Canada & the Arctic 2017-

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September 2019
Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework
The Arctic and Northern Policy Framework is a profound change of direction for the Government of Canada. For too long, Canada’s Arctic and northern residents, especially Indigenous people, have not had access to the same services, opportunities, and standards of living as those enjoyed by other Canadians. There are longstanding inequalities in transportation, energy, communications, employment, community infrastructure, health and education. While almost all past governments have put forward northern strategies, none closed these gaps for the people of the North, or created a lasting legacy of sustainable economic development.
In her 2016 Interim Report on the Shared Arctic Leadership Model, Minister’s Special Representative Mary Simon said, “the simple fact is that Arctic strategies throughout my lifetime have rarely matched or addressed the magnitude of the basic gaps between what exists in the Arctic and what other Canadians take for granted.”
Co-developing the new framework became a bold opportunity to shape and direct change in the region by collaborating with governments, northerners and Indigenous governments and organizations. Consultation was not enough to meet the challenges and harness emerging opportunities in the Arctic and North. In a significant shift, the federal government, Indigenous peoples, Inuit, First Nations and Métis, 6 territorial and provincial governments (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, and Manitoba) contributed to this framework together.

23 February
NATO membership strengthens Arctic Security, deepens Canada ties: Finnish Ambassador
Arctic Security and long-term strategies
(RCI) Vilén’s comments came following a Feb. 13 Arctic Spirit panel discussion in Ottawa on northern security and environmental concerns put on by the Embassy of Finland.
Vilén said he perceives no immediate risk of military conflict in the North, but that the growing strategic importance of the region means Finland has to adopt a long-term perspective.
“In the Arctic now, it is less about conventional threats, and more about the security of supply and shipping routes from North America to Norway, Sweden and Europe,” he said.
“And as climate change keeps opening the seas of the Arctic, that gives way to broader global challenges, particularly from the Chinese side, who are no longer just focused in the Indo-Pacific area, but also on the Arctic.”

3 January
Canada pledges to work with U.S. over competing claims to Arctic sea floor
U.S. claim filed last month includes large chunk of Beaufort Sea floor that Canada also seeks to control
The federal government is pledging to work with its American counterparts after the U.S. claimed parts of the Arctic sea floor that Canada also wants.
Grantly Franklin, spokesman for Global Affairs Canada, said in an email that Canada expects to follow the process set out in a United Nations treaty despite the fact the U.S. hasn’t ratified the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“Canada and the U.S. are in frequent communication with regards to the continental shelf in the Arctic and have expressed their commitment along with other Arctic states to the orderly settlement of overlapping claims,” Franklin wrote.
The U.S. filed its extended continental shelf claim last month with the United Nations agency that evaluates such requests. As expected, it includes a large chunk of the Beaufort Sea floor that Canada also seeks to control.
“It’s stuff that we’ve always suspected they were going to do,” said Rob Huebert, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies. “The Americans have been very careful not to have any overlap with the Russians but they have overlap with us.”
A large part of the overlap concerns how the border should be drawn. Canada wants it extended directly north from the 141st meridian while the U.S. says it should be drawn at a 90-degree angle from the shoreline.

2923

23-24 October
Minister Vandal represents Canada at 2023 Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland
/CNW/ – Developing strong relationships with circumpolar leaders and exchanging views on shared northern and Arctic priorities can lead to more effective solutions.
The Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs has concluded his participation at the Arctic Circle Assembly, held in Reykjavík, Iceland, from October 19 to 21, 2023. This forum is the largest annual international gathering on the Arctic, attracting approximatively 2,000 participants from over 60 countries.
Minister Vandal engaged with international and Arctic leaders on Canada’s approach to issues like this year’s historic wildfires, economic development and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. He delivered a keynote address where he emphasized the co-developed Arctic and Northern Policy Framework and the importance of a collaborative approach while we work towards reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. He also spoke about the progress Canada is making on issues such as climate change, and food security in the North and Arctic.
The Assembly was also an excellent opportunity to meet and exchange views with researchers as well as with world leaders. Minister Vandal took part in two panel discussions, one about food sovereignty and the other, about wildfires in the Arctic. He also met with the United States Senator for Alaska, Lisa Murkowski and Chairman Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson former President of Iceland.
(Politico) Vandal spoke to Playbook on Monday after returning to Canada. Here’s a partial transcript of that conversation, edited for length and clarity.
You spoke about food insecurity during your keynote. How did that resonate?
Food insecurity is not unique to Canada. Every Arctic nation has challenges with food security for people who live in more isolated areas. Inflation is a big issue, and the cost of everything is a huge issue. Iceland is incredibly expensive. So are Nordic countries. Speaking as a Canadian, I don’t know how they make ends meet there.
One thing that struck me was the discussion on the blue economy. I heard a while back how Canada doesn’t harvest as much as it should from the ocean. There’s lots of things that we can use for food and nutrition from the ocean that we don’t use right now. Those are very important discussions we need to have with other countries, and it needs to be led by people who live in the Arctic, the territories — the Inuit [and] First Nations.
What surprised you about the summit?
I was surprised by the level of participation from all countries. There was an Indian delegation there. Countries that you would not associate with having northern interests were there, taking in all the information and participating. I think New Zealand was there at one point. There’s a heightened interest in northern and Arctic activities.
I was surprised at the number of Indigenous delegations from Canada and the United States, principally. I really look forward to going back, and continuing the relationships in between conferences. I think that’s what’s key.

13 October
CSIS warning Inuit leaders about covert foreign investment in Arctic, documents show
Inuit leader calling on spy agency to share more information with region’s leaders
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has warned Inuit leaders that foreign adversaries could gain a foothold in Canada by offering to fill infrastructure gaps in the North.
But Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) — the nonprofit organization that represents more than 65,000 Inuit across Inuit Nunangat and the rest of Canada — said the spy agency’s inability to share classified intelligence with the region’s decision-makers leaves them in the dark about the risks.
“We are making decisions every day that are currently not as informed as they could be about threats and considerations,” Obed recently told CBC News.

2 July
Colin Robertson: Seeing Russia, and the Arctic, from Helsinki and Tallinn
(Policy) For Finns, the relationship with Russia is existential. During and after my diplomatic career, I found that Nordic diplomats, especially the Finns, possess a clear-eyed perspective on Russia.
While the following observations are not original, they bear repeating.
The first principle with Russia is to be prepared for sudden turns and developments. It is the common thread of Finnish Russia policy — to be underlined as a first thing, and after the analysis, repeat it in conclusion.
A key influence on Russian behaviour is its persistent quest for great power status in a system with recognized spheres of influence. Expansionism plays a central role for geopolitical and symbolic reasons.
Russia views the West as a military threat but it is more than that. For Putin, the West presents an existential threat that is cultural, civilizational, and political. The military-technology and economic advantages possessed by the West feed their feelings of insecurity.
When I asked the Foreign Ministry if they had an ‘ask’ of Canada, they said it was to secure Canadian participation in the Far North Fiber underwater cable system [ directly links Europe to Japan by way of a revolutionary route through the Arctic, using proven subsea cable construction techniques and creative system design. The result provides users with faster and more secure connectivity, and delivers broadband to Northern communities and opens opportunities for cleaner data storage development.]. An attraction for Canada would be its ability to provide connectivity to northern communities.
The Arctic is also a focus of the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, one of the centres of excellence that cooperate closely with NATO and the EU. Canada is an active member and it is a good investment in practical multilateralism.
It has produced a series of reports on the Arctic, including its most recent, focused specifically on the Canadian Arctic. It warns of vulnerabilities, lack of critical infrastructure and socio-economic inequalities. It also points out that “China, in particular, through hybrid tactics combining military and non-military actions, poses a threat to Canada’s Arctic and could exploit regional vulnerabilities to advance its interests to the detriment of Canada’s own.” Its observations complement those of the recent Canadian Senate report, Arctic Security Under Threat: Urgent needs in a changing geopolitical and environmental landscape.

16 May
The Arctic: A Core Canadian Interest
In 1988, Brian Mulroney handed Ronald Reagan a globe, pointed to the Arctic, and said ‘Ron that’s ours. We own it lock, stock, and icebergs.’ Much has changed in the 35 years since, including in the Arctic itself, where climate change, geopolitical competition and shifting security dynamics have fuelled a multilateral rivalry over Arctic sovereignty. As Massey College Public Policy Chair Tom Axworthy writes, the stakes for Canada have never been higher.
(Policy) Today’s analysts and decision makers are still preoccupied with the geography of the Arctic and how it may impact global affairs and national security, especially given the transformations of climate change on both navigability and habitability and after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine heightened global tensions. A 2022 University of Ottawa Task Force on National Security, with prestigious contributors including Vincent Rigby (a former national security and intelligence advisor to Justin Trudeau), for example, calling for “a serious review by Canada of its presence in the Arctic, including its military footprint and capabilities, which have received scant attention over the decades despite considerable government rhetoric to the contrary.”
The Senate Committee on National Security, Defence and Veterans Affairs is currently examining Canadian military preparedness in the Arctic and it will certainly find large gaps between stated objectives and existing capabilities.
This was made clear in April 2023, when The Washington Post produced something of a bombshell as it published a leaked assessment bearing the seal of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, which listed many Canadian military inadequacies including that “significant Arctic capabilities and modernization plans have not materialized.”
A meaningful debate on Canada’s role in the Arctic is long overdue, but we may be finally witnessing its start. Such a debate is of particular importance, given the central place that the circumpolar region occupies in the tapestry of Canada’s national interests.
The Arctic Council came into being in Ottawa in 1996 with one of its most creative features being the formal inclusion of Inuit and Indigenous representatives as “Permanent Participants,” a first in international organizations. The eight Arctic states created working groups of scientists on a host of Arctic issues, met annually in ministerial sessions, promoted treaties on search-and-rescue and oil spill prevention, and led the way in alerting the world to the devastating impact of climate change on the Arctic. It has become the most important international organization focusing on the Arctic with great powers like China and India becoming observers and the European Union wishing to do so.

11-12 May
Arctic Frontiers Abroad: Canada
The event is part of our Arctic Frontiers Abroad portfolio and will bring together experts for discussions on policy, science, innovation and businesses in the High North, with a specific focus on Canada and Norway. This event will promote and highlight further cooperation between the two High North regions, as well as provide a platform for exchanging information and recognizing emerging issues in the fields policy, science, and economic development.
Day 1: Ottawa – Policy, Ocean Development and Innovation. May 11th.
Day 2: Montreal – Science, Sustainability and High North Development. May 12th.
Creating youth links key to driving Canadian-Norwegian cooperation, conference hears
The Friday event in Montreal primarily focused on science, research, and business development and emphasized the importance of full research partnerships with Indigenous communities, where their concerns guiding research projects.
“A lot of ideas look good on paper, but the question is what will it do socially over 10 years?” George Wenzel, a long time Arctic researcher with McGill University said. “Inuit knowledge is experiential knowledge and projects have to be developed slowly.”
John Gyakum, a McGill professor in atmospheric and oceanic sciences, gave closing remarks at the conference, and said as two Arctic countries, closer cooperation on climate will be increasingly important for Canada and Norway in the years ahead.

2 May
Qanittaq Clean Arctic Shipping Initiative gets $91.6 million from Ottawa
(Eye on the Arctic) A project focused on reducing the environmental impacts of maritime transport will launch with $91.6 million from the federal government to work on sustainable Arctic shipping.
The Qanittaq Clean Arctic Shipping Initiative will be led by Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) Canada and Memorial University, located in the Atlantic Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the two bodies announced on Friday.
The initiative will have three main goals:
learn about Inuit shipping needs and keep ships safe in the Arctic while protecting the environment.
develop better and more sustainable ways to operate ships in the Arctic that are also affordable and efficient.
provide evidence to convince national and international policymakers to change Arctic shipping policies
Shipping Initiative to be based in St. John’s and Ottawa
ICC represents the approximately 180,000 Inuit in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka, Russia, of which ICC Canada is one of the national chapters.
The majority of Inuit communities in the Arctic can only be reached by plane, and during the sea-lift season, by boat.
But as climate change makes the region increasingly accessible, the communities have become concerned about the effects of increased shipping traffic on the environment and animal behaviour. Especially given the lack of emergency and response infrastructure, which is often based hours away in the South.
ICC International has had provisional consultative status at the International Maritime Organization since 2021

22 February
Canada’s military tracked Chinese surveillance in the Arctic
(BBC) Canada’s military has said it recently discovered evidence of Chinese surveillance efforts in the Arctic.
The discovery, first reported by Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, has raised questions about China’s activities in the far north.
It comes after a suspected Chinese spy balloon floated through US and Canadian airspace before it was shot down by the US military.

2022

14 September
Navigating Arctic Governance and Cooperation Following Ukraine War
An Interview with Mathieu Boulègue, Senior Research Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme
“We don’t have any form of dialogue with Russia at present, and because there is no confidence to be had with the Kremlin at this stage, there is more space for tactical errors. This dynamic is feeding a lot of insecurity. There are fears of mounting escalation, as well as for the potential degeneration of escalation into wider confrontation.”
(CDA Institute) There is no trust, no confidence, and no dialogue to be had with the Kremlin. We are in a situation that is slowly creating a divergence in terms of the future of Arctic governance, because geopolitics is catching up to this new reality. Compounding all of this are climate and migrant emergencies, and the management of a changing Arctic. Without the biggest player in the room, it makes things even more complicated. This is where we are at this critical juncture of Arctic management. …
What are Russia’s core national interests in the Arctic? Do those interests pose any challenges to Canada’s interests or security?
Russia views the Arctic as a new border to defend. The Arctic zone of the Russian Federation—commonly understood as Russia’s Arctic—is a concept that was left behind in 1990s, because Russia had priorities other than creating a new approach to this region. Russia abandoned its national interest in the Arctic for about fifteen years, until the mid-2000s, when there was a rekindling of interest in Arctic affairs. This renewed interest was a result, not only of energy exploration and exploitation of the Northern Sea Route to ensure passage through the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation, but also for security reasons. From a military security perspective, it’s a simple equation. Climate change is creating a more accessible Arctic. A more accessible Arctic means more human presence, and more human presence means more NATO. There’s always a vindication loop that Russia has—NATO is out to get us, they’re expanding their borders, there will be more North American security to be sought, and therefore less security for Russia.

1 September
Northern Indigenous Guardians initiatives among those to share in Ottawa funding
Three northern Indigenous Guardians initiatives are among the more than eighty that will share in the allocation of $30-million of previously announced funding by Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
“Canada’s conservation goals are only achievable by trusting and recognizing Indigenous traditional roles, knowledge, and science,” Steven Guilbeault said in a statement this week.
“In the spirit of reconciliation, the Government of Canada is committed to supporting Indigenous leadership in conservation, Steven Guilbeault Programs such as Indigenous Guardians are crucial to protecting ecosystems, species, and cultures for future generations.”

25-26 August
NATO chief warns Canada that Russia, China have designs on the Arctic
Trudeau, Anand won’t commit to NATO exercises on Canadian soil
NATO Secretary-General warns of ‘significant Russian military buildup’ in the High North
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has delivered a stark warning about Russia’s and China’s growing presence in the High Arctic, listing several recent steps by Moscow to increase its military strength in the region.
Speaking Friday at a news conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Cold Lake, Alta., Mr. Stoltenberg noted that the shortest path to North America for Russian missiles and bombers is over the North Pole.
“The importance of the High North is increasing for NATO and for Canada, because we see a significant Russian military buildup, with new bases, new weapons systems and also using the High North as a testbed for the most advanced weapons, including hypersonic missiles,” he said.
China is also expanding its reach, he said, declaring itself a “near-Arctic state,” with plans to build the world’s largest icebreaker.
Russian invasion of Ukraine forces Arctic defence back onto Canada’s agenda
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, on Thursday to attend the Canadian military’s largest Arctic training exercise, in what many see as a clear signal that defending Canada’s North is now a top priority for his government.
The visit marks the first time Mr. Trudeau has attended Operation Nanook, which has been held every year since 2007 and involves military aircraft and warships as well as hundreds of Armed Forces members training in Canada’s austere Arctic environment
NATO chief tours Arctic defences as Canada comes under pressure to guard the Far North
Accompanied by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Jens Stoltenberg will get a first-hand look at a North Warning System radar station Cambridge Bay, Nunavut — part of a system due to be modernized as part of a multi-billion dollar refurbishment of NORAD, the North American air defence system.
In an opinion piece published recently in the Globe and Mail, Stoltenberg noted the increasing importance of Canada’s Far North as the West’s relationship with Moscow deteriorates over the war in Ukraine.
“The shortest path to North America for Russian missiles or bombers would be over the North Pole,” the secretary general wrote. “This makes NORAD’s role vital for North America and for NATO.”
The visit is significant because the Liberal government is facing increased pressure from allies to take more ownership of the defence of its northern approaches.

21 May
Canada needs a ‘more consistent’ presence in North to bolster security, Inuit leader says
Small military base would at least serve ‘optics’ purpose, says Duane Smith
(CBC The House) A prominent Inuvialuit leader said Canada must build up a more consistent presence in the Arctic if the country is going to protect its sovereignty in the region.
Duane Smith, chair and CEO of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation — which represents the interests of Inuit in the western Arctic — said the region is the “backdoor into Canada” and his community has been on the “front lines” of Canadian sovereignty.
In an interview with CBC’s The House that aired Saturday, Smith said he had told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that communities in his region were seeing increased presence of research vessels from other countries. He also highlighted instances in which it was Indigenous communities that alerted the government to the presence of foreigners.
The Arctic has become a growing focus for countries like Russia and China, which have invested in northern military bases and assets like icebreakers.
The federal government, meanwhile, says it is committed to ensuring its sovereignty in Canada’s Arctic through investments in new patrol vessels and modernizing North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD).

5 April
A Canadian Arctic Policy for the Indo-Pacific
Jeffrey Reeves, Angela Wang
(Asia Pacific Foundation) Comprising nearly 40 per cent of Canada’s landmass and 162,000 km of its coastline, the Arctic is an essential part of Canada’s national identity and embedded in our history and culture. It is also an area of key strategic importance for Canada, particularly in the context of Canadian sovereignty and competing interests in the region – including those of Indo-Pacific states whose activities, capabilities, and influences in the Arctic are developing disproportionately faster than their North American and European counterparts.
… Canada must look to a more integrated strategic approach, one capable of advancing the country’s national interest across an increasingly complex and, at times, contradictory operational environment. This policy brief from APF Canada identifies areas of overlapping opportunity in the country’s Arctic and Indo-Pacific affairs. It surveys Asia’s predominant Arctic actors – China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea – and maps their Arctic objectives, activities, institutions, and actors
Canada looking closely at Arctic as part of defence spending increase: Trudeau
(CTV) [On Monday] Trudeau and Defence Minister Anita Anand spoke with the premiers of Canada’s three territories to discuss Arctic sovereignty and security.
“The premiers outlined their concerns about the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine and the risks it can pose to Arctic sovereignty,” read a summary of the conversation provided by the Prime Minister’s Office.
The summary also said the premiers “outlined the importance of building healthy communities and strong infrastructure in asserting sovereignty in the North,” adding the group discussed funding for health care, housing and climate change.
Anger Toward Russia Reaches the Arctic
Ambassador Mark Green, President, Director, & CEO, Wilson Center
(Wilson Center) Nominated in February 2022 for a Nobel Peace Prize, the Arctic Council plays a central role in ensuring the peaceful and prosperous future of the region, which feels the effects of climate change more than anywhere else on the planet. Yet as much as the Arctic’s environmental shifts and economic importance demand cooperation, these same factors have made it a hotly competitive sphere, especially for Russia, which owns 53% of the Arctic coastline. Since 2007, the Arctic has been the focus of a Russian strategy to enhance its security, economic prosperity, and to project an image of dominance to its own people and the world. Russia has built a string of 475 military sites over six years along its Arctic frontier, and is seeking to strengthen its control of the Northern Sea Route, a shipping route that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

3 March
Joint Statement on Arctic Council Cooperation Following Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the United States condemn Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and note the grave impediments to international cooperation, including in the Arctic, that Russia’s actions have caused.
We remain convinced of the enduring value of the Arctic Council for circumpolar cooperation and reiterate our support for this institution and its work. We hold a responsibility to the people of the Arctic, including the indigenous peoples, who contribute to and benefit from the important work undertaken in the Council.
The core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, based on international law, have long underpinned the work of the Arctic Council, a forum which Russia currently chairs. In light of Russia’s flagrant violation of these principles, our representatives will not travel to Russia for meetings of the Arctic Council. Additionally, our states are temporarily pausing participation in all meetings of the Council and its subsidiary bodies, pending consideration of the necessary modalities that can allow us to continue the Council’s important work in view of the current circumstances.

2021

24 September
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.

The Russian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council
On 29-30 June, the Arctic Council will convene virtually and in Moscow for the first executive meeting during the Russian Chairmanship (2021-2023). During the meeting, delegates will discuss plans for the action items outlined in the Reykjavik Declaration and initial work to implement priorities of the newly adopted 2021-2030 Strategic Plan. Both documents were adopted by the Ministers of the eight Arctic States during the 12th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in May 2021. The Senior Arctic Officials and Permanent Participant Heads of Delegation will also be briefed on the new work plans of the six Working Groups and Expert Group as outlined in the Senior Arctic Officials’ Report to Ministers, as well as priority initiatives and side events to be considered during the Russian Chairmanship.

12th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting
The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs, participated in the Arctic Council’s 12th Ministerial Meeting on May 20, 2021. Minister Garneau also represented Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada on behalf of the Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs.
Founded in Canada 25 years ago, the Arctic Council remains the pre-eminent forum for cooperation on Arctic issues among Arctic states and Indigenous peoples. At the ministerial meeting, Minister Garneau, announced the establishment of a permanent secretariat for the Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group at Laval University’s Institut Nordique du Québec [Quebec northern institute] in the city of Québec and signed the Ministerial Declaration with his 7 ministerial counterparts.
Reykjavík declaration 2021
Twelfth Ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council

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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