Aglukkaq: Arctic economic body makes northerners “the decision-makers”
“The people of the Arctic are the world’s Arctic experts”
The new Arctic Economic Council will help northerners become “the decision makers,” Leona Aglukkaq said Sept. 2 in a speech that opened the council’s founding meeting in Iqaluit.
“By working side-by-side with the industry and businesses in the region, we are developing the North for northerners,” Aglukkaq said.
The Arctic Economic Council, or “AEC,” represents the centerpiece of Canada’s Arctic Council chairmanship.
The Iqaluit meeting is closed to the public. Nunatsiaq News obtained a copy of her Sept. 2 speech.
Canada first proposed a standalone, self-supporting circumpolar business forum after assuming the eight-nation Arctic Council’s chairmanship in May 2013.
But that concept has evolved into a body that will be self-governing, but linked to the Arctic Council in many ways.
“By following the program and work of the Arctic Council, the AEC may interact with the Arctic Council on all relevant levels…” says a document the Arctic Council released following a top-level meeting of officials in Yellowknife last month.
Delegates from Canada, the United States, Russia, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland, along with representatives from various circumpolar businesses and Arctic indigenous peoples are expected to endorse that and other principles at this week’s meeting in Iqaluit.
Aglukkaq, who is hosting the Iqaluit gathering with Nunavut premier Peter Taptuna, said the AEC is unique for three reasons.
First, the new body sets up a business-to-business network that lets them share best practices and technology “for the benefit of northerners.”
Two, she said the economic council will act as a link between business and government.
“Through the AEC, businesses from across the Arctic will be able to inform the work of the Arctic Council, and vice versa,” she said.
Third, the AEC will include indigenous peoples in its decision-making, Aglukkaq said.
“By doing this we make northerners the decision makers which is completely appropriate as these decisions affect them directly,” saying also that “the people of the Arctic are the world’s Arctic experts.”
Delegates from the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Saami Council, Gwich’in International and the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North are expected to attend this week’s Iqaluit meeting.
Business representatives include Tom Paddon, the CEO of Baffinland Iron Mines Corp., Ingmar Haga, the managing director of Agnico-Eagle Finland, and Andrey Shiskin, vice president of Russia’s Rosneft Oil Co.
This, she said complements domestic efforts to achieve sustainable development.
In her speech, Aglukkaq took another swipe at Greenpeace, accusing them and other groups of exploiting Aboriginal peoples for their own purposes.
“These groups do not base their campaigns on what is in the best interest of northerners, they don’t even base their campaigns on science. They base them on what their agendas are,” she said.
Although she didn’t mention Greenpeace by name, she ridiculed a commentary they published recently in Nunatsiaq News and other newspapers that apologizes for the damage inflicted by their campaigns against the seal hunt.
“An apology is nice but in this case it doesn’t cut it. No letter to the editor will ever undo the damage done through this campaign,” Aglukkaq said.
In explaining Canada’s overarching theme for the Arctic Council, “Development for the people of the North,” she said that means “the well-being and prosperity of northerners has to come first.”
And she said Canada demonstrated this by appointing her, and Aboriginal person from the North, to the federal cabinet following her election to the House of Commons in 2008.
“Canada has made a very loud statement about the importance that we place upon the traditional knowledge of northerners. Further, it highlights the importance we place in allowing northerners to make decisions about their future,” she said.