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?
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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