Canada & the Arctic 2017 -2021

Written by  //  September 24, 2021  //  Arctic and Antarctic, Canada  //  No comments

Britain offers Canadian military help to defend the Arctic
Experts say, however, that successive Canadian governments have been reluctant to allow anyone — even close allies — to become too deeply embedded in the region.
Much of that reluctance has to do with contested claims to Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic. Concern over Canada’s exclusion from the recent security pact between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia may lend fresh urgency to the U.K.’s proposal, however.
As members of NATO, both Britain and Canada have taken part in winter warfare exercises in Norway. Gen. Carter said he believes that cooperation could be expanded to the benefit of both countries. The British Army has for many years conducted armoured and combined warfare training at Suffield, Alta.
The Arctic is becoming more of a focus for NATO and Canada’s closest allies. The potential threat posed by the reactivation of Russia’s northern Cold War-era bases, as well as the interest of possible adversaries such as China, figured prominently in speeches and panel discussions at the recent NATO leaders summit last June.
Canada’s former Conservative government placed a premium on increasing Canada’s military presence in the Far North; it built a naval refuelling station and set in motion the construction of Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, which are just being delivered.

17 September
The Arctic Council has weathered 25 years of bumpy Russia-western relations – but can it adapt to climate change?
Danita Catherine Burke, Research Fellow based at the Center for War Studies, Department of Political Science and Public Management, University of Southern Denmark (SDU) and the founder of the Women in the Arctic and Antarctic.
(The Conversation) The Arctic Council was founded in 1996 with great hopes for peaceful engagement with Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The forum is the principal body for Arctic dialogue on environmental protection and sustainable development, and celebrates its 25th anniversary on September 19.
After quarter of a century, the Arctic Council stands as a testament to co-operation and dialogue in the region, helping to establish diplomacy between Russia and the western Arctic states – US, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway – and indigenous peoples.
It has also successfully facilitated co-operation in areas such as marine search and rescue and addressing Soviet-era environmental damage in the Russian Arctic. But the council also faces calls to improve and evolve in response to growing challenges in the region such as climate change.
The west is accustomed to viewing Russia as a global villain. But in the Arctic, Russia subverts this stereotype as an active regional ally and partner in the Arctic Council.
The reality is that the council would not work without Russia. Its importance in regional co-operation is why the forum does not deal with military issues. The lack of military discussions has exposed the Arctic Council to criticism for omitting a major regional topic.
The other unique feature of the Arctic Council is the the way indigenous peoples’ organisations are included in all aspects of its work.

4 September
Useful summary although I cannot remember a word uttered about Arctic policy during the campaign. Will the new minority government keep any of the pledges?
The 2021 Canadian Federal Election and the Arctic
By Carter Boone
(Modern Diplomacy) Although the Canadian Arctic is unlikely to be a prominent ballot box issue for voters in the 2021 federal election, there are potential ramifications for domestic and international Arctic stakeholders depending on which party (or parties) forms the next government in Ottawa. Domestically, all three parties have committed to reducing the infrastructure gap that exists between the Canadian Arctic and Canada’s more developed regions. The strategy to achieve this goal is also broadly similar between the three largest parties, including improving access to broadband Internet for remote communities, investing in the construction of roads and other critical infrastructure, and improving the resilience of remote communities. All three parties have committed to reducing food insecurity in the Arctic through continued support for the Nutrition North program or through reforming the program as in the case of the NDP. The Liberal Party and the New Democrats have expressed support for improving the quality and access to healthcare in the Arctic region, although the Liberal Party is the only party to provide specific funding commitments to achieve this goal.

18 May
Russia’s northernmost base projects its power across Arctic
(AP) — During the Cold War, Russia’s Nagurskoye airbase was little more than a runway, a weather station and a communications outpost in the Franz Josef Land archipelago.
It was a remote and desolate home mostly for polar bears, where temperatures plunge in winter to minus-42 Celsius (43 degrees below zero Fahrenheit) and the snow only disappears from August to mid-September.
Now, Russia’s northernmost military base is bristling with missiles and radar and its extended runway can handle all types of aircraft, including nuclear-capable strategic bombers, projecting Moscow’s power and influence across the Arctic amid intensifying international competition for the region’s vast resources.
Russia has sought to assert its influence over wide areas of the Arctic in competition with the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway as shrinking polar ice from the warming planet offers new opportunities for resources and shipping routes. China also has shown an increasing interest in the region, believed to hold up to one-fourth of the Earth’s undiscovered oil and gas.

2020

27 April
First federal assessment of Arctic Ocean finds drastic change
Scientist says it may be changing faster than any other body of water on Earth
The assessment, the result of work by dozens of federal scientists and Inuit observers, describes a vast ecosystem in unprecedented flux: from ocean currents to the habits and types of animals that swim in it. … Changes are coming so fast scientists haven’t even had a chance to understand what’s there.
Sixty per cent of the species in the Canada Basin — like the worms found living in undersea mud volcanoes and living off expelled methane — are yet to be discovered, the report suggests.
The first assessment of fish species in the Beaufort Sea wasn’t done until 2014, she said. Still, changes are hard to miss, right down to the makeup of the water.
It’s 33 per cent less salty than in 2003 and about 30 per cent more acidic — enough to dissolve the shells of some small molluscs.
The Beaufort Gyre, a vast circular current that has alternated direction every decade, hasn’t switched in 19 years.
Nutrient-rich water from the Pacific Ocean isn’t getting mixed in as it used to, which affects the plankton blooms that anchor the Arctic food web. Sea ice is shrinking and thinning to the point where Inuit communities can’t get to formerly dependable hunting grounds.
Shorelines are on the move. Erosion has more than doubled in the last few decades. The mix of species is changing.

2019

27 May

Canada makes competing claim to North Pole against Russia, Denmark
Document filed last week with UN body determining validity of boundary claims
(CBC) After years of delay and political arm-twisting, Canada has made a claim to a vast portion of the Arctic seabed that includes the North Pole.
The claim sets up the federal government for talks with Russia and Denmark, which had already filed their own claims.
Canada’s document was filed last week with a United Nations body that is to determine the scientific validity of each country’s version of where the lines on the map should be.
A decision is to be made after negotiations between the three countries.
Canada’s submission is late — the previous federal government nixed plans for a claim in 2013 that didn’t include the North Pole.

6 May
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage is ‘illegitimate’
Pompeo’s statement is described as a ‘stunning rebuke’ of the 1988 Arctic Co-operation agreement reached by Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan
(National Post) Canada’s claim over the Northwest Passage is “illegitimate,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday in a major speech to the Arctic Council that Canadian experts called both provocative and frequently inaccurate.
Pompeo offered his characterization during a wide-ranging speech in Finland in which he also warned against China’s increased Arctic presence, saying it threatens North American security and could be harmful to the environment.
Pompeo reiterated long-held concerns about Russia’s military build-up in the Arctic and how that, too, is viewed as being counter to American security interests.
Pompeo’s branding of a longtime disagreement on Arctic policy between the Canada and the U.S. is a “stunning rebuke” of the 1988 Arctic Co-operation agreement between the two countries, said Fen Hampson, the head of the international-security program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont.
“It underscores the ’upset-every-applecart’ approach by the Trump administration to Canada-U.S. relations,” said Hampson, the author of a recent book on the foreign policy of former prime minister Brian Mulroney.
The routes between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans run between Canadian islands but the two countries disagree about whether that makes them internal Canadian waters or international waters that have Canadian territory nearby. The disagreement matters more now that melting Arctic sea ice means the Northwest Passage is getting closer to being a viable commercial shipping route.
The agreement reached by Mulroney and then-president Ronald Reagan allows the U.S. to designate the Northwest Passage as an international waterway while allowing Canada to say that it is a part of Canadian sovereign territory
The treaty recognizes the “close and friendly relations between their two countries, the uniqueness of ice-covered maritime areas, the opportunity to increase their knowledge of the marine environment of the Arctic through research conducted during icebreaker voyages, and their shared interest in safe, effective icebreaker navigation off their Arctic coasts.”

30 March
High Arctic lab once again threatened with closure as federal funding runs out
PEARL’s research on air quality, the ozone layer and climate change could come to an end in September
The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) has been gathering data and conducting research on Ellesmere Island, just 1,100 kilometres from the North Pole, since 2005.
In 2012, the lab came within three weeks of closing due to funding cuts by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives before being saved by an eleventh-hour infusion of funding from the Climate Change and Atmospheric Research Initiative (CCAR).
When CCAR funding ran out in 2017, researchers once again faced the possibility of shutting down the station, but were able to keep research and data collection going with a $1.6-million grant from the federal government.
“By investing in the PEARL research network, we’ll ensure that the research done in Canada’s High Arctic continues to deepen our knowledge of the challenges before us,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said in a news release at the time

2017

8 November
High Arctic lab saved as federal money comes through
Liberal government has committed $1.6M to keep lab open until fall 2019

6 November
Finis Dunaway and Norma Kassi (The Globe and Mail) on the Arctic Refuge: “With climate change bearing down on the North, the coastal plain is critical to the future of Arctic ecosystems. Although this debate will be decided by American lawmakers, it is important to remember that they have listened before to Gwich’in representatives, to Canadian political leaders and to North Americans from all walks of life who have insisted that this special place be protected. They need to hear that message again – and soon – before this irreplaceable ecological treasure is auctioned off to serve the needs of short-term fossil-fuel development.”

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