This website will change as a result of the dissolution of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Consult the new Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada home page or the new Indigenous Services Canada home page.
This website will change as a result of the dissolution of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Consult the new Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada home page or the new Indigenous Services Canada home page.
The Discussion guide is also available in Inuktitut.
"The simple fact is that Arctic strategies throughout my lifetime have rarely matched or addressed the magnitude of the basic gaps between what exists in the Arctic and what other Canadians take for granted. Closing these gaps is what northerners, across the Arctic, wanted to speak to me about as an urgent priority."
To achieve a new Arctic Policy Framework resulting in a more coordinated effort by all levels of government, Indigenous groups, industry and other stakeholders to identify issues and possible solutions to meet the challenges and harness emerging opportunities in the Arctic.
Canada is an Arctic nation. As the second-largest Arctic state, our Arctic is an integral part of who we are as a country and the role we play in the wider world. The Canadian Arctic is a vast and diverse region that is home to more than 200,000 people representing Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. The history of the region, and of the Indigenous peoples who have lived there since time immemorial, is one of interdependence, resilience, and achievement in the face of change. Over the past 150 years, the Canadian Arctic has become increasingly diverse, accessible and self-determined.
The last 50 years have been especially transformative. Innovative ways to increase the self-determination of Arctic residents and regional governments have been adopted, including the settlement of modern land claims, the negotiation of self-government arrangements, the devolution of federal jurisdictions and the creation of a new territory (Nunavut) to name just a few major accomplishments.
On August 5, 2016, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced the appointment of Mary Simon as the Minister's Special Representative responsible for leading an engagement and providing advice on a new approach to shared leadership in Canada's Arctic. As a distinguished former diplomat and life-long Inuit leader, Ms. Simon brought the experience and expertise needed to advise the Government of Canada on the most pressing issues facing the Arctic.
Ms. Simon's reports found that Canada's Arctic is facing a period of transformative change but is also burdened by longstanding social and economic challenges. Today, the rapid acceleration of climate change is dramatically affecting the daily lives of Arctic Canadians as well as the region's ecosystems and infrastructure. The Canadian Arctic, she observed, is "shouldering a disproportionate level of impacts because the Arctic is warming at twice the global average rate. I heard repeated accounts of the impact of a warming Arctic on food security, infrastructure, housing, and safety on the land and sea."
At the same time, Ms. Simon emphasized that despite major strides over the past decades in advancing self-determination and self-government, persistent social and economic problems remain in Canada's Arctic. Why, she asked, "does the Arctic continue to exhibit among the worst national social indicators for basic wellness? … Why, with all the hard-earned tools of empowerment, do many individuals not feel empowered and healthy?"
Ms. Simon submitted her interim report in October 2016 and her final report in March 2017. (Copies can also be obtained by writing to ArctiqueEnsemble-ArcticTogether@canada.ca.) Her work is an important step in planning for the sustainable social and economic development of Canada's Arctic.
In December 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a number of initiatives to embrace opportunities and confront challenges in the changing Arctic including a new Arctic Policy Framework to be co-developed with Indigenous, territorial and provincial partners that will replace Canada's Northern Strategy and the Statement on Canada's Arctic Foreign Policy.
The objective of this framework is to provide overarching direction to the Government of Canada's priorities, activities and investments in the Arctic, with a horizon of 2030. The framework will:
The Pan-Territorial Vision for Sustainable Development, released in August 2017 by the Northern premiers, will be foundational to the Arctic Policy Framework, including its underlying principles which reinforce the importance of resource development, economic diversification, improved infrastructure and innovation in building strong territorial economies and increasing self-reliance. Strengthened and diversified economies are central to sustainable community wellness and to Indigenous self-determination. Fostering healthy, vibrant and prosperous communities will require local skill-development investments, which will be imperative to economic diversification and establishing more self-reliant communities. Infrastructure such as highways, harbours, ports, airports, viable energy alternatives and connections to hydroelectric grids are critical for economic diversification and reducing the costs of living for residents. Each of the territorial governments have strong and productive relationships with their local Indigenous governments and organizations. Their participation is vital to the economic development of the territories, and in supporting community wellness.
We are eager to hear from Canada's Arctic residents, and from all Canadians, about their aspirations for the Arctic. This guide provides a starting point for ideas and conversations that will lead to a new Arctic Policy Framework for Canada.
This guide is organized into six themes, which may evolve through discussions with our partners and other stakeholders:
Each section begins with some quick facts, followed by context and objectives that are intended to inform discussion either on the questions provided or more broadly on the themes.
"I feel it is important at this point to remind ourselves of the long history of visions, action plans, strategies and initiatives being devised ‘for the North' and not ‘with the North' … A new Arctic Policy Framework starts with an inclusive, mutually respectful and trustful process that establishes (and keeps to) principles of partnership."
During the coming months, the Government of Canada will work collaboratively with national and regional Indigenous organizations, Indigenous treaty partners and governments, the Governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Manitoba, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador to develop a long-term vision for the Canadian Arctic and Canada's role in the circumpolar Arctic. The intent is to ensure that Arctic residents and governments are at the forefront of policy decisions affecting the future of the Canadian Arctic and Canada's role in the circumpolar Arctic.
The Government of Canada recognizes the extensive work that has already been undertaken by our key partners in developing the priorities for their respective regions. This process will build upon rather than replace this important work. The framework will reflect the unique opportunities and challenges within different regions, while respecting jurisdictional responsibilities and treaty rights. As the territorial premiers noted in their statement of August 31, 2017, the framework has an important role to play "in developing both strong northern communities and developing viable and diversified northern economies."
This new approach to policy development is accompanied by a broader geographic scope of application. While nearly all former federal strategies have focused largely on the territorial North, the framework currently under development will apply to:
The framework will incorporate ideas and input from a variety of sources, including written submissions as well as oral submissions received during regional roundtable sessions with a view to informing the overarching direction of the Government of Canada's priorities, activities and investments in the Arctic.
"No matter who I talked with, the topic of closing infrastructure gaps was often at, or close to, the top of the list to improve socio-economic conditions. The Arctic is unlike any other region of Canada in its infrastructure needs because of its geography and sheer expanse."
The harsh environment, changing weather patterns, short construction/shipping season, lack of building resources and small tax base create significant challenges and risks to building and maintaining infrastructure in the Canadian Arctic. As a result, Canada's Arctic has a significant infrastructure deficit – one that is posing significant challenges to socio-economic growth, emergency management, resource development and the fundamental safety and quality of life of Arctic residents.
Integrated and modern transportation infrastructure is a lifeline for all communities. In the Arctic, community wellness and economic development are limited by the lack of transportation infrastructure. This deficit makes it difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to move people and goods in and out of Arctic communities. Investment in resilient Arctic infrastructure, such as roads, fibre optic cables, airstrips and low impact shipping corridors, will be foundational pieces generating sustainable economic opportunities locally, nationally and internationally. These investments will help to lower the cost of living and operating businesses, and promote the growth of the middle class, in Arctic communities. Other Arctic nations have successfully leveraged public/private partnerships to generate much needed infrastructure, in particular transportation infrastructure. The opportunity to explore innovative approaches to public/private partnerships in the Canadian Arctic aligns with the Government of Canada's public/private partnerships objectives.
Climate change is also accelerating threats to existing infrastructure. Thawing permafrost is directly impacting the integrity of building foundations, roads, runways, pipelines and coastal infrastructure. Considering climate change in infrastructure investments, including retrofits and upgrades, and investing in traditional and natural adaptation solutions will help build resilience, reduce disaster risks and save costs over the long term.
A number of investments have been made in recent years but further targeted infrastructure investments have the potential to contribute to socio-economic development in the region. For example:
"A significant number of conversations I had with leaders and other stakeholders circled back to a central premise: healthy, educated people are fundamental to a vision for sustainable development … and fundamental to realizing the potential of land claims agreements, devolution and self-government agreements."
Arctic communities are close-knit, mutually supportive and strong in Indigenous cultures and practices and distinctively Northern ways of life. These communities, however, also face significant health and social challenges, of which many are historically, geographically and systemically-based.
Many Arctic Canadians are burdened by a legacy of colonialism, including impacts from the Indian Residential School system, the Inuit High Arctic relocation and other sources of intergenerational trauma. Arctic Canadians and their communities face a range of further barriers to well-being, including:
As noted by Ms. Simon in her final report, "the road to healthy, empowered citizens in the Arctic begins and ends with education…education policy in the Arctic must be culturally relevant, adaptive, and flexible." Over the past 40 years, governments and school boards in the Arctic have made progress in fostering north-south educational partnerships and creating made-in-the-Arctic/culturally-appropriate curricula that support Indigenous languages and cultures. But more is needed to ensure that Arctic residents can acquire the skills they need to fully participate in, and benefit from, the growing and increasingly diversified Arctic economy.
The Canadian Arctic is also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. While Canada's temperature increases are outpacing the global average, temperatures are rising even faster in Canada's Arctic and northern areas. Many Arctic residents, especially Indigenous peoples, have a strong connection to the land, water, and air. This connection serves as a source of strength, understanding, and resilience. At the same time, however, it also increases Arctic Canadians' sensitivity to climate change impacts.
There is much work to be done to address the underlying conditions that cumulatively impact the well-being of Arctic people and communities. Investing in people, families and communities, and improving access to quality services, will help address the socio-economic and cultural disparities experienced by Arctic people and communities. Indigenous-led actions, with the support of government and other partners, will play an important role in successful efforts to enhance health, economies, languages and cultures in Arctic communities.
Leveraging responsible economic development to drive skills development, employment opportunities, participation in the economy, early learning and child care and improvements to community infrastructure, including safe, energy efficient, climate resilient and culturally appropriate housing, will be critical components to building strong Arctic communities. Further, addressing chronic health and wellness related issues such as high rates of suicide, high rates of tuberculosis and food insecurity will also be essential.
The Government of Canada recognizes that local decision-making is an essential component of supporting strong Arctic communities. Devolution agreements transferring federal jurisdictions to the territorial governments have already been negotiated and implemented in Yukon (2003) and the Northwest Territories (2014). Similar negotiations are currently underway with the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. The Government of Canada has also negotiated a number of modern treaties and self-government agreements with Inuit, First Nation and Métis peoples in the Canadian Arctic.
"Arctic leaders see the Government of Canada as a partner in finalizing and implementing treaties and land claims, but they want this work completed in a measured and thoughtful way that does not compromise the opportunities related to sustainable development. To achieve this, Arctic leaders must be involved in crafting major decisions."
"…Arctic peoples and their representative organizations and governments are far more preoccupied with issues related to supporting strong families, communities and building robust economies."
Several factors influence economic development in the Arctic region, including:
There are, however, many opportunities that can be leveraged to foster sustainable socio-economic growth in the Arctic region including:
There are also opportunities to leverage infrastructure investments and innovative technologies developed by the private sector to benefit communities. Increasing linkages between Arctic, southern and international businesses will also help reduce capacity gaps and enhance opportunities to develop new markets.
Building strong, sustainable and diversified Arctic economies will require the development and retention of trained Arctic residents to fill the vast array of emerging jobs in the Canadian Arctic which currently relies heavily on a southern fly-in/fly-out workforce. It will also need to support the creation of supplies locally to reduce reliance on products that need to be brought in from the south.
"The next step in the evolution of scientific practice in the Arctic is linking community-driven Arctic research priorities with national policy development to ensure scientific investments benefit communities and answer key questions facing the Arctic. I firmly believe that the foundation of effective decision-making is good information. In the Arctic, that means being committed to placing equal value on Indigenous knowledge and western science. The new Arctic Policy Framework presents an opportunity to take this to its next level."
Western science and Indigenous knowledge have an important role to play in better understanding, responding to and facilitating social, economic, environmental and cultural changes and advancements in the Arctic region (such as physical and mental health, food security, emergency response, sustainable resource management, cold-climate technologies, infrastructure development, transportation, environmental management and climate change monitoring/prediction).
The fragile Canadian Arctic environment is experiencing unprecedented change from the impacts of climate change and other drivers. A better understanding of Arctic ecosystems, and the impacts of climate change on Arctic communities, is needed to inform evidence-based decision making and address emerging issues. Specialized research that includes Indigenous knowledge is required. Strengthened science capacity in the Arctic through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, capacity-building, skills development and state-of-the-art research/monitoring infrastructure will help support both evidence-based decision-making and strong Arctic communities.
Indigenous and non-Indigenous Northerners have also indicated a desire for participation and a greater voice in determining what kind of research priorities governments and other funding bodies support, as well as greater participation and leadership in all aspects of the research process and research agenda, as part of their greater objective toward self-determination. Northerners are eager to ensure that the research being carried out in their backyard is relevant to their lives and their needs.
As a leader in Arctic research, Canada is well positioned to promote and develop new knowledge based on both western science and Indigenous knowledge. Strong partnerships already exist at multiple levels - from individual research projects through multi-stakeholder collaborations. It is essential to ensure that Arctic residents are involved in all stages of the research process including defining research priorities, developing research objectives, conducting and analyzing the research, and disseminating the results to ensure the knowledge generated is informed by, relevant to, and accessible by those living in the Arctic. The keys to establishing shared research goals and ensuring the effective use of Indigenous knowledge are relationships based on equality, mutual respect, and a common commitment to the creation of new knowledge.
"There is a deep body of local knowledge, applied science and experience in the Arctic on the value of these conservation initiatives that can lead policy and practices going forward. There is also a great deal of emerging thinking and practice linking the protection of the environment with the wellness, resilience and adaptability of northern communities."
The Arctic landscape, and its flora and fauna, are essential to the economic, cultural, social, and ceremonial activities which sustain Arctic communities. The environment and biodiversity play an important role in reducing the social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities related to climate change. Yet the Arctic landscape, which is highly sensitive to climate change, is undergoing a period of intense change impacting social structures, economic development, ecosystems and the built environment. Sustainable management, conservation, and restoration of ecosystems, along with the implementation of targeted natural adaptation solutions can be an effective way to protect Arctic communities and help them adapt to climate change.
As the availability of resources found in the Arctic shift due to changing climate and other factors, governments will have to ensure that policies keep pace. Negative environmental impacts on Arctic ecosystems often result from activities that originate outside of the Arctic and the full impacts of climate change are dynamic and challenging to predict. Action taken to support adaptation and ecosystem resilience to current and future climate impacts in vulnerable regions will help Arctic communities, economies and ecosystems endure and thrive in a changing climate.
Arctic communities and particularly Indigenous peoples have a long history of, and deep understanding about adapting, to changes in climate and the land. Indigenous and local knowledge can contribute to the development of new and innovative solutions that support Arctic resilience and benefit the environment and Arctic biodiversity. Through the co-management arrangements set out in modern land claim agreements, Indigenous peoples are working in full partnership with federal, territorial and provincial governments on a variety of environmental management issues, including environmental assessments, land use planning and resource management. Devolution has also supported new opportunities for Arctic residents to work together to responsibly and sustainably manage land, water and natural resources in Yukon and the Northwest Territories for the benefit of current and future generations.
Canada has also demonstrated its commitment to ensuring the economy and environment go hand in hand through key collaborative initiatives such as the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and the Oceans Protection Plan.
"Another common thread in my discussions with leaders was the importance of a shift in thinking about the Arctic as a remote, marginal and sparsely populated region of Canada, to thinking about the Arctic as a representation of who we are as an Arctic nation, linked to a new era in intercultural relations, global science and sustainable development. The Arctic is generating a heightened level of global interest."
The circumpolar Arctic is a region marked by a high-level of international cooperation and possesses a robust network of institutions that support governance of the Arctic. This includes the Arctic Council, which brings together Arctic states, Indigenous Permanent Participants and non-Arctic observer entities. The Arctic Council is complemented by other forums, such as United Nations bodies (such as International Maritime Organization) and meetings of the Arctic Ocean coastal States (known as the A5), who are the leads on decision-making related to Arctic shipping and fisheries. There is also an increasing number of international treaties in place that enhance Arctic cooperation on issues such as scientific cooperation and search and rescue. Canada's bilateral relationships with Arctic and non-Arctic states is another vehicle for advancing circumpolar cooperation.
The circumpolar Arctic faces significant challenges including how to adapt to the impacts of rapid environmental change on its people, traditional ways of life, ecosystems and infrastructure, as well as addressing the environmental, safety and security challenges related to increased interest and activity in the Arctic.
There are also many opportunities facing the Arctic region including pursuing new opportunities for sustainable economic development, communicating to the international community the robust network of international institutions in place for the governance of the Arctic, working with international partners and allies to share information more effectively, and improving our awareness of what is happening in the Arctic. There is also emerging interest to explore options for improved mobility of Arctic Indigenous peoples throughout the circumpolar Arctic.
As global attention continues to shift northwards because of opening access to resources and transportation channels, the Canadian Arctic has the potential to play a significant international leadership role with its co-management systems, self-governance agreements as well as the world-class regulatory regimes that Canadian governments have established to oversee economic and resource development.
There are three ways to participate:
Roundtable sessions with our partners will also be held in each region. Dates and locations will be confirmed with participants.
Thank you for your contributions. They will be consolidated and reflected in a "What We Heard" document that will inform Canada's Arctic Policy Framework.