing our Northern sovereignty; promoting prosperity for Northerners; protecting our Arctic environmental heritage; and giving the people of the North a greater say in their own affairs.” The Speech then notes that as the world’s eyes look north, the government “will not rest” until it sees through a series of promises grounded in the Canada First strategy. These initiatives include the completion of the Dempster Highway, the continued defence of the seal hunt, the completion of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, the commitment to discover the fate of Franklin’s Arctic expedition, and the operationality of the Nanisivik port. What is left to ponder is precisely how these initiatives will help secure Canada’s northern borders.
17 October
Canada NorthThe Throne Speech: The North
We are a northern country. We are a northern people. Canada’s greatest dreams are to be found in our highest latitudes. They are dreams of a North confident and prosperous, the True North, strong and free … but the eyes of the world increasingly look enviously to our North. Our government will not rest.
(Globe & Mail) This effusive section renews a personal focus of Mr. Harper. The North itself is hardly a political prize – a grand total of three seats, two of them already Conservative – but has remained a hobby-horse issue, of sorts, for the Prime Minister, who takes annual trips to the North. The Speech outlined plans to finish the Dempster Highway, push for resource development, open a High Arctic Research station by 2017, build new Arctic patrol ships, open the North’s first deepwater port and “continue to defend the seal hunt.” Broadly, the Northern themes dovetail with other prominent ones from the speech – military goals and feel-good Canadiana – that together appear to equate national pride with Conservative policy.
3 October
Mike De Souza: Stephen Harper’s environment minister casts doubt on climate change
Canadian environment minister Leona Aglukkaq says evidence about Arctic warming is ‘debatable’
(O. Canada) In a short televised interview on CTV’s daily political show, Power Play, Leona Aglukkaq suggested the scientific observations were not as important as the Harper government’s priorities in its new role as chair of a group of Arctic nations.
“There was a report that came out yesterday, I have not received a copy of that but there’s always a debate around science and what’s changing,” Aglukkaq told the host, Don Martin, in the interview which aired on Wednesday. “But I think what’s really important during our chairmanship that I want to bring forward to the international Arctic council regions is that Arctic people, people that live in the Arctic become experts and are engaged in that.”
Aglukkaq’s office was not immediately able to say which report she was referring to during the interview. It was also unable to explain what debate she was referring to or offer any scientific evidence in support of her comments.
26 September
Cargo Ship Carves a Path in Arctic Sea
Nordic Orion Will Be First Bulk Carrier To Cross Northwest Passage
(WSJ) A coal-laden cargo ship is on track to become the first bulk carrier to traverse the Northwest Passage through Canada’s Arctic waters, blazing a trail that shippers hope will become a time-saving route in global trade.
Traveling with a Canadian Coast Guard escort, the Nordic Orion underscores Ottawa’s recent efforts to bolster a thin presence in its vast Arctic territory. Experts say the country already has fallen behind Russia, which is developing a series of Arctic ports and has a fleet of ice breakers keeping open its competing Northern Sea Route.
The vessel, which left Vancouver Sept. 17 carrying 15,000 metric tons of coal, is off the coast of Greenland and is expected to dock in Pori, Finland, next week after chugging through waters once choked almost year-round with thick sea ice.
20 September
ArcticSeaThe next great game: How Canada can take charge in the Arctic
By Erik Richer La Flèche
(Future Imperfect) Canada could be bold by borrowing three ideas from Quebec’s Plan Nord (now renamed Plan pour tous).
The first is to take a long term view (25-30 years) and anticipate how the Arctic will change over that period and the pressures that it is likely to sustain over that period.
The second is to take a holistic or global approach rather than a sectorial one.
The third is that at least 50 percent of the Arctic should be protected from mining, oil, gas, shipping, fishing or other similar activity. This is Quebec’s policy north of the 49th parallel. (20 September)

(RCI) Eye on the Arctic: Arctic Council 2013

Cold-Calculations-BannerThe scramble for the Arctic is on. As Canada prepares to take up the chairmanship of the Arctic Council this year, new state and non-state actors are staking their claims to the region, as melting ice creates new risks and opportunities for development. Will these competing claims result in conflict? This In Depth considers the different agendas of the various stakeholders and asks whether clashing interests in the region are inevitable or whether cooler heads will prevail under Canada’s watch.

1 September
Harper’s vaunted Arctic naval refuelling station going nowhere fast
(Globe & Mail) One of the crown jewels in the federal government’s Arctic strategy is mired in a slow-moving environmental clean-up and the threat of legal action, federal documents reveal.
The deep-water port at Nanisivik, Nunavut, remains under the control of the federal fisheries department, six years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced with much fanfare the establishment of a naval refuelling station high in the northern archipelago.
The port is meant to accommodate the Conservative government’s plan to construct six-to-eight light icebreakers — or Arctic patrol ships — to assert the country’s sovereignty in the North.
Like the Nanisivik facility, the ships are behind schedule and years from seeing service.
By contrast, the Russians have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into reviving as many as 10 Arctic outposts to serve as search-and-rescue bases along their northern sea route, which runs along the top of the Asian continent. Ports are also being upgraded.
28 August
Garneau: Harper’s annual photo-op belies string of broken Arctic promises
By Marc Garneau, Liberal MP
(Montreal Gazette) Since 2006, the Harper Conservatives have made and repeated dozens of promises about protecting Canada’s Arctic sovereignty. Each summer, the prime minister makes a symbolic excursion to the North to trumpet these commitments. While the scope of the Arctic promises the Harper government has made is large, its record of keeping them is not. Not only is this bad governance, but it also makes a mockery of Canada’s commitment to the Arctic.
In spite of repeated promises to ensure the protection of Canada’s interests, particularly with the projected increase in vessel traffic, the government has done little to increase our presence and surveillance capabilities throughout this ecologically sensitive region.
19 August
Federal strategy for Far North snarled by red tape, political inertia: DND
The Conservative government’s overall effort to tame the Far North has often lacked political will and direction, warns a blunt new National Defence study that explores how the Canadian military fits in to the strategy.
The 72-page assessment, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, paints a picture of good intentions that have ground to a halt amid bureaucratic red tape and turf wars in Ottawa.
It is a splash of cold water that comes just as Prime Minister Stephen Harper stumps around the Arctic this week, touting his government’s achievements and meeting with community leaders, as well as aboriginal reserve soldiers.
The review, written by the Defence Science Advisory Board at National Defence, looks at everything from military and public safety issues to the economy of the North and the implications of dealing with local culture.
18 August
Harper’s Northern tour is about politics as much as policy
Prime minister will pose for an opportune photo or 2 amid announcements
(CBC) Stephen Harper began his eighth Northern summer tour tonight with a stump-style speech to Conservative supporters at a reception in Whitehorse. … an announcement Monday morning expected to focus on skills training to support employment in the North’s vast natural resources sector.
Drawing attention to this chunk of the Canadian economy will be the prime minister’s key effort over the next few days, just as it was last year, and the year before.
Ottawa testing $620K stealth snowmobile for Arctic
The Canadian military has been secretly test-driving a $620,000 stealth snowmobile in its quest to quietly whisk troops on clandestine operations in the Arctic.
The Canadian Press has learned that soldiers have taken the new hybrid-electric snowmobile prototype on trial runs to evaluate features such as speed, noise level, battery endurance and acceleration.
The Department of National Defence even has a nickname for its cutting-edge, covert tool: “Loki,” after the “mythological Norse shape-shifting god.”
Word of the federal hunt for a stealth snowmobile first surfaced two years ago when National Defence’s research and development agency posted a public tender.

31 May

Arctic biodiversity rci-tursujuq_sn635Eye on the Arctic – Biodiversity report singles out Canada’s North
(RCI audio) The northern regions singled out in the report range from the Peel River Watershed in Canada’s northwestern Yukon territory, to Caribou House, an area that straddles northern Quebec and the Inuit self-governing region of Nunatsiavut in the Atlantic Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
First Nations and Inuit in Canada’s North are taking the lead in managing conservation with development, but making other Canadians aware of the environmental richness in their own backyards is key to ensuring its long-term protection, he said.
“Without an understanding of how globally important these places are for their biodiversity features and other ecological features it would be easy to make mistakes and not have the public support the kind of big thinking conservation that needs to take place there,” Wells said.

17 May
The Growing Importance of the Arctic Council

(Stratfor) The Arctic is expected to become more important in the coming decades as climate change makes natural resources and transport routes more accessible. Reflecting the growing interest in the region, the Arctic Council granted six new countries (China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Singapore) observer status during a May 15 ministerial meeting in Kiruna, Sweden. By admitting more observers, the Arctic Council — an organization that promotes cooperation among countries with interests in the Arctic — will likely become more important as a forum for discussions on Arctic issues. However, this does not necessarily mean it will be able to establish itself as a central decision-making body regarding Arctic matters.
16 May
Canada’s Aglukkaq takes hot seat at Arctic Council
Canada took the the helm Wednesday at a ministerial summit of the circumpolar, eight-nation Arctic Council, where Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq faced a clamour from southern nations seeking a greater role in the race to extract the Arctic’s vast oil and mineral riches. …
China, India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Italy were all granted observer status, which doesn’t include full voting rights.
“I’ll bring a different perspective to the table,” that of a real northerner,  Ms. Aglukkaq had said before leaving for Sweden. Ms. Aglukkaq was born and raised in Canada’s Arctic, and represents Nunavut as a Conservative MP. That Prime Minster Stephen Harper picked her – not the foreign minister, who usually holds Canada’s seat at the council – was seen as symbolic. But Ms. Aglukkaq is no figurehead; she has already served notice that she’s fed up with southern environmentalists trying to dictate – or stall – northern development. (See Comment from Nick’s Gleanings below)
13 May
As Canada takes Arctic Council helm, experts stress north’s vulnerability to spills, emergencies
International experts recommend key focus areas for next 2 years
As leadership of the Arctic Council passes from Sweden to Canada May 15, experts say it is crucial that northern nations strengthen response capabilities to shipping-related accidents foreseen in newly-opened northern waters, as well as to more-common local emergencies such as floods, forest fires and rescue situations.
And Canada needs to lead by example. Despite having the world’s longest Arctic coastline and second-largest territory in the region, its far northern marine and aviation infrastructure badly lags by international comparison, according to experts with the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program, an initiative of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto and the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation.
… The Arctic Council ministerial meeting this week is hosted by the outgoing chair, Sweden, in that country’s northernmost city, Kiruna.
The anticipated 300 delegates – perhaps the largest in Arctic Council history – include noted Canadian historian John English, author of a forthcoming book – Ice and Water: Power, Peoples and the Arctic Council – and a senior member of the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program team. Says Dr. English: “Chairing the Arctic Council represents a real opportunity for Canada to show leadership in a region whose importance to global affairs is rapidly increasing.” Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program
26 April
Eye on the Arctic – What Canada’s Arctic Council chairmanship means for the North
(RCI) When Canada takes over chairmanship of the Arctic Council on May 15, its stated priority is ‘developing the North for northerners’ around the circumpolar world. … with climate change opening up Arctic shipping routes and making previously untapped resources available, the North is receiving unprecedented international attention.
The European Union and several non-Arctic nations, including China and South Korea, are also requesting permanent observer status on the council.
Listen to Eilís Quinn interview with Whitney Lackenbauer, an associate professor at St. Jerome’s University , University of Waterloo, who specializes in Arctic sovereignty and security issues.
10 April
Canada pulls out of International Health Group
(iPolitics) As Canada prepares for the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, new details are emerging showing [that in 2011] the Minister of Health pulled out of …The Northern Dimension Partnership on Public Health and Social Well-Being, of which Canada was a founding member.
… A Health Canada document obtained by iPolitics shows Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq withdrew from the group of Northern nations including Finland, Denmark and Norway, to save money.
The government made the move on November 14, 2011, and it was never formally announced. In the government’s letter of withdrawal, the Minister acknowledged the good work the organization had done on aboriginal mental health, addiction and parenting.
5 April
India’s Arctic Circles
(Hindustan Times blog) India is a credible player in Antarctic science, says David Scott, executive director of the Canadian Polar Commission, on a recent visit to New Delhi. “Which is why Canada and other countries are eager to work with India in the Arctic.”
Scott and Louis Fortier, scientific director of ArcticNet, were in India to explain the new Northern Strategy of Canada and Ottawa’s interest in roping New Delhi into this new formulation — albeit as a minor player.
Canada launched the Northern Strategy following Russia’s planting of one of their flags on the Arctic seabed and as global warming has prematurely brought about a viable “Northern Passage” — a melting of the icepack significant enough to allow commercial and warships to go back forth from the north Atlantic to the north Pacific.
Scott and Fortier stressed that a key part of the Northern Strategy was in the area of science. The idea, they said, was to “ensure Canada remains a global leader in Arctic science.” And, unspoken, helping legitimising Ottawa’s desired ambition to one of the three or four main guardians of the northern polar areas. As Scott noted, “sovereignty” was one of the key underpinnings of the strategy.
8 March
Canada’s Challenges in the Arctic Council Chair’s Shoes (scroll to page 8)
(cdfai Quarterly) Natalia Loukacheva demonstrates that as Canada is set to take the Chair of the Arctic Council it will be faced with many difficult questions and decisions. It is important that Canada be bold in the face of those decisions without letting domestic politics play too much of a role in the direction Canada will take the Arctic Council.
Challenges at this venture are many. One key challenge seems to be finding the right balance between maintaining the regional identity of the Council, on the one hand, and wider cooperation with non-regional actors striving for their own piece of the “Arctic cake” and offering so much needed investments at times of economic crisis, on the other.
8 March
Eye on the Arctic – More information needed on mining in North Quebec: poll
(RCI) Climate change is opening up Canada’s northern regions to greater energy and resource exploration.
This activity has sparked debate across the country about how best to balance business interests with environmental protection; and economic development and the needs of Canada’s northern aboriginal communities. … “We have a big lack in our mining acts when it comes to free prior consent of aboriginals to things like mining projects and this really needs to be clarified,” says Suzann Méthot, the Québec Regional director of the Canadian Boreal Initiative. “(With) the new values of the population, there is no way that mining companies should have more rights than municipalities or the individuals (living there.)”
25 January
Showing Leadership in the Arctic
Canada will have two years as chair of the Arctic Council to make its mark on Arctic governance, says Jennifer Welsh.
2013: A Decisive Year for Canada’s Arctic Ambitions
Rob Huebert on why this is a make-or-break year for Canada as the country tries to extend its influence in the Arctic.
Canada’s role in the circumpolar world will enter a critical phase in 2013. Canada will assume the role of chair of the Arctic Council. At the same time, it will submit coordinates to extend its continental shelf in the Arctic region. Both events will significantly alter Canada’s international standing. The government has also promised to begin building a large icebreaker and a new class of navy vessels capable of operating in the Arctic. Interested observers will face considerable challenges in trying to keep up with the pace of events.
The Canadian government has already commenced developing policies to shape its two-year term as chair of the Arctic Council. The appointment of Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq as Canada’s senior Arctic official means that the government will be focusing on social, economic, and health priorities for the Arctic. This will represent a departure from the government’s previous focus on issues relating to sovereignty and security. That said, the government will still need to develop policies that focus on sovereignty and security issues as the Arctic region continues to integrate more and more with the rest of the world.
25 January
Eye on the Arctic – Canada prepares for Arctic Council leadership
(RCI) In May of this year, Canada takes over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Sweden.
Canadian Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, an Inuk from Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, will chair the Arctic Council during Canada’s two-year mandate.
There are people that live in the Arctic so the overarching theme is development for the people in the North,” Aglukkaq said. “Canada’s Arctic is not a museum, there are people up there that depend on the environment, the wildlife and have a lot offer.”
Responsible resource development, safe shipping and promoting sustainable communities are also among Canada’s priorities, she said.

One Comment on "Canada & the Arctic 2013 – 2016"

  1. Nick's Gleanings #512 May 24, 2013 at 1:03 am ·

    Last fall Prime Minister Harper ordained that Health Minister Leona Aglukaqq, Canada’s first Minister of Inuk origin, would fill the Chairman’s position on Canada’s behalf. While generally speaking, and from his perspective, a logical choice, her performance as a Minister in the Health portfolio has been anything but awe-inspiring and the additional duties this post brings with it are unlikely to improve her performance in that capacity (but this may give the Prime Minister an easy way out to remove her from the Health portfolio in the widely-anticipated & much-needed major Cabinet shuffle expected this summer to strengthen its public image ahead of the next election, in two years’ time. And following her assumption of the Council’s Chairmanship Ms. Aglukaqq lost no time showing that as a faithful acolyte she would propagate the Prime Minister’s biases when she announced that during the next two years her focus will be on “creating economic development” (along the lines of the Republican war cry of the 2008 US Presidential Election campaign “Drill, baby, drill”?) & promised ‘big changes’ at the Council, one of which will be to end the practice of science for its own sake in favour of a business-oriented approach.

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