FAQs on Actions being taken under the Canada-US Joint Arctic Statement
1. What was announced?
The Prime Minister announced a series of measures to ensure a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem. This includes low-impact shipping, sustainable fisheries, and science-based resource management. Today’s measures will advance the objectives of the Canada-US Joint Statement on Climate, Energy and Arctic Leadership.
2. What exactly are the measures?
- A new process to build an Arctic Policy Framework co-developed with Indigenous, territorial and provincial partners, that will replace Canada’s Northern Strategy;
- A second phase of northern engagement by Minister Bennett’s Special Representative, Ms. Mary Simon, to further inform the government’s approach to Shared Arctic Leadership.
- A 1-year project working with northerners to build a vision and a plan to build up abundant Arctic fisheries and jobs for Northerners;
- Investments that will enable Northern communities to acquire basic marine infrastructure and safety equipment to help sea-lifts and community re-supply operations;
- A dedicated 5-year project to engage Northern communities in developing a shared governance and management model for the Northern Marine Transportation Corridors and Arctic marine shipping, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible, including respecting modern northern treaties;
- Additional Marine Safety and Security inspector jobs to ensure all vessels operating in the Canadian Arctic meet all marine shipping and navigation safety requirements;
- Direct support to establishing training and certification programs for ships operating in polar waters at Canada’s Northern Marine School, including a new transfer payment program to support Northern and Indigenous people entering marine jobs (crew members for the Canadian Coast Guard, Marine Safety and Security inspectors for Transport Canada, and workers for the marine sector at large);
- Reaffirming the creation of a new Coast Guard Auxiliary unit in the Arctic, including new funding for Northern communities to purchase boats and emergency response equipment;
- Reaffirming increased icebreaking services by the Canadian Coast Guard, to ensure safe passage of vessels through Arctic waters;
- Reaffirming extended coverage of hydrographic charting and navigational information to Canada’s 23 highest priority ports and waterways with significant coverage in the Arctic;
- Launching a new process with Northern and Indigenous partners to explore options to protect the "last ice area" within Canadian waters, in a way that benefits communities and ecosystems;
- Reaffirming commitment to complete a plan and timeline to deploy innovative renewable energy and efficiency alternatives to diesel in the Arctic;
- Announcing all of the Canadian Arctic waters as indefinitely off limits to new offshore oil and gas licences, to be tested every 5 years by a science-based review taking into account marine and climate change science.
- Announcing a 1-year consultation with existing offshore oil and gas permit holders on their interests;
3. Does implementation of the Joint Statement commitments remain relevant given the current shift in American leadership?
Yes, the initiatives outlined in today’s announcement remain relevant. The overall objective is to support Canada’s commitments to reconciliation and renewed partnerships, strong Arctic communities, sustainable Arctic economies, acting within the realities of climate change, and ensuring a healthy Arctic environment.
4. Why is the Government suspending the issuance of new oil and gas licenses in the Arctic offshore?
This is due to the irreplaceable value of Arctic waters for Indigenous and Northern communities’ subsistence and cultures. The vulnerability of communities and the supporting ecosystems to an oil spill, as well as the unique logistical, operational, safety and scientific challenges to oil extraction and spill response in Arctic waters also represent unprecedented challenges.
5. What will happen to existing Arctic offshore oil and gas licence holders?
Existing licences in the Arctic offshore are not impacted by today’s announcement. Exploratory licences may accede to Significant Discovery within their existing permit timelines. The Minister of Natural Resources Canada and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs will engage with oil and gas licence holders over the next year to discuss their interests.
6. Will the Government extend the terms of existing licences, as requested by industry?
Existing licences in the Arctic offshore have not been impacted by the December 20th announcement. Existing licence expiry dates will remain in effect while the Government of Canada undertakes a consultation process with oil and gas licence holders over the next year to discuss their interests. Should stakeholders raise licence extension issues during the consultations, the Government of Canada will take their feedback into account to inform next steps.
7. How will this decision affect the social and economic development of Arctic communities, given the importance of the resource sector?
There is currently limited offshore activity at present. Today's announcement will not have a significant impact on local and regional economies.
We anticipate that the Arctic Policy Framework, as well as marine shipping and fishing announcements made today, will directly benefit Arctic communities.
8. What are the Government’s plans to advance innovative renewable energy and efficiency alternatives to diesel in the Arctic?
Budget 2016 committed $10.7 million over two years, starting in 2016-17, to implement renewable energy projects in off-grid Indigenous and northern communities that rely on diesel and other fossil fuels to generate heat and power.
Further plans and timelines are necessary and are being developed in a whole-of-government approach, and in discussion with Indigenous and Northern partners.
Part of this plan includes the Responsible Energy Approach for Community Heat and Electricity program. The goal of Northern REACHE is to reduce diesel fuel use for heating and electricity by increasing the use of local renewable energy sources and energy efficiency in northern communities in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut.
9. Where is the "last ice area"?
The "last ice area" is a marine and terrestrial area covering Canada’s high Arctic islands (north of Lancaster Sound) and the northern portion of Greenland and the North Pole.
10. Why is the "last ice area" Important?
The high Arctic is the only region that is expected to retain summer sea ice until 2050. As permanent ice cover recedes, the "last ice area" will be essential for the communities that depend on ice-dependent species for food, shelter and cultural use. Scientific study has yet to be done substantially in these areas.
11. How will protection of the "last ice area" contribute to Canada’s current conservation commitments?
Specifics around timing of designation and total protected area would be determined through scientific assessment, consultation and international cooperation. Given the remoteness of the area and limited scientific understanding, protection of this area could be a longer term process that will extend beyond the year 2020. We remain committed to achieving Canada’s current marine commitments of 5% by 2017 and 10% by 2020.
12. How will the "last ice area" be protected?
Protection of the "last ice area" would require both international and domestic coordination.
Within Canada, both Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Parks Canada Agency have complementary mandates to establish and manage protected areas. Both organizations will work together in collaboration with northern partners to better understand this region and to identify marine and terrestrial strategies and management options that could be used to protect the "last ice area".
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