Circumpolar affairs and INAC

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) plays a key role in Canada's work with other Arctic nations.

As lead federal department for the North, INAC has responsibility for:

INAC also plays an important role in the promotion of circumpolar cooperation among the eight Arctic countries formally through Canada's Northern Strategy and soon through Canada's new Arctic Policy Framework. INAC works to strengthen governance and improve the quality of life in Canada's North through:

Arctic Council

While Global Affairs Canada (GAC) leads and coordinates Canadian participation in the Arctic Council, INAC works with the council, territorial and provincial governments, and Northern Indigenous peoples.

Many council activities focus on building capacity in northern Indigenous and non-indigenous communities in areas such as culture, health, the economy and environment.

INAC works to advance these shared interests by:

Bilateral relationships

INAC is engaged in a number of bilateral agreements that foster circumpolar cooperation and promote Canadian priorities. Strong bilateral ties are maintained with Canada's circumpolar neighbours in collaboration with Indigenous peoples and Northerners to ensure that they are well-positioned to take advantage of international opportunities which will contribute to the economic development of the North.


The Canada-Norway Dialogue was established in 2006 and is an ongoing dialogue that identifies opportunities to strengthen cooperation between Canada and Norway on issues pertaining to the High North. This semi-annual forum fosters an exchange of perspectives and best practices which are mutually beneficial to both countries.

Canada-Russian Federation

INAC contributes to a whole-of-government process led by GAC towards the engagement of Russia on Arctic issues. INAC's long-standing communication with Russia has been centered on:

  • the sharing of best practices
  • capacity-building
  • governance sustainable development

The activities were conducted within the framework of INAC's Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation launched in 2007. Key highlights of the bilateral cooperation with the Russian Federation include:

  • facilitating North-to-North partnerships and networks with territorial and provincial governments and Indigenous organizations
  • building capacity of Canada's northerners to participate in circumpolar cooperation
  • capacity-building and sharing best practices with Russian government partners and Indigenous organizations in the areas of sustainable development and governance
  • promoting business ties between Canadian and Russian northerners

Canada-United States of America

Canada and the United States work together on a wide range of Indigenous and Northern issues.  In 2010, INAC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States Department of the Interior to enhance cooperation in a number of areas, including:

  • policy and legislation experience
  • socio-economic development of Indigenous peoples and the North
  • northern environment and sustainable development 
  • capacity-building through partnerships
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