The Canadian far north is a vital part of our country. It is a place of heritage, identity, and the future. But as the north grows and changes, it is undergoing rapid transformations. Here are some of the biggest challenges facing the region.
Canada’s Norstrat northern strategy focuses on closing gaps in social and economic well-being. The framework addresses employment, health, education, governance, and community infrastructure. It also addresses Indigenous issues and the impact of climate change. In order to achieve these goals, a comprehensive whole-of-government approach is necessary to leverage domestic and international policy levers.
The Government of Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework represents a major shift in direction. The Framework is aimed at resolving gaps between Arctic and Northern peoples, and strengthening the region.
A key element in the co-development of this framework was a broad-based engagement process. A number of foundational documents were developed by public governments, and Indigenous governments contributed their own. Participants highlighted the need to build on these policies and previous strategies. They urged the implementation of land use planning and the full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Canadian Armed Forces have conducted 72 international missions since 1947. Some of these are in the Arctic. In September, the Government of Canada released a new Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, outlining Canada’s strategic approach to the Arctic.
These documents highlight Canada’s evolving relationships with its Northern allies and citizens. They provide a whole-of-government approach to addressing security in the Arctic region.
Canada’s Defence Policy for 2017 specifies new Arctic capabilities. This includes the introduction of a number of Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels, armed sea-borne surveillance, and a satellite system to monitor the Arctic. It also notes the resurgence of major power competition around the world.
The Canadian Arctic has historically been a region of stability. While this continues to be the case, a growing presence of foreign states in the Arctic heightens regional safety concerns.
As the Canadian government continues to develop a northern strategy to address the challenges of shifting dynamics in the North, Inuit voices should be a focus of attention. Inuit knowledge, both traditional and contemporary, has the potential to help shape Canada’s future. But, in order to achieve this, Canadian policymakers need to learn how to better leverage indigenous knowledge in their defence planning. This means recalibrating their approach to the region.
Inuit, along with other Canadian Indigenous communities, are an important part of our national identity. However, Canada’s history is also inextricably linked with the images of the North. In the context of defence policy, this means that Inuit need to be recognized for their contributions, while policymakers need to reciprocate their respect.
There are four major Inuit regions in Canada: Nunavik – Quebec, Nunavut, Inuvialuit, and Nunatsiavut. These territories are all slated to play a role in Canada’s new northern strategy. Each region has rights to wildlife harvesting, land claim agreements with the government, and contributes to the management of water resources.
Climate change is a significant issue for Canada’s northern communities. It impacts food security, ecosystems, and transportation of essential goods. It is also having a disproportionate impact on the health of residents. In addition, it is affecting commercial and industrial activity.
The Arctic is one of the fastest warming areas on Earth. According to the latest Changing Climate Report, the region will experience warming for both high and low emissions scenarios in 2019. However, the Canadian Government plan lacks specific adaptation actions.
The thawing of permafrost in the Arctic is causing changes in the distribution of species, increased wildfires, and other impacts. These changes may make it more difficult to access oil and gas exploration sites.
In Churchill, a small, northern community located just below the 60th parallel, the Town of Churchill is taking action to address climate change. The town is home to more than 50% indigenous people. It is located on the western edge of Hudson Bay. The climate change research being conducted in the area is helping the community to respond.
Challenges to northern economic development
The Canadian Arctic and Northern regions are faced with many challenges. Infrastructure deficits, rising energy costs and limited transportation are just a few of them. This is affecting opportunities for growth and prosperity in the region.
In order to solve these issues, Canada has developed a new framework. The Arctic and Northern Policy Framework outlines a set of policies that address education, health, employment and community infrastructure. These policies were designed to strengthen the economy of Canada’s Arctic and Northern regions.
The framework is an important step forward for the Government of Canada. While this new framework is not yet fully implemented, it is a significant change of direction for the nation.
To better manage its resources, the Government of Canada has established the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. The Agency’s mission is to strengthen the sovereignty of the region while ensuring sustainable economic growth.
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