Nunavut MP fleshes out “overarching theme” for Canada’s Arctic Council work
Canada chairmanship to focus on “development for the people of the North”
In speech given Jan 21 in Tromsø, Norway, Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq confirmed that Canada’s overarching theme for its upcoming chairmanship of the Arctic Council will be dubbed “Development for the People of the North.”
“I heard a clear message during all of my domestic and international consultations: the well-being and prosperity of people living in the North must be at the forefront of Canada’s Arctic Council priorities,” Aglukkaq said.
Aglukkaq made the remarks in a keynote speech before an audience of Nordic politicians and academics gathered at the University of Tromsø, near the start of a big conference on Arctic development and marine issues called Arctic Frontiers.
In the speech, Aglukkaq said Canada will work with other Arctic Council states to foster “economic growth, strong and sustainable northern communities, and healthy ecosystems.”
This, in turn, means Canada will emphasize relationships with circumpolar businesses, oil spill prevention, better guidelines for cruise ship operators and reducing “short-lived” contributors to climate change, such as black carbon.
Canada’s Arctic Council focus breaks down into three “sub-themes,” Aglukkaq said.
• Responsible Arctic resource development
Aglukkaq said this means that resource development must be done in a sustainable way, so that the “land, water and animals that many northern people still depend upon are not negatively impacted.”
And she said that Canada would continue work begun under Sweden’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council to improve the relationship between the council and the business sector.
“Businesses in the Arctic have the experience including lessons learned and best practices, in many areas important to circumpolar region,” Aglukkaq said.
At the same time, she said Canada is “determined” that northern communities will benefit from the current resource boom.
• Safe Arctic shipping
Aglukkaq said this will include work on oil spill prevention, which she described as “essential.”
“An oil spill from one of the many ships that will soon be crossing the Arctic waterways as the shipping season extends, could have serious consequences for the environment and the livelihoods of Northern people,” Aglukkaq said.
Aglukkaq also said Canada wants to develop guidelines for Arctic tourism and for cruise ship operators.
“This work will support the new Arctic search and rescue agreement signed by all Arctic Council states in Greenland in 2011,” she said.
• Sustainable circumpolar communities
On the environment, Aglukkaq said the Arctic Council should focus on helping people adapt to climate change, “including by sharing best practices.”
“My family, friends and all northerners are facing new challenges as a result of the impacts of climate change,” Aglukkaq said.
She also said Arctic Council states and participants should work together on reducing the prevalence of “climate forcers” like black carbon, which accelerate the rate of climate change in the Arctic.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Aglukkaq as minister responsible for the Arctic Council and as ambassador to the Arctic Council in August 2012.
“[T]he appointment of someone who was born and raised in the Arctic to this newly created role reflects the importance placed upon the special knowledge and experience that people of the North can bring to the table,” Aglukkaq said in her speech.
Canada will assume the Arctic Council chairmanship in May 2013 and will hold it until 2015.
Aglukkaq also played up the strong connections between Norway and Gjoa Haven, her home community.
There she viewed exhibits dedicated to Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer who spent two winters trapped in the ice at Gjoa Haven.
“I was thrilled to look upon the faces of my ancestors in the wonderful photos taken by a very famous Norwegian, who I’m sure some of you may know — Roald Amundsen,” Aglukkaq said.
She pointed out that Amundsen learned essential knowledge from the Netsilik Inuit who lived in Gjoa Haven area that helped him navigate the Northwest Passage between 1903 and 1906, and later reach the South Pole, in 1911.
“It’s safe to say that people who live in the Arctic are experts in what it takes to survive and thrive in the region,” Aglukkaq said.