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28 Mar Canada’s (geo) politics in the Arctic

MOVING FORWARD, GOVERNING FOR A SECOND MANDATE

This article is part of the series of the Centro Studi Italia Canada dedicated to in-depth studies on key issues of Ottawa’s foreign policy, sensitive agendas whose governance could characterize the second Trudeau mandate.


The Canadian Arctic Strategy is increasingly connected to policies to mitigate the effects of climate change and to the theme of reconciliation with indigenous peoples. It also does not disregard the role assumed by the Arctic in international politics.

Laura Borzi’s analysis raises a question: does the significant change in approach and political tone also corresponds to a change in the substantial elements of Canadian Arctic politics?

 

Laura Borzi*

 

“The inevitable” International policy

As usual, international policy was not the key issue in the Canadian election debate, but quite the opposite.

During the last campaign for the federal elections in October 2019, the traditional appointment on the theme between the contenders, the Munk Debate, was even canceled, leaving the dossiers of international politics out of the political arena and focusing solely on the internal issues.

A luxury, or rather a lack of perspective, which can now be granted only in the election campaign, except to resume the discussion in the post-election speech.

In fact, it is no longer postponable to elaborate one’s own vision of international relations and the definition of a role on the world stage, taking into account the limits and advantages of one’s geography.

In fact, Canada has long faced a global scenario where it will be progressively more complicated and risky, but for this reason also more profitable, to play the traditional role of medium power.

Among the reasons:

  • the fluidity of the evolution of the geopolitical system with the return of competition between states and the questioning of power relations;
  • the fragmentation of power;
  •  the fragility of international institutions;
  •  the weakening of western domination, westlessness.

To trace the reference context, the words of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoken at The 2020 Munich Security Conference appear incisive: An influential nation but not able, as a single country, to move the dialogue on world affairs[1].

In an era of great complexity and planetary interconnection, the traditional boundaries between internal and external issues have become progressively more porous.

 

The plane being hit over Teheran

2020 began with the shooting down in Iran of a Ukrainian plane (Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752) by Iranian missiles, which caused 176 victims, of whom 138 were Canada as their final destination.

The health emergency of Coronavirus

The recent and current biological threat of Covid-19 is a global health crisis with an insidious, invisible, ubiquitous enemy that brings with it equally generalized economic and financial repercussions. For Canada, the interim report of the OECD predicts a drop in GDP of 0.3% compared to last November[2].

Climate Change

Another urgent global issue and one of the cornerstones of the liberal campaign is climate change. On several occasions, Trudeau called it an existential threat to humanity, with its repercussions on various political, local and world levels, and with pressing economic and human security aspects: according to scientific data we only have a decade to find solutions for the planet. 

 

Trudeau 2015 Vs Trudeau 2019

In 2015 Trudeau had promised a return of Canada to the international scene and the Canadians had brought him to the government with a significant majority.

In the last election of 2019, Trudeau found himself once again the winner, but at the helm of a minority government with the initial hopes and enthusiasm somewhat attenuated by the tasks of real politics, against the background of public opinion increasingly skeptical of politicians and rulers.

First, breaking with the predecessor’s projection policy of conservative S. Harper, with Trudeau we returned to the traditional political approach with:

  •  the “reintegration of Canada in the fight against climate change”;
  • a more active participation in multilateralism and initiatives that showed the change in the country’s foreign policy.

Of progressive and internationalist matrix, the re-elected PM is facing today all those dossiers that are permanently on the Canadian ministers’ desk:  

  • safety and economy
  • National unity
  • relations with the United States, the “inevitable” ally by geography with the sharing of a double border, the one in the south, the longest and most defenseless in the world, and in the north with Alaska, in the Arctic.

These topics are followed by political priorities, which for the liberals during the first term were the middle class, reconciliation, and commitment on the international scene.

In the December 2019 Throne Speech, Governor General Julie Payette illustrated the government’s five priorities, moreover in continuity with the themes of the previous five-year period:

  1. strengthening of the middle class
  2. safety of Canadian citizens in relation to arms possession legislation
  3. battle against climate change
  4. walking the road of reconciliation with indigenous peoples
  5. Positioning Canada for success in an uncertain world

The last three issues also have an important dimension for Northern politics, for the Arctic, left a little on the margins of the debate in the context of the last two election campaigns.

At least apparently. It is enough to consider the enormous dossier of climate change, with its load of economic, political and security challenges in the broadest sense of the term, to immediately enter the North in the perspective of the most pressing political challenges.

 

Canada’s (geo) politics in the Arctic

So let’s start with the analysis of Canadian Arctic politics for two reasons.

  1. First of all because it was updated last September. In a sense, it is the first foreign policy issue to turn to. It allows us to verify in what terms the perspective and attention of Ottawa have changed in a decade in which the Arctic has become increasingly the subject of worldwide attention.
  2. Secondly, the Arctic not only constitutes for Canada the geographical figure of the identity dimension of the country, but remains a fundamental dossier since it contains a multiplicity of aspects of the past and future political path.

Among these, a noteworthy concept of sovereignty in the North should be highlighted (e.g. navigation rights, Northwest Passage, continental shelf). Not as a final aspiration but as a tool to be used for the national good and the public interest.

The Canadian Arctic is facing countless social, economic, environmental and safety challenges.

On the front line of climate change, which is three times higher than the average for the rest of the planet here and which alters the marine and terrestrial environment at an alarming rate, dilemmas and tensions emerge.

 

On the one hand, the possibility of expansion of the traditional economy, on the other, the need to stop harmful emissions to reduce climate change, of which the North of the world is not only a barometer but above all a victim.

Extremely dynamic and unpredictable international relations, the correlation between an Arctic more accessible due to climate and technological possibilities, the global tensions between Washington and Moscow (in financial partnership with China) make the circumpolar environment an area more “contestable” than in the past , not automatically extraneous to tensions that originate elsewhere.

Ten years after Harper’s Government Strategy, Canada’s Northern Strategy, our North Our heritage Our Future (2009), the cumulative effect of the many internal and international pressures has produced a whirlwind of economic, identity and security challenges and the need for a new in-depth debate on the matter.

Ottawa is called to demonstrate renewed leadership based on the vision of a strong, dynamic, prosperous and sustainable Canadian Arctic approach to the rest of Canada, as well as internationally, in order to best express the exercise of sovereignt.

Canada has not always managed governance in the North in a uniform manner, with results that showed a kind of slowness in adapting to external and internal challenges.

 

“A profound change of direction” is what the new arctic policy summarized in the document issued last September proposes. 

The main message is that the inhabitants of the North will play a leadership role in the development and implementation of the policies that concern them.

 

2019-2030: the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework

After a period of time processing at least four years, only on the eve of the electoral campaign for the federal elections of 2019, on September 10 to be precise, was released the new document Arctic and Northern Policy Framework[3] (ANFP) that constitutes the platform of Canadian politics that will guide Ottawa’s action until 2030.

 

 

 

Issued by the Department of the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs it replaces the Strategy for the North (2009) and the foreign policy statement of the following year.

The timing raised some doubts, since the document should have been circulated for some time: Trudeau had promised it after the 2015 election.

Its publication then took place “in extremis”, without being preceded by an official announcement and without, for example, going to the North.

However, on the one hand, a failure to publish by autumn 2019 would have resulted in a broken election promise, ending up negatively affecting the party that had taken on the commitment to renew Arctic politics. On the other hand, even ostentatious visibility could also have been criticized and exploited in function of the election campaign.

Regardless of the outcome of the ballot box, which ended up rewarding the liberals again, the work started on a communicative level as a new approach to Northern issues could be read as a sort of securing the program, as a legacy to be passed on to anyone would have had the task of leading the country in the future.

How did we get to the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework?

 

Arctic – Climate change – Rights of indigenous peoples

As noted, during the 2015 election campaign and again in 2019, however, questions regarding the Arctic remained in the background, only to arise when attention grew on the defense of the environment but also on reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

This circumstance was already a premise on the modalities through which one would have posed oneself on Northern issues. A relationship based on the recognition of rights to respect, cooperation and partnership.

Trudeau said:

No relationship is more important to me and to Canada that the one with indigenous people”.

 

Img Source – Attribution: Ansgar Walk / CC BY-SA

 

These concepts were expressed in the mandate letters to the various Ministers and reaffirmed in this way in December 2019[4].

Along the same lines, in May 2016 the Prime Minister announced support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples[5], on which the Conservative Government has shown hesitation in relation to the possibility of accepting a free prior and informed consent by indigenous peoples on issues that concern them.

With regard to the Arctic agenda, therefore, the PM’s first moves revealed a preference for considering internal issues, directing attention to the resilience of local communities, without neglecting aspects of international politics that conform to Canadian values and interests.

The choice of liberals, even if it does not give indigenous peoples a real veto on the individual projects that concern them, still represents a sign of attention to ensure their full participation in Canadian political life.

Canada is back is the slogan under which the new government wants to bring about a change in the general political tone.

On closer inspection, the issues are inexorably intertwined and in a way superior to the past, with the increasingly significant presence of actors outside the area.

The will of the new PM has been since his election for a return of the country to the international scene in terms of efforts to combat climate change.

Trudeau accused his predecessor of failing to take action in this regard and making economic interests prevail over environmental protection.

Active participation in the Paris Agreement (COP 21, 2015) was significant for the definition of the change of course in foreign policy, with the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to be implemented in concert with the international community.

It has become aware of the limits of Canadian hard power, repudiating the neo-conservative footprint of a foreign policy conducted beyond its means and, bilaterally, Canada has found a common feeling in Obama’s America.

 

The most important relationship for Ottawa remains that with the United States.

 

On the climate issue, a staple is the U.S. Canada Joint Statement on the climate change environment and leadership in the Arctic[6] of March 2016.

The parties have drawn a common path for the Arctic made of bilateral cooperation.

Action on the Arctic, seen as the front line of climate change, is divided into four fundamental objectives:

  1. Conservation of biodiversity through a decision-making process based on scientific data.
  2. Collaboration with the governments of the Arctic territories.
  3. Building a sustainable economy based on scientific data. Commercial activities will have to be carried out ensuring the highest environmental safety standards, including global objectives on climate change and respect for rights and agreements with indigenous peoples. The navigation routes established must be of low environmental impact and cooperation between the coastguards increased. It is also considered essential to pursue an international agreement to prevent unregulated fishing in the Arctic ocean[7].
  4. Support for Arctic communities to increase their resilience and well-being, respect the rights and territories of indigenous peoples whose presence is fundamental to support territorial claims.

 

Essentially, both countries intend to pursue a partnership in order to support and realize the social, cultural and economic potential of the northern communities.

 

In line with the objectives of the Declaration and with a certain alternation of actions in foreign and internal policy which are typical of the modalities for advancing the Arctic policy, an equally important element was placed in November 2016 with the Oceans Protection Plan[8].

This tool is aimed at improving the maritime security system with investments aimed at making refueling operations faster, safer and more efficient for remote communities with an investment of 1.5 billion dollars.

The government is committed to expanding the number of auxiliary units of the Canadian coast guard to increase the response capacity to emergencies and accidents, and a dilation of the operating season of the Coast Guard in the Arctic

The plan harmonizes with a broader governmental approach to shipping safety and economic development.

Also in this document, the emphasis is on building a partnership with indigenous peoples, in particular with communities living on the coasts.

This partnership with local communities represents a sort of model for territorial and federal partners for economic investments and improvement of safety conditions in general.

In December 2016, a Joint Declaration Trudeau Obama[9]  tried to carry on the speech started in March with an emphasis on soft security, i.e. issues of human safety, environmental protection, use of indigenous culture and science.

In this circumstance, however, the two leaders, announcing a moratorium on offshore energy extraction activities, had failed to consult the local governments in this regard, which had in turn reacted with some indignation, especially in the territories of the north west.

This “hiccup” is also significant in the numerous contradictions affecting the economy of the North.

 

The dilemma is between those who applaud the possibility of expansion of the traditional economy and those who tried to stop harmful emissions to curb climate change of which the Arctic is not only a world barometer but above all a victim.

 

While Canada continued the moratorium on the development of oil and gas in the Arctic, the Trump presidency did everything possible to change course on these issues with respect to the policies of the previous administration.

On the heels of the interaction between statements and commitments in a bilateral context and domestic policy intent, in December 2016, Trudeau announced his intention to develop a new political framework for the Arctic in collaboration with the North.

 

Prime Minister Trudeau announces new protections for the High Arctic to boost climate change resiliency and create opportunities for Inuit ( – Iqaluit, Nunavut – Photo by Adam Scotti)

 

The collaboration also benefited from the appointment made in July of the Inuit leader Mary Simons as a special representative of the Minister of the Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennet.

Simons, a figure already known for his attention to the cause of the Inuit rights, had the role of exploring the vision of the inhabitants of the North and providing the Federal Government with their point of view regarding the preservation of the environment and the objectives of sustainable development.

Her criticism of Harper’s “militaristic” vision led in October 2016 to a document focusing on the environment and human security and an interim report and then to a document in March 2017 which identified the issue in political, socio-economic and cultural challenges of greater urgency or the need to overcome the gap between the Arctic and the rest of the country[10].

Closing this gap in terms of quality of life if achieved could constitute an accelerated road towards reconciliation.

Finally, the Pan Territorial Vision is a prodromal to the new Arctic strategy, a 2017 document from territorial governments where the development of innovation resources, infrastructure for the construction of strong regional economies are reaffirmed as a priority.

In summary, this is the political process and the conceptual premises that led to the drafting of a new chapter in the partnership between Ottawa and the indigenous population and, more recently, to the issue of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework (ANPF).

 

The contents of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework (ANPF)

In the past fifty years, no region of the country has undergone a political development of magnitude and rapidity comparable to what happened in the Arctic (M.Simons, 2017).

In this sense, the term Framework underlines the multiple challenges and issues that the inhabitants of the North are called to face such as:

  • the impacts of climate change;
  • poverty, housing shortages and inequalities;
  • health and food safety.

The new text is also original in its form: it is not a strategy proper, but a framework for Northern and Arctic Canadian politics, the objectives of which will make it possible to guide the investments and activities of the federal government in the region until 2030

A profound change has been made in the approach to the Arctic, resulting in a collaborative process that has seen the active participation of the peoples of the area.

It starts from the observation that to date policies from Ottawa have not produced effective results.

Therefore, we move from consultation to active collaboration, that is, Arctic residents will have to outline the future of the region.

This initiative therefore has among the purposes of advancing the reconciliation process.

In this sense, a crucial element is the drafting of chapters by the indigenous peoples through which they themselves turn to Canadians and the rest of the world.

The level of collaboration between populations and the federal government has been innovated.

The text is the result of 16 rounds of consultations across Canada and the contribution of 25 indigenous organizations representing Inuit, First Nations Mètis and three provincial Governments (Manitoba, Quebec and Terra Nuova Labrador).

The government also made great use of sub-national actors, who contributed with their vision, producing documents: for example by the governments of Nunavut and the territories of the North West. A chapter written by 3 territorial governments and one from the largest Inuit organization, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

The emphasis on collaborative governance starts from the observation that the problems of the North have been identified by Ottawa with little participation by local populations.

This has often led to problem definition incorrectly or to highlight incorrect priorities and ineffective responses to the many challenges facing the region

Scrolling through the long first chapter you will find the issues and problems brought to the attention of the country by those who in various ways have approached the Arctic in recent years.

Challenges and opportunities of the impacts of climate change on society, economy, culture and well-being of populations are indicated. Populations to which the government has already moved over the years with some initiatives, referred to throughout the Framework, as to conceptually link the projects already undertaken in this regard with future political actions.

  • How to deal with all the issues in active collaboration with local partners is the common thread running through the whole document, which is strongly affected by the preparatory work started since 2015 that has been mentioned so far.
  • Infrastructures, strong, diversified and sustainable economies, protection of the environment and preservation of biodiversity, the need to adopt more robust measures to tackle climate change not only by Canada but also internationally.
  • Overall and competitive world context, the Arctic must be safeguarded as an area of peace and cooperation that has its pivot in the Arctic Council, a privileged place for solving problems by responding to the need to concentrate so that the voice of the natives is strengthened Arctic.
  • For the issues of security and defense, with the transforming role of climate change, there are growing needs for environmental protection and search and rescue. Again, the need for a pan-governmental approach is underlined. In this sense, an increased military presence is considered an essential measure and in particular the Rangers. The Rangers are the “eyes and ears” of the FFAA, they constitute an important presence in the region and represent a “flexible tool inexpensive and culturally inclusive to show the flag” (P. Whitney Lackenbauer 2015). Therefore, an improvement in their training and effectiveness is hoped for.

Given these premises, the Framework goes on to enumerate some objectives to be achieved in the next decade. Date queste premesse, il Framework passa ad enumerare alcuni obiettivi da raggiungere nel prossimo decennio.

 

The objectives of the Framework

 

An infographic showing framework partners, goals, key milestones and next phase.

 

Canadian Arctic and Northern Indigenous People are resilient and healthy

Among the reasons for the gap with respect to the rest of the country, the following are highlighted:

  •  the housing shortage
  • a low level of education
  • a high rate of imprisonment and unemployment
  • life expectancy 4/5 times lower than in the rest of the country
  • women who are more victims of violence or violent death than what happens in the South as revealed by the final report of the 2019 National Inquiry. Particularly important for liberals, who have made the promotion of gender equality one of the pillars of their program since 2015

Among other things, efforts are made to eliminate poverty and eradicate food shortages, reduce suicides, close the educational gap, combat forms of violence against indigenous women, adopt appropriate approaches to justice, but, obviously, the achievement of this goal it relates to other more general purposes, such as economic development, security, reconciliation.

 

Strong, sustainable, diversified and inclusive local and regional economies

The issues are complicated by the fact that everywhere in Arctic, given the extreme climatic conditions, every investment requires a high technological level and substantial investments.

Economic development in the region is slowed down by higher costs due to difficult climatic conditions, low population and limited infrastructure 

The participation of the locals in the management of resources is a key element, but it is also essential to stimulate the growth of other sectors for a valid economic diversification, aiming at the enormous potential of tourism, fishing and culture.

All economic possibilities subject to further transformations and potential, to the extent that climate change will change the environment of the North

This will also contribute to the growth of the middle class, one of the fundamental objectives of the liberal agenda for the whole country.

 

Source: Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

 

Strenghthened infrastructure that closes gaps with other regions of Canada

The strengthening of infrastructures is therefore considered essential and in particular the following objectives are set:

  • bridging the deficit in terms of transport and connectivity and corridors for energy transport
  • increase infrastructure and multimodal transport operations to connect communities to Canadian and international economic opportunities
  • improvement of access to essential services, strengthening of infrastructure, that is, at the community level also in the sense of social infrastructure.

The government highlights a $ 190 million loan for the expansion of the local maritime and air infrastructure.

In fact, through the National Trade Corridors Fund, important projects for Nunavut have been conceived, such as the Grays Bay Port and Road project[11] which, if completed, could constitute a sort of game changer for the territory that would thus be connected to the rest of the country.

Among the strategies considered essential therefore emerge:

  • determine which projects will have priority. During the mobilization process, the communities expressed not only the need for greater funding from the Federal Government, but also the desire to create partnerships, in order to be able to play a more active role in investments and infrastructures.
  • Any new infrastructure should be accompanied by strengthening local capacities to maintain it, thus stimulating economic prosperity at the local level.

 

Knowledge and understanding guides decision-making

The Arctic region is of great importance from a scientific point of view, in particular as regards the issue of climate change.

The aim is to ensure that both the heritage of indigenous knowledge and science guide decisions in the Arctic.

Social sciences are also important in responding to the pressing needs of communities and, on an international scale, it is necessary to facilitate a more solid collaboration between States on research and polar science with the inclusion of indigenous knowledge.

 

An infographic showing framework partners, goals, key milestones and next phase.

 

Canadian Arctic and northern ecosystems are resilient and healthy

The average temperature in the Canadian Arctic has risen 2/3 times faster than the world average. This change has created immense pressure on communities, ecosystems and infrastructure in the Northern Arctic.

Clearly, the measures taken at a national level are not sufficient, because the causes of the phenomena, of an anthropic nature, come from other regions and their worldwide reach has nevertheless an enormous impact on the inhabitants of northern Canada.

There are numerous measures to be adopted both for adaptation and for mitigation aimed at facilitating, for example, safe and responsible navigation.

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • maintain and restore sustainable ecosystems;
  • adopt a holistic and integrated approach for planning, management and development of the environment;
  • strengthen the prevention and mitigation of pollution on a regional, national and international level.

 

The rules-based international order in the Arctic responds effectively to new challenges and opportunities

The region is known for a high level of international cooperation and in recent decades has attracted the attention and interests of even non-Arctic states.

In fact, the international order (or rather the disorder) is not static, but undergoes rapid evolution as detected also as a function of climate and geopolitical changes

In this evolution, domestic and international legislation will play a key role in resolving border issues, boosting Canadian leadership, increasing the participation of Canadians in the international forums, strengthening collaboration with Arctic actors and beyond.

 

The Canadian Arctic and North and its people are safe, secure and well-defended

An essential condition of the well-being of the inhabitants is security and defense, given that the area becomes increasingly important on a military and technological strategic level.

Among the measures that are expressed, the need to:

  • manage community security through a greater presence of the FFAA, the gendarmerie and the agency of cross-border services. Also through the North American Aerospace Defense Command and maritime security operations centers, Ottawa will demonstrate sovereignty, defend the North from classic military threats and protect the integrity of the environment and essential structures in the North.
  • improve the coastguard’s ability to provide partners with knowledge of the maritime domain.
  • strengthen Canadian cooperation with national and international actors, including by increasing Canada’s military presence to prevent accidents and increasing surveillance and control capacity.
  • apply regulatory and legislative frameworks to regulate transport, strengthen the integrity of borders and the protection of Arctic communities, prevent crime with effective police services provided they are culturally adequate.

 

Reconciliation supports self-determination and nurtures mutually respectful relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples

In this sense, the Conciliation Commission believes that the process consists in maintaining a relationship of mutual respect between the indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, becoming aware of the past, recognizing the errors, the wrongs caused, changing the behaviors.

The government, therefore, is committed to adopting new measures to improve and renew relations with indigenous peoples and will make respect for their rights the basis of its action, also finding new ways with Prime Nations, Metis, and Inuit, through permanent bilateral partnership mechanisms to advance common priorities.

To bridge the socio-economic gap, collaboration between all actors, governments, autonomous organizations, territories, provinces will be based on the implementation of the actions suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, on the United Nations Declaration, on the rights of indigenous peoples and on what elaborated in the Framework.

Finally, it will be ensured that these peoples have the ability to conclude treaties and agreements with the Crown, laying the foundations for permanent relations.

Governance and self-determination will foster reconciliation by contributing to the establishment of stronger communities.

 

A roadmap to the test

Some doubts about this document for Arctic and Northern policy have been raised by experts.

The most frequent criticism is that relating to the lack of specificity and details on the method of financing and implementation which is characteristic of the whole Framework.

The usefulness of the enunciation of a ten-year roadmap “does not absolve” from a clear lack of direction regarding the implementation.

The text does not claim to be a strategy in itself and expressly indicates that it is a preliminary phase which will be followed by the joint elaboration of the actual implementation of investments and governance for the purpose to adopt more integrated approaches at the federal, territorial and provincial level.

Also in this sense, the chapters of the various partners will have to be considered with the aim of actually improving the living conditions of the indigenous peoples.

Evidently the text is the result of the complex process that generated it, the joint development of a variety of policies across a vast region.

Evidence of the difficulties encountered was the fact that the parties and the central government admitted that it was not always possible to achieve uniformity of views.

A critical theme for the North, but also for the rest of the country is, for example, how to put different initiatives and priorities in order, especially when issues are fundamental, such as infrastructure and resources, exploitation of energy resources that are not compatible with the struggle against climate change.

Another issue is how to overcome disagreements and find consensus also in line with the leading role given to local populations.

The Framework is still an ambitious document so that, if the roadmap were to turn into concrete action in the next decade, it could mean a significant step towards a stronger Arctic.

A decade ago, Harper’s strategy had placed less emphasis on climate change and greater attention to the aspect of hard security.

The Framework emphasizes the focus on climate change and mitigates the conflicting narrative. T

As Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion[12], did in 2015, the Framework also reopens a dialogue with Russia in the Arctic, despite the deterioration of Moscow’s relations with the West, for a bilateral dialogue on key areas such as indigenous peoples, the scientific cooperation environmental protection and S&R (search and rescue).

On the subject of defense, which is this time devoted a chapter in the complex document, repeating many elements of defense strategy issued in 2017 Strong Secure engaged, which emphasizes the importance of the military presence in the region and cooperation with international partners.

At the time of writing, the NA NU 2020 exercise is underway (24 February – 27 March), with the international participation of the United States (86th Infantry Brigade) Belgium, Finland and France “with a renewed focus on our operational capabilities and effectiveness in the High Arctic “(Brigadier-General Patrick Carpentier, Commander, Joint Task Force North).

In 2009, four had been the foundations of the Harper government’s strategy:

  1. exercise sovereignty in the Arctic;
  2. promoting economic and social development;
  3. protect the environment and heritage;
  4. decentralize and improve Northern governance.

It cannot be said that the characterization of the Canadian Arctic policy that emerges from the comparison with the 2019 text is too distant.

The common aspects that can be traced are:

  • Canada’s vision as a key player in the region;
  • awareness of a growing Arctic economy;
  •  recognition of shortcomings in Arctic governance;
  • the focus and role of the inhabitants of the North in solving the area’s problems.

And also as regards the absence in the new text of details on spending programs, the same could be broadly said of the 2009 Strategy.

There has always been a certain gap between the narrative built around the identity importance of the Arctic for Canada as a Nordic nation and the resources put in place to remedy this disparity, to transform narrative into action.

The Framework has changed the approach that could overcome this dichotomy.

At a time when climate change and new geo-strategic imperatives significantly affect the circumpolar world, a new collaborative governance approach focused on development, diplomacy and defense could make the North, and therefore Canada, stronger.

 

* Analyst


[1] https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/speeches/2020/02/14/prime-ministers-remarks-munich-security-conference

[2] OECD Economic Outlook, Interim Report March 2020.

[3] https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1560523306861/1560523330587

[4] https://sencanada.ca/content/sen/committee/421/ARCT/Briefs/2018-10-01_NRC_e.pdf

[5 ]https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf

[6] https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/statements/2016/03/10/us-canada-joint-statement-climate-energy-and-arctic-leadership

[7] The international agreement that prevents unregulated deep sea fishing was signed on October 3, 2018 by the 5 Arctic Five coastal states as well as by China EU, Iceland Japan and South Korea. Commercial fishing banned across much of the Arctic, The Guardian, October 3, 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/03/commercial-fishing-banned-across-much-of-the-arctic

[8] https://www.tc.gc.ca/en/campaigns/protecting-coasts.html

[9] https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/statements/2016/12/20/united-states-canada-joint-arctic-leaders-statement

[10] https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/fra/1492708558500/1537886544718

[11] https://sencanada.ca/content/sen/committee/421/ARCT/Briefs/2018-10-01_NRC_e.pdf

[12] https://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/canada-ready-to-re-engage-with-russia-iran-despite-differences-dion-says

 

 

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