Sunday, 15 March 2009

Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy by Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs

March 11, 2009
Whitehorse, Yukon
Check Against Delivery

Notes for an Address by
the Honourable Lawrence Cannon,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
on Canada's Arctic Foreign Policy

Our North is home to more than 100000 Canadians across three territories—the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and, most recently, Nunavut. ...



The Arctic is an emerging region on the cusp of major change. Northerners were the first to notice the effects of climate change on their environment and, more importantly, on their lives. You have shown remarkable resiliency and vision over the years.

I am committed to ensuring that the international spotlight stays focused on the challenges and opportunities facing the Arctic. One way to do this will be through a renewed focus on the role and importance of the Arctic Council—the premier international forum for Arctic cooperation. In addition, enhancing our Northern conversation domestically and with our bilateral partners will be key.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of a famous voyage of Arctic exploration by a great Canadian, Captain J.E. Bernier, on behalf of the Canadian government. With help from Inuit guides, he travelled to the far reaches of the vast territory that Great Britain transferred to the Dominion of Canada in 1880.


Arctic Council

Canada and Canadians played a leading role in the establishment of the Arctic Council. We would now like to re-energize the Council. This unique organization brings both states and Indigenous peoples to the table. Moreover, it has laid the foundation for strong, responsible and cooperative governance of the Arctic region.

The Council's first mission is to provide a means to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic states, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants, on common Arctic issues. Since its inception, the Council has successfully developed a common agenda among Arctic states and permanent participants. But as the region changes, so must its institutions.

We need more research on some of the key emerging issues with regard to sustainable development and environmental protection facing the Arctic. We need to deepen our exchange of best practices and explore a more rigorous discussion on policy issues and coordination.

The Arctic Council needs to play a greater outreach and advocacy role, making sure that the interests and concerns of Arctic inhabitants are reflected in the deliberations of other multilateral institutions. For example, Canada will continue to build on strong foundations such as the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change to respond to emerging issues and meet the needs of Northerners.

The Arctic Council must have the necessary strength, resources and influence to respond effectively to emerging challenges affecting the Arctic. It must be able to turn the high-calibre scientific work produced by the Council's working groups into information that Northern communities and peoples can effectively use.

Canadian leadership will continue to facilitate good international governance in the region.

I pledge Canada's continued high-level commitment to the Arctic Council through a renewed emphasis on its effectiveness as an international policy-making forum for Arctic cooperation.

I look forward to discussing these issues with my counterparts and with permanent participants when I attend the Arctic Council Ministerial in Tromsø, Norway in April, 2009.

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