REMARKS FOR THE
HON. LAWRENCE CANNON,
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
RELEASE OF NORTHERN STRATEGY
July 26 2009
Our government has made the Arctic a top priority, a priority that Canadians share.
Together, the Arctic and the North makes up more than 40 percent of our landmass and is home to more than 100,000 Canadians, many of them Inuit and First Nations members whose ancestors have inhabited the region for millennia.
Minister Strahl has outlined the four pillars of the Northern Strategy: economic and social development, environmental protection, sovereignty and governance.
Our Arctic foreign policy has been designed to complement this Strategy, demonstrating our leadership and stewardship in the region.
But policy is only as good as the actions it inspires. Let me take a few moments to show how the policy works at a practical level.
Economic and Social Development
Northerners are at the heart of our strategy for the Arctic.
The overriding objective is to ensure economic and social development that benefits all inhabitants, particularly indigenous peoples.
To accomplish this, we have played a lead role, along with partners, in developing the Arctic Council’s Arctic Human Development Report, the Oil and Gas Assessment and the upcoming Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment.
In domestic economic terms, we work closely with Territorial Governments and Northerners, helping to build communities that are healthy and prosperous.
Internationally, we work through our Arctic missions and state partners to identify new economic opportunities for Canadian companies, including possibilities for foreign investment. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that resulting economic spin-offs benefit Northerners first, contributing to vibrant, sustainable communities.
The North’s changing temperatures, melting ice and contaminant levels in local foods are effects of activities that may have taken place thousands of miles away from the Arctic yet have a disproportionate impact on its environment.
Canada has long been at the forefront in taking steps to protect it. As far back as 1970, we proclaimed the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to protect the marine environment.
We continue to work through multilateral institutions to address critical issues such as climate change and pollution.
And we play a leading role in the development of guidelines for Arctic shipping through the International Maritime Organization, ensuring that regulations are in place to protect Canadian interests.
Canada’s sovereignty over the Arctic lands and waters is long-standing, well established and based on historic title.
We exercise this sovereignty in a number of ways, through actions we take as a government – such as the operations of the Canadian forces, our contribution to NORAD, and the activities of the Canadian Coast Guard.
We have committed new resources to protect and patrol the land, the sea and the sky. These resources, along with the cooperation of our Arctic neighbours, help to reinforce our presence in the region on a daily basis, ensuring that we can respond quickly in times of emergency.
It is also important to determine where Canada can exercise its sovereign rights.
An essential component of the Government’s commitment to the Arctic is Canada’s ongoing program to delineate the outer limits of Canada’s continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
We are working with our Arctic neighbours, the United States, Denmark and Russia to ensure international recognition for the maximum extent of our continental shelf in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy also helps to support governance in the North, ensuring that Northerners have a say in decisions that affect them.
We especially value the role that the leaders of indigenous groups and northerners play in international talks on stewardship and will continue to provide opportunities for engagement through fora like the Canadian Arctic Advisory Committee.
However it doesn’t stop there.
Increasing activity in the Arctic has shown the need for cooperative governance with other Arctic players.
Canada has led the way in this regard, though bilateral engagement with our Arctic neighbours and other countries that have an interest in the region, engagement in various multilateral institutions to reach common agreement on arctic stewardship, and a leadership role in the Arctic Council.
The Arctic Council is the main international forum where the Circumpolar conversation takes place. It looks at issues such as health, preservation of indigenous languages, adaptation to climate change, and quality of life.
Since its inception, the Council has developed a common agenda among Arctic states and indigenous participants, an agenda that has served us well.
We have achieved significant consensus through cooperation on credible, science-based projects. These have resulted in important findings and policy options for the region.
But there is still much work to be done.
Canada believes that a better understanding of the realities of the Arctic, including the culture and practices of Northerners, must be at the heart of the policies that affect it.
This requires a wide range of creative solutions at the national and international level─ solutions which balance conservation, sustainable use, and economic development.
My government is committed to finding these solutions, ensuring the international spotlight remains focused on the opportunities and potential of the Arctic.
In this way we reaffirm our commitment to the North and to Northerners, demonstrating our leadership, stewardship and ownership in the region.