Arctic Policy Framework Roundtables Report, Innovators and other industry, Ottawa, February 6, 2018

The opinions and views set out in this report prepared by Stratos | BDO are not necessarily the opinions or views of the Government of Canada.



To inform the development of the new Arctic Policy Framework (framework) by gaining insight into the interests, priorities and desired outcomes of partners and stakeholders; and to identify possible areas for joint action to achieve shared goals.

Representatives from innovators and other industry sectors across Canada participated in this roundtable, along with representatives from some of the framework’s co-development partners. To protect the privacy of participants, the names of individuals are not disclosed, except where permission to be quoted has been obtained.

About the report
This report synthesizes the input provided by participants across the 6 thematic areas:

  1. Comprehensive Arctic infrastructure
  2. Strong Arctic people and communities
  3. Strong, sustainable and diversified Arctic economies
  4. Arctic science and Indigenous knowledge
  5. Protecting the environment and conserving Arctic biodiversity
  6. The Arctic in a global context

The discussion within each theme was guided by a small set of discussion questions, which are provided below. Comments were shared by individual participants, unless otherwise noted.

Information gathered during this roundtable will be used as input to the development of the framework, along with information gathered at other national and regional multi-stakeholder roundtables, and through ongoing engagement with Indigenous governments and representatives and territorial and provincial governments directly involved in the co-development process.

Overarching themes and messages for the framework

Key themes and messages that were repeated throughout the day by participants and often applied to multiple themes are listed below, in no particular order of importance:

"Marine transportation is the economic backbone of the Arctic" – Suzanne Paquin, Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping

Comprehensive Arctic infrastructure

Discussion questions

  • What are the key infrastructure priorities for the Arctic?
  • What specific opportunities for partnership and joint action should be explored?

Infrastructure needs

  • The framework should consider both new infrastructure and maintaining/operating existing infrastructure
  • Several participants highlighted the lack of emergency response and navigation resources (e.g. aids, maps, weather data to support air and marine transportation
  • Northern fisheries rely on ports in Greenland and Atlantic Canada; there is a need to strategically select and build a "hub" port facility in the Canadian Arctic at a location that is not constrained or made inaccessible by sea ice for extended periods Footnote 1
  • The framework should consider smaller infrastructure such as smaller ports or harbours for anchoring fishing boats
  • Infrastructure connections between the east and west of the Canadian Arctic, as well as more broadly across the Circumpolar region, should be improved
    • There is already a committee of territorial governments discussing this topic
  • Education is essential infrastructure that could also facilitate learnings across the Arctic
  • There is a lack of information technology infrastructure and connectivity
  • There is a lack of adequate health facilities and services
  • Clean energy will likely enable a lower cost of living and cost of doing business

Infrastructure planning

  • Investment priorities should be identified and implemented by Northerners for Northerners
  • Government representatives should spend time in the North to understand Northern realities
  • Infrastructure investments take a long time to be realized; infrastructure planning should look 20 years from now
  • Industry-government partnerships should be considered for building infrastructure that can be used for multiple purposes
  • The framework should recognize that Arctic needs are diverse and unique from east to west


  • Infrastructure gaps are known (e.g. consultations from Transportation Act and the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board report); the focus should be on implementation
  • Gray’s Bay Port and Road and the Slave Geological Province corridor are both significant opportunities for investment and implementation

Suggestions for transportation systems

  • A single point of contact should be established for the shipping permitting system in the North, given its complexity and the potential for increased shipping in the future
  • Northern airlines aren’t used by the mining industry due to high costs, which makes it harder for Northern airlines to achieve critical mass; a policy should incentivize companies to use Northern airlines
    • Example: Norway provides exclusive use of certain routes to capable providers (i.e. based on safety conditions, etc.), which could provide greater stability for Northern carriers that have to compete with Southern carriers

Strong Arctic people and communities

Discussion questions

  • What key actions could increase well-being within Arctic communities?
  • What specific opportunities for partnership and joint action should be explored?

Approaching social and health development holistically

  • Physical and mental health, education, food security, etc. are all interconnected social issues.
    • For example, the Carcross/Tagish Management Corporation is integrated closely with the local government, so that social and economic development is collaboratively managed
    • There are likely benefits to managing funds for social and economic development in an integrated and holistic manner
  • Many participants agreed that housing is one of the largest social challenges in the Arctic
    • Integrating housing and health and social service programs should be considered
    • For example, a Tiny Homes project in Carcross houses the unemployed and youth and provides skills training, health and wellness, etc.
  • Investment in Indigenous government social and health departments and healing centres is needed

Supporting youth

  • Youth should be educated on their heritage including language, culture, etc., starting as early as daycare
  • Youth can be involved on the land though environmental monitoring, mining exploration, tourism, etc.

Balancing traditional activities with wage economy

  • A participant referenced a study of the Northwest Territories that concluded trappers and hunters with other jobs can better afford traps, fuel, skidoos, etc.
  • It is often not feasible to live off the land 100%; traditional and wage economies are both needed

"There must be a way to retain parts of traditional lifestyles that people want and then fill the gaps" - Alastair O’Rielly, Northern Coalition

Economic development opportunities

  • Training should focus on jobs that are available in communities
  • There are great opportunities for tourism, although one participant commented that they found it easier to operate in Greenland compared to the Canadian Arctic

The framework’s audience

  • The federal government should treat Indigenous leaders and territorial government leaders at the same level
  • Northerners should be involved in the design, testing and operation of technologies that contribute to heathy communities (e.g. housing, shipping, etc.)

Other comments

  • Building and maintaining infrastructure can help keep people in the communities
  • There should be targeted funding for Indigenous economic development corporations
  • Efforts should build from existing institutions rather than creating new ones

Strong, sustainable and diversified Arctic economies

Discussion questions

  • What can be done to advance sustainable economic development, grow small-to-medium Arctic businesses, and diversify the Arctic economy?
  • What can be done to build capacity/expertise and increase the participation of Arctic residents in local economies?
  • What specific opportunities for partnership and joint action should be explored?

Fair and competitive environment

  • An open, fair and competitive procurement process should discourage Aboriginal set-asides and unfair competition from foreign or state enterprises (e.g. the Northwest Territories government owns the Northern Transportation Company Ltd., which competes in Nunavut)
    • This applies to regional and Indigenous governments as well as Indigenous economic development corporations
  • Procurement policies may not be consistent, e.g. Aboriginal set-asides contradicts the terms of land claim agreements
  • There also may not be enough Arctic businesses in a community to sustain a competitive environment; communities want the freedom to sole-source to a local contractor
  • Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce is enabling collaboration amongst the Yukon Indigenous economic development corporations, so that they can collectively compete for and share benefits from economic development opportunities
  • Governance structures across the North are often fragmented and unclear, particularly at the local/regional level (e.g. Inuvialuit settlement region is governed differently than other areas of the Northwest Territories), which can cause confusion and could result in corruption
    • A common vision articulated by the framework could help provide certainty

Education and training

  • There is an education gap; many high school graduates need up to 3 years of upgrading before they can attend post-secondary institutions
    • Some colleges are supporting students in applying for university degrees
  • Training should be brought to where people are at, literally (i.e. in Northern communities) and figuratively (i.e. building from existing skillsets and technology systems, rather than teaching concepts beyond the students’ basis of training)
  • Northern education systems should communicate what the Arctic can offer to wider markets (i.e. opportunities in tourism, minerals, technology, etc.)
  • Education systems should accommodate local traditions (e.g. ending school year in May to allow students to participate in traditional activities)

"Tell me where you’re to and I’ll come to where you’re at" – Patti Balsillie, Chief Isaac Group of Companies

Sources of inspiration

  • There is great interest in the North in education and workplace exchanges, within or outside the territory, which can create larger networks and provide inspiration
    • Youth should be exposed to careers, not just training
  • More mentors and role models are needed to connect with and inspire youth
  • The best and brightest are already doing well; we need to inspire D or F grade students
  • The co-working space in Whitehorse engages youth in a structured way and provides a space for energy and ideas


  • Basel III regulations prevent third-party banking, but a lack of bank presence in Northern communities is a barrier to business growth
    • Northern stores can accept bank cheques, but this system is flawed as sometimes the cheques are deposited twice
    • Community-based banking should be supported


  • It’s difficult to know which government level and/or department to talk to for funding requests
  • Long-term funding and vision is needed to support infrastructure development, social enterprises, clean energy, alternative food sources (e.g. indoor farming or fisheries), etc.
  • Funding should be balanced between existing businesses (present) and entrepreneurial youth (future)
  • Federal government financial and reporting requirements for non-profit organizations (e.g. hunter and trapper organizations) are burdensome and can prevent organizations from accessing funds

Implementing the framework

  • Northerners should help identify tangible outcomes in the framework, based on the existing and future capacity of Northerners to plan and implement against these goals
  • Economic development should be for all the people rather than a few select people

Arctic science and Indigenous Knowledge

Discussion questions

  • What can be done to respond more effectively to local knowledge needs?
  • What can be done to increase the capacity of Arctic residents to participate in Arctic research initiatives and to better integrate Indigenous knowledge into decision-making?
  • What specific opportunities for partnership and joint action should be explored?

Research driven by Northerners

  • Research priorities should be identified by communities before research proposals are drafted, in addition to being approved by communities
  • Yukon Research Centre is focusing on partnerships with communities to identify research priorities
  • Expectations for international researchers operating in the Canadian Arctic should be defined, so that they benefit communities
  • Researchers should engage with youth, who can play an important role in promoting, advancing and innovating technologies and ideas

Improving high school education

  • Access to and excitement for science education should increase in the North, particularly for applied sciences
    • Science education should build from the existing knowledge base in the community
    • This should be supported by online connectivity
    • This can also be achieved via science labs moving between communities
  • Northern high school standards should be brought in line with Southern education standards, rather than requiring upgrading of education to pursue post-secondary degrees
    • Funding should support existing students in upgrading their education
    • Parental involvement and outside support is also needed for students
  • Both learned and lived experiences should be recognized in the school curriculum and for individuals
  • There are often administrative barriers to installing software for students
  • Any improvements should be driven by community needs

Enabling role models in communities

  • Role models in communities play an important role in inspiring youth
  • Those who operate in the North should provide mentorship to the communities they work with
  • There are champions already in communities including youth; how do we direct resources to increase and support internal champions?

Protecting the environment and conserving Arctic biodiversity

Discussion questions

  • How can Indigenous and local experience/knowledge be incorporated into action on climate change and biodiversity?
  • What specific opportunities for partnership and joint action should be explored?

Impact of carbon tax and sulfur emissions regulations

  • The marine industry currently has an exemption on sulfur emissions in the Arctic until 2020
    • If this exemption is removed in 2020, Northerners will likely be impacted by higher costs of goods
  • The carbon tax could have a significant impact on the cost of living and doing business in the North
    • There is a lack of certainty on what approach the provinces and territories will pursue
    • The Arctic is a large area with few marine vessels; an exemption for shipping (like in Ontario and Québec) should be considered to reduce impacts on the cost of living
      • Shipping should be recognized as an essential service
    • A carbon tax for aviation could also have an impact on cost of living, since a lot of food is delivered via airplanes
  • Investment in navigation infrastructure (e.g. weather forecasts, navigation equipment, instruments, lighting systems, etc.) could reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector (e.g. planes don’t need to turn back and try again due to weather)

Leveraging research to address climate change and biodiversity

  • Canada could do a better job of collaborating with international researchers (e.g. European researchers interested in the Arctic)
  • Pursuing research funding can be challenging for those without significant academic experience; barriers should be reduced for those without an academic background
  • Arctic research funding is provided by many governments and organizations, but it is challenging to know who to go to
  • There should be more partnerships between academics, local communities and industry
  • There are many examples demonstrating how Indigenous knowledge can be used in advancing our understanding of climate change and biodiversity
  • There is a new Inuit research policy to be announced soon, describing the Inuit’s view on how they would like to be involved in research

Effectiveness of marine protected areas

  • Marine protected areas should be defined using a risk and scientific based approach, which includes defining outcomes Footnote 2
    • This should include an assessment of the probabilities of identified risks and consequences
    • This should be supported by environmental baseline data
  • The government should better clarify and communicate to industry and communities where marine protected areas are located (e.g. on navigation charts) and what limitations they include (e.g. can locals fish in the area?)
  • Formal reviews of the effectiveness of marine protected areas should be conducted
    • This is similar to the approach used in strategic environmental assessments, where there is a defined outcome that justifies recommendations for protected areas

Protecting marine safety and the environment in the Arctic

  • Safety standards (e.g. from Transport Canada) are high, but are not always enforced consistently
  • There is a lack of clarity on who has the authority to set, monitor and enforce shipping rules; some local organizations have emerged claiming they set rules for shipping
  • Clarity is needed on how to balance the safety of marine vessels and protection of the environment e.g. when there are unexpected weather patterns that mean a vessel needs to travel through a marine protected area
  • Emergency response capabilities should be built locally

Importance of local knowledge

  • The marine industry often relies on local knowledge to identify areas of ice strength and weakness in the shoulder seasons
  • Smart Ice is an example where local Indigenous knowledge is used alongside remote monitoring technology to better understand ice conditions, including potential impacts from climate change

Leveraging clean energy to protect the environment

  • Propane could be used as a cleaner fuel source in the Arctic; the infrastructure already exists in some locations and propane can be shipped in the same manner as oil and diesel without a risk of marine spills, although it can only be transported by plane in very small containers
  • The group discussed other alternative clean energy sources that should be explored in the North, including:
    • Hydro-electricity, which has a high upfront capitalization cost but can be cheaper than diesel once installed
    • Gasification plant, which replaces landfills and is currently being studied in Iqaluit
    • Wind turbines, but these often require a back-up option such as diesel
    • Heat transfer from diesel plants to communities, which could avoid the burning of waste oil

Other comments

  • There can be a tension between conserving biodiversity and pursuing economic opportunities (e.g. fisheries)
  • Aquatic invasive species in ballast water is a significant concern for conserving biodiversity

The Arctic in a global context

Discussion questions

  • What domestic interests and priorities should the Government of Canada pursue internationally?
  • What do you see as the main challenges and opportunities for Canada's Arctic foreign and defence policy in the next 10 to 20 years?

Collaboration on circumpolar issues

  • Historically Canada has done a poor job of working on common interests with other Arctic nations
    • For example, Europe is spending significant amounts of money on Arctic issues but Canada is not coming to the table with any resources or partnering with Europe to implement
    • As another example, Canada did not take a leadership role in engaging on international shipping standards; as a result, Canada has more strict requirements than international standards
  • Canada should have more of a presence internationally (e.g. attend international conferences on the Arctic, government representatives at Arctic Council meetings, etc.)
  • Canada should have a long-term vision for its international collaboration and partnership efforts (e.g. would Canada be open to working collaboratively with China and/or Russia?)
  • Collaboration on circumpolar issues should include Northerners and Northern Indigenous peoples
  • Circumpolar agreements have been made, but not implemented; the focus should be on implementation

Arctic defense and sovereignty

  • Funding and geopolitics of the Arctic are often focused on defense (e.g. communications and connectivity technology primarily for the military)
  • The framework appears to be reactive to advancing threats in the Arctic, rather than proactive (e.g. reacting to China’s Arctic Policy announced in late January 2018)

Benefitting from Arctic cruise ships

  • Canada lacks a vision that articulates how we will manage and receive benefits from the cruise ships in the Arctic
  • Sovereignty of the Northwest Passage should be considered
  • A shipping hub open 9 months of the year should be considered
  • Investment in emergency response capabilities should increase
  • There are many Indigenous peoples selling seal products, which are banned in the U.S. (i.e. local artisans cannot fully benefit from cruise ship visits)
  • There should be better planning to accommodate large cruise ships’ tourists, for example: Footnote 3
    • Cruise ship companies do not always provide adequate notice to communities to prepare for cruise ship visitors
    • In one instance, tourists ate much of the food that was available in the community
    • Performers may need to be flown in from other communities
  • Carcross has successfully benefited from cruise ship tourists by investing in downtown businesses

Shipping interests in the Arctic

  • A high number of interested parties participating in conversations on shipping interests has made it difficult to develop a cohesive policy
    • Another participant recommended that an Inuit organization act as an observer at the International Maritime Organization
  • Agreements are sometimes developed without consultation, which results in negative impacts on the shipping industry, such as the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

Arctic vision for economic development

  • Stronger support is needed for the Canadian Arctic tourism industry; currently Antarctica has a bigger tourism industry than the Canadian Arctic Footnote 4
  • There is an opportunity to create a centre of excellence for traditional knowledge in the North

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