Canada's Arctic and Northern Policy Framework
On this page
Foreword from the minister
The Arctic and Northern Policy Framework is a profound change of direction for the Government of Canada. For too long, Canada's Arctic and northern residents, especially Indigenous people, have not had access to the same services, opportunities, and standards of living as those enjoyed by other Canadians. There are longstanding inequalities in transportation, energy, communications, employment, community infrastructure, health and education. While almost all past governments have put forward northern strategies, none closed these gaps for the people of the North, or created a lasting legacy of sustainable economic development.
In her 2016 Interim Report on the Shared Arctic Leadership Model, Minister's Special Representative Mary Simon said, "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."
Co-developing the new framework became a bold opportunity to shape and direct change in the region by collaborating with governments, northerners and Indigenous governments and organizations. Consultation was not enough to meet the challenges and harness emerging opportunities in the Arctic and North. In a significant shift, the federal government, Indigenous peoples, Inuit, First Nations and Métis, 6 territorial and provincial governments (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, and Manitoba) contributed to this framework together.
A shared vision
Today, there is a shared vision of the future where northern and Arctic people are thriving, strong and safe. The Arctic and Northern Policy Framework gives us a roadmap to achieve this vision. There are clear priorities and actions set out by the federal government and its partners to:
- nurture healthy families and communities
- invest in the energy, transportation and communications infrastructure that northern and Arctic governments, economies and communities need
- create jobs, foster innovation and grow Arctic and northern economies
- support science, knowledge and research that is meaningful for communities and for decision-making
- face the effects of climate change and support healthy ecosystems in the Arctic and North
- ensure that Canada and our northern and Arctic residents are safe, secure and well-defended
- restore Canada's place as an international Arctic leader
- advance reconciliation and improve relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples
For the federal government, the framework's goals will guide investments and activities, through 2030. Implementing the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework will require collaborative approaches. Our government recognizes that 'made in Ottawa' policies have not been successful. The new approach puts the future into the hands of the people who live there to realize the promise of the Arctic and the North. Through the co-development of the framework, and by working in partnership to realize its vision and implement its goals and objectives, this initiative will advance reconciliation and renew Canada's relationship with Inuit, First Nations, Métis and support the non-Indigenous residents of Canada's Arctic and North.
A crucial element of this innovative, cooperative form of policy making is the inclusion of chapters from our Indigenous, territorial and provincial partners. Through these chapters, our partners speak directly to Canadians and to the world, expressing their own visions, aspirations and priorities. These critical components of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework map out areas of present and future collaboration between partners and the Government of Canada, and will provide guidance on the implementation of the framework.
In reflecting their priorities and aspirations, these chapters recognize and advance the vision and interests of Inuit, First Nations and Métis peoples. Partners have chosen their own approaches to crafting these chapters. For example, Yukon First Nations and the Government of Yukon have collaborated closely during the development of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, and will be producing separate chapters that speak to their mutual as well as distinct interests. First Nations and Métis worked with the Government of the Northwest Territories to draft the Northwest Territories chapter of the framework.
Inuit Nunangat is the Inuit homeland in Canada. Inuit are the majority population in this distinct geographic, cultural, and political region. In order to respect and support Inuit self-determination, an Inuit Nunangat chapter was developed as an Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee deliverable. This chapter will guide how Arctic and Northern Policy Framework goals and objectives are implemented in Inuit Nunangat. This will ensure that the framework respects Inuit rights and that an Inuit Nunangat approach is utilized in the development and implementation of federal policies and programs that are intended to benefit Inuit, creating efficiencies that in turn benefit all Canadians.
Territorial governments have authored chapters setting out their priorities for new investments and approaches in areas such as economic development, infrastructure and post-secondary education. Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut are also contributing a pan-territorial chapter that articulates their common challenges and opportunities. Drawing on the 2017 Pan-Territorial Vision for Sustainable Development, the territorial governments offer their vision for how the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework can support strong and healthy communities, based on a foundation of responsible resource development, economic diversification, infrastructure and innovation.
The next phase of framework co-development will focus on implementation, investment strategies and governance, moving towards more integrated federal-territorial-provincial and Indigenous approaches to challenges and opportunities in Canada's Arctic and North. Partner chapters will be integral to this next step towards improving the quality of life for our Arctic and Northern residents, especially for Indigenous peoples.
On the front lines of climate change…
The Canadian North is warming at about 3 times the global average rate, which is affecting the land, biodiversity, cultures and traditions.Footnote 1 At the same time, climate change and technology are making the Arctic more accessible.
The region has become an important crossroad where issues of climate change, international trade and global security meet. As melting sea ice opens shipping routes, it is also putting the rich wealth of northern natural resources within reach. Increased commercial and tourism interests also bring increased safety and security challenges that include search and rescue and human-created disasters.
By forging new partnerships, the framework will help address the massive implications of climate change for individuals, communities, businesses and governments alike, and ensure a more sustainable future for northerners.
…and a changing world
Unlike previous Arctic and northern policies, the framework better aligns Canada's current national and international policy objectives with the priorities of Indigenous peoples and of northerners. As the region undergoes rapid environmental change and international interest surges, Canada must demonstrate renewed Arctic leadership.
The Government of Canada will continue to support the co-operative, rules-based international order that has served national and global interests by fostering peace, security and stability for the circumpolar Arctic. Canada will also continue to ensure that the Canadian Arctic and North and its people are safe, secure and well defended. As part of achieving this goal, Canada has committed to increasing Search and Rescue reaction and responsiveness to emergencies for Arctic residents and visitors.
What have we done so far?
The framework and its chapters provide a foundation for future cooperation between the Government of Canada and its Arctic and Northern partners.
The time has arrived to put the goals and objectives into action. The Government of Canada has already begun to realize the framework's vision of thriving, strong and safe communities, and made progress on the priorities identified in the chapters developed by Indigenous, territorial and provincial partners. The following provides just some examples of Canada's commitment to responding to the priorities of partners and the needs and aspirations of our Arctic and Northern residents.
Investments to support better, more relevant and accessible education have been identified in the Inuit Nunangat and Northwest Territories chapters and by Yukon Government. The 2019 federal budget included:
- funding for a task force to study post-secondary education, which will make recommendations on a robust system of higher education in the Arctic and North
- support for culturally-appropriate and community-developed courses for Indigenous and non-Indigenous northern students through the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning
- an Inuit-led post-secondary education strategy
As well, a new science building at Yukon College will be built to support the goal of transforming this institution into Canada's first university in the North.
To build stronger communities, there is funding for community-led food production projects and skills training for local and Indigenous food production systems. Recent federal investments and policy development undertaken in cooperation with Indigenous peoples will help strengthen food security in Arctic and northern communities and reinforce Indigenous connections with wildlife and the land, as called for in the Inuit Nunangat chapter. The Government of Canada has recently invested $62.6 million over 5 years starting in fiscal year 2019 to 2020, with $10.4 million ongoing to support changes to the Nutrition North program, including a Harvesters Support Grant to help lower the high costs associated with traditional hunting and harvesting activities, which are an important source of healthy, traditional food. Canada and Inuit have also established an Inuit-Crown Food Security working group to focus on food security and work towards a sustainable food system in Inuit Nunangat.
As stated in the Northwest Territories chapter, growing a diversified and sustainable economy is vital to cushioning the northern economy from boom and bust cycles. The federal Jobs and Tourism Initiative will support cultural exchange and expand trade opportunities, while the new Inclusive Diversification and Economic Advancement in the North initiative will provide funds for a wider range of infrastructure such as roads and visitors centres.
Funding has been allocated for scientific research in the North, including for advancing Canada's claim to its continental shelf in both the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, for the Polar Continental Shelf Program, and for the Eureka Weather Station on Ellesmere Island. In its chapter, the Northwest Territories identifies the achieving of major advances in the remediation of reclamation sites following resource development as an environmental priority; cleaning up old mine sites of debris and toxic materials will be funded under the Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program.
New transportation infrastructure funding has been identified by all partner chapters as crucial to improving safety and fostering economic and social development. Canada is investing $71.7 million in federal funding through Canada's National Trade Corridors Fund for four Nunavut transportation projects, including preparatory work on the Grays Bay Road and Port Project and an expansion of the Rankin Inlet airport terminal building capacity. Funding for priority action items identified in the Northwest Territories chapter was included in the 2019 federal budget investments in support of the eventual framework. For example, planning for the proposed Taltson hydroelectricity expansion project in the Northwest Territories, identified as a priority infrastructure project, is funded starting in 2019. There is also a commitment for long-awaited, universal high-speed internet in remote and northern communities. Delivering high-speed internet to these communities will help businesses grow, create new jobs and connect people to the resources, services and information they need to build a better future. It is a key step to closing the gap in the quality of life experienced by Arctic and northern residents and other Canadians. As part of its commitment to support new protection for the High Arctic and create opportunities for Inuit, the Government of Canada is providing infrastructure investments totaling over $190 million to build multi-use buildings, food processing units and harbours.
Canada's international interests are supported through funding for the first Arctic Council-related permanent secretariat in Canada (for the Sustainable Development Working Group), increasing the participation of northerners in Arctic Council and Arctic research activities and providing northern youth with international learning opportunities.
The Inuit Nunangat chapter singles out mental health and closing gaps in social and economic well-being between Inuit and other Canadians as central to developing strong communities and advancing reconciliation. In partnership with Inuit organizations, Canada continues to invest towards this goal, including: new addictions treatment facilities in Nunavut and Nunavik with an emphasis on suicide prevention as well as significant new funding dedicated to health and social services for Inuit children.
The Arctic and Northern Policy Framework is ambitious and has just over 10 years to translate its goals and objectives into reality. In that time, the Government of Canada and its partners will close the gaps that exist between this region, particularly in relation to its Indigenous peoples, and the rest of the country.
Canada sees a future in which the people of the Arctic and North are full participants in Canadian society, with access to the same services, opportunities and standards of living as those enjoyed by other Canadians. This ambition will require greater effort, focus, trust and collaboration amongst partners.
Other circumpolar nations are making significant investments to make their Arctic regions part of the global community. Supporting Canadian initiatives to keep pace with international efforts will bring increased opportunities, health and well-being to Indigenous peoples and northerners.
Indigenous and Northern leaders have offered their best innovative, adaptive policy solutions that call for trust, inclusiveness and transparency. We can do no less than to respond with integrity, collaboration and openness. Building on these new partnerships, the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework provides a long-term foundation for transformative change, benefiting our Arctic, its Indigenous peoples, northern residents and all Canadians.
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett,
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs
"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."
— Mary Simon, Interim report on the Shared Arctic Leadership Model
Strong, self-reliant people and communities working together for a vibrant, prosperous and sustainable Arctic and northern region at home and abroad, while expressing Canada's enduring Arctic sovereignty.
On December 20, 2016, the Government of Canada announced that a new Arctic Policy Framework would be co-developed in collaboration with Indigenous, territorial and provincial partners.Footnote 2
Canada recognizes that what has been done before has not succeeded in building a strong, sustainable region where most people share in the opportunities expected by most Canadians. Insufficient physical and social infrastructure has hindered opportunities for growth and prosperity in the region.
Doing what we have done before as a nation has not closed the gaps in well-being between Arctic and northern people and the rest of the country, so in trying to close those gaps, we have taken an approach that has not been tried before. Inspired by the consensus traditions of Arctic and northern Indigenous peoples, the federal government sought to engage representatives of territories, provinces, and Indigenous peoples as partners in the development of this policy framework. All have made considerable contributions. There is not unanimous agreement on all the issues, but robust and respectful discussion has shaped this document.
This federal framework is informed by extensive engagement, including:
- regional roundtables held in Arctic and northern communities
- interest-based roundtables
- a public submissions process
The voices of people who took part in these engagements are included here, as well as in the other integral parts of the framework which describe:
- Canada's international Arctic policy
- Canada's commitment to safety, security and defence in the region
- the distinctive needs and opportunities of:
- Arctic and Northern Indigenous peoples of Canada
These sections provide further detail on priorities, aspirations, and potential actions to be implemented under the framework.
The Government of Canada committed to co-develop an "Arctic Policy Framework" with:
- First Nations
- territorial governments
- the governments of Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador
The area covered by the word "Arctic" has many definitions. As we worked together on the policy framework, several partners, including First Nations in Yukon as well as First Nations and Métis in the Northwest Territories, expressed concerns that they did not feel included in the term "Arctic." Inuit also drew attention to the way in which terms can include and exclude. Often, strategies, policies, programming and investments targeted for the "North" have been directed towards the three territories and excluded Inuit. In response to these concerns, Canada's vision for the framework takes into account both the "Arctic" and "Northern" character of the region and those who live there; it is a policy framework for Canada's Arctic and North that includes the entirety of Inuit Nunangat — the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories, Labrador's Nunatsiavut region, the territory of Nunavik in Quebec, and Nunavut — the Inuit homeland in Canada.Footnote 3
In developing this framework, we have built on the extensive work already done by Indigenous, territorial and provincial partners. This includes the Pan-Territorial Vision for Sustainable Development, which is foundational to the framework.
The Pan-Territorial Vision, released by the territorial governments in 2017, reinforces the importance of resource development, economic diversification, improved infrastructure and innovation in building strong territorial economies and increasing self-reliance.
Other key policy initiatives that have contributed to the development of the framework include:
- strategies developed by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami such as:
- National Inuit Suicide Prevention Strategy
- National Inuit Strategy for Research
- the Parnasimautik Consultation Report produced by Nunavik Inuit
- the Government of Quebec's Plan Nord
- the work of the Look North steering committee appointed by the Government of Manitoba
"Every Northerner deserves the opportunity to experience wellness and the strength of community that characterizes Canadians. Economic development and diversification are foundational to this goal."
— Pan-Territorial Vision for Sustainable Development
Our partners have helped us to understand and reflect the unique opportunities and challenges within the different regions, jurisdictional responsibilities and treaty rights across the Arctic and the North. The ongoing collaboration required to make this work is essential to the framework's successful implementation.
Together with the people and governments of the Arctic and the North, we will use domestic and international policies and investments to help realize the potential of the region and those who live there.
Another important contribution to this framework was made by Mary Simon, the Special Representative of the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, who advised the federal government on the most pressing issues facing the region. As Ms. Simon noted in her final report on shared Arctic leadership, there is a "long history of visions, action plans, strategies and initiatives being devised 'for the North' and not 'with the North'." This is why this framework has been co-developed for the North, in partnership with the North, to reflect the needs and priorities of the North.
"Nothing about us, without us" is the essential principle that weaves federal, territorial, provincial and Indigenous institutions and interests together for mutual success. The Arctic and Northern Policy Framework is a response to change in the region. The framework represents an opportunity for Arctic and northern people, and their institutions, municipalities, organizations and governments, to come together with the federal government to shape and direct change toward better outcomes. Together, we can achieve our vision of strong, self-reliant people and communities working together for a vibrant, prosperous and sustainable Arctic and northern region at home and abroad, while expressing Canada's enduring Arctic sovereignty.
The Government of Canada is committed to building trust with our Arctic and northern partners.
To do so, we must first:
- begin to acknowledge the damaging aspects of our shared past
- face the challenges and opportunities of our shared present
- advance a vision of a shared, collaborative and brighter future
Prior to contact with non-Indigenous peoples, the first peoples had already developed sophisticated technologies, flourishing trading networks, and a rich and diverse array of innovative practices that allowed them to live well in difficult conditions.
The Inuit lived mostly on the coast, and developed innovative watercraft and hunting gear that enabled them to hunt game as large as bowhead whales. First Nations peoples tended to live inland, using both land and freshwater bodies; they developed watercraft suited to lakes and rivers and snowshoes that allowed them to use the land during long northern winters; and they followed the huge caribou herds that migrated between treeline and tundra.
Non-Indigenous people first came north in search of trade and trade routes, and in search of resources such as furs and gold. Most of the early contacts were brief, but over time the initial phase of first encounters and co-operation was followed by more prolonged and extensive contact, increasing numbers of newcomers, and eventually a period of profoundly damaging domination and colonization.
The impacts of colonialism in the Arctic and the North affected Indigenous peoples in many ways, including diseases, cultural assimilation including through residential schools, coerced relocation, and the drawing of international boundaries severing familial and cultural ties.
"There must be a system set up where the Indian people have some control over the programs that affect us. This control must not be just in the Administration of the program — but in the planning. If the idea behind the program is wrong, then we are wasting money, and people, trying to make it work."
— Council for Yukon Indians, Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, 1973
Modern self-determination in the region has evolved over the last 50 years and formalized with:
- the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, concluded in 1975
- the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, signed in 1984
- the Umbrella Final Agreement for Yukon, finalized in 1990
- 11 of the 14 Yukon First Nations have now concluded agreements
- the Gwich'in comprehensive land claim, signed in 1992
- the Nunavut Agreement signed in 1993
- the Sahtu Dene signed in 1993
- the Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement, signed in 1993
- the Tlicho Land Claims and Self-government agreement, signed in 2003
- the Labrador Inuit Land Claims agreement, signed in 2005
- the Nunavik Inuit Land Claim Agreement, signed in 2006
Many of these land claim agreements established innovative forms of co-management by Indigenous peoples and territorial, provincial and federal governments over land, water and other resources.
In addition to the land claim process and renewal of Indigenous self-government, the 20th and early 21st centuries have witnessed a strengthening of public governments in the Arctic and the North.
Territorial governments have become more democratic and attained increased responsibilities. Province-like powers over land and resources were devolved from the federal government to Yukon in 2003 and to the Northwest Territories in 2014. Negotiations with Nunavut over these powers and responsibilities are ongoing.
Each territory and province has developed unique ways to provide services to Indigenous residents and work with Indigenous governments.
- The Government of Yukon works in partnership with the territory's First Nations, including its 11 self-governing First Nations
- The Government of the Northwest Territories collaborates with Indigenous governments through its Intergovernmental Council and through a formalized commitment to Indigenous governments set out in Respect, Recognition, Responsibility: Government of the Northwest Territories' Approach to Engaging with Aboriginal Governments (2012).
- The Government of Nunavut works with regional Inuit associations through working partnerships to advance shared objectives, including provisions of the Nunavut Agreement.
- Drawing upon Indigenous traditions, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut government legislatures are based on a consensus decision-making system.
- The Government of Quebec works with:
- the Kativik Regional Government, established through the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and elected by all the inhabitants of the Nunavik region
- the Makivik Corporation, also established by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, which represents the Inuit of Nunavik in their relations with the governments of Quebec and Canada on issues specifically pertaining to their Indigenous rights
At the forefront of this movement towards greater autonomy are the Indigenous peoples of the Circumpolar North. Their efforts to secure self-determination and self-government are influencing Arctic governance in ways that will have a profound impact on the region and its inhabitants in the years to come.
— Arctic Human Development Report (2015)
As an Arctic nation, Canada has long been interested in finding ways to cooperate with other Arctic and non-Arctic states on shared goals and challenges. In 1996 Canada played a key role in the Ottawa Declaration that created the Arctic Council, the pre-eminent forum for international cooperation in the Arctic on sustainable development and environmental protection. Canadian leadership also contributed to the Arctic Council taking the trail-blazing step of including Indigenous peoples' organizations at the Council table; 3 of which include Canadian membership.Footnote 4
Arctic Indigenous peoples have made remarkable contributions to international governance, both inside and outside the Arctic Council. For instance, the Inuit Circumpolar Council's highlighting impacts of global contaminants on Inuit helped mobilize support for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
The legacy of colonization has left deep rifts in the region's social structure. Those rifts are being gradually healed, in part by the reclamation of self-determination. As highlighted in the Arctic Council's Arctic Human Development Reports, "fate control", or "guiding one's own destiny", is an important element in peoples' well-being. From the agreements already signed with Indigenous peoples, to those still being negotiated, and the devolution of powers to regional governments, the degree of fate control in the Arctic and the North is on the rise. Part of the challenge we currently face is to ensure that fate control comes with the capacity to meaningfully exercise local aspirations.
"Why, in spite of substantive progress over the past 40 years, including remarkable achievements such as land claims agreements, Constitutional inclusion and precedent-setting court rulings, does the (Canadian) Arctic continue to exhibit the worst national social indicators for basic wellness? Why, with all the hard-earned tools of empowerment, do many individuals and families not feel empowered and healthy?"
— Mary Simon, A New Shared Arctic Leadership Model
Longstanding inequalities in transportation, energy, communications, employment, community infrastructure, health and education continue to disadvantage people, especially Indigenous peoples, in Canada's Arctic and North. These gaps are evident in the socio-economic statistics and indicators for the region, and closing them is a priority for all partners.
A distinctive feature of the region is its high proportion of Indigenous people in the population. This includes Inuit, First Nations and Métis populations. The manner in which the Government of Canada interacts with Indigenous peoples continues to evolve.
The Principles Respecting the Government of Canada's Relationship with Indigenous Peoples affirm that "The Government of Canada's approach to reconciliation is guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action, constitutional values, and collaboration with Indigenous peoples as well as provincial and territorial governments." Inuit and the federal government have developed the Inuit Nunangat Declaration and formed an Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee to jointly advance shared priorities. These include the implementation of Inuit land claims agreements, and the implementation of reconciliation measures between Inuit and the Government of Canada.
The federal government agrees with the people of the Arctic and the North that they must play a greater part in governing the region — domestically and internationally. In addition to land claim and self-government agreements, devolution agreements have been signed with the Northwest Territories and Yukon, transferring some authorities to their respective territorial governments, and another such agreement is being negotiated with Nunavut. Relationships that better recognize the rights and aspirations of people in the region have also been negotiated with sectors other than government. Benefit and partnership agreements with local communities have been developed in the resource sector, and successful partnerships have been established with researchers, and with non-governmental organizations.
The Arctic and North has what is described as a mixed economy: some people depend on traditional economies of hunting, fishing, and gathering, others depend on a wage economy, and some depend on both. The cultures and lifestyles of the peoples of the region provide them not only with subsistence and cultural continuity and strength, but also a bridge to the wage economy.
Despite the poor communications infrastructure in many communities, connectivity is increasingly important to the region.
- Students in Nunavut can connect to students throughout Inuit Nunungat
- A telehealth network links 14 Yukon communities
- Yellowknife's booming tourism industry is transformed by visitors' social media posts
- Telehealth is providing an opportunity to close gaps within the care provided to patients in Labrador
- Remote presence technology is allowing people on the northern coast of Labrador to receive some health-care services in their home communities
However, though there have been significant advances, many northern communities still have slow internet connections and no cell phone service, and priority within networks must be kept for vital services such as telehealth.
"…latent mineral potential of the north is perhaps still the single most likely source of long-term northern prosperity."
— Look North Report and Action Plan for Manitoba's Northern Economy
Responsible, sustainable resource development and job creation are key to the economy of the region, and a source of prosperity for its communities and residents. Indigenous-owned businesses have for many years been providing resource industries with workers and services, and now Indigenous peoples are also moving into ownership positions in resource development businesses. Indigenous ownership, investment and participation in the resource industry are essential to the success of this sector and a means of economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Resource projects provide:
- training and employment opportunities in communities
- direct Indigenous participation in supply and services business development
Looking to the future, there is no force likely to reshape the Arctic and the North greater than climate change. Globally, the region is amongst the most affected by climate change, which is redefining the environmental, social and economic landscape, both below the tree line and on the tundra. Arctic ecosystems are at a disproportionately high risk of experiencing the adverse effects of global warming.
The circumpolar Arctic is warming 2 to 3 times more rapidly than the global average, even though the region is not a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions.Footnote 5 According to Canada's Changing Climate Report, 2019, northern warming will continue for both low and high global greenhouse gas emission trajectories. The high scenario projects that annual average temperatures could increase 4 times as much as under the low scenario, and that events such as extreme precipitation could be 4 times as common.
Both scenarios would see accelerating loss of seasonal sea ice across Canada's Arctic, with extensive sea ice-free periods projected by mid-century for the Canadian Arctic and Hudson Bay, thawing permafrost causing irreversible changes to the landscape, a changed distribution of species, changing patterns of precipitation and more frequent wildfires.
Indigenous communities are particularly affected: traditional food sources are disappearing; ice conditions are becoming unpredictable and therefore dangerous for travel by hunters using either dogsled or snowmobile; and melting ice and rising sea levels are exposing communities to destructive coastal erosion and costly damage to infrastructure.
The greenhouse gases driving climate change are also making the water more acidic, which has been shown to have negative effects on some marine life. Considering the depth and irreversible nature of changes brought about by climate change in the region, Indigenous peoples are finding their cultural and social well-being affected at unprecedented rates.
For peoples closely connected to the land, ways of knowing are challenged to keep pace with the change around them. This is affecting cultural and social norms, such as engaging youth on the land, accessing country foods, gathering medicinal plants and protecting water sources. Indigenous communities need tools and knowledge that are locally and culturally appropriate to adapt to these urgent issues.
If there is a single argument for a collaborative approach to a shared Arctic and northern future, it is the shared and complex challenges posed by climate change. The response of all partners to this challenge must be no less transformative in scale, scope or duration.
As the sea-ice pack recedes and cold-weather technologies improve, the Arctic and the North region are also becoming increasingly accessible for a broad range of activities, including:
- scientific research
- shipping, both small and large vessels
- other commercial activities
Increasing numbers of domestic and international resource developers are being drawn to the region, resulting in a mix of optimism about economic prospects and concerns about potential environmental, social and security impacts. Higher levels of activity also increase the acute security risks associated with irregular movements of people and goods, the pursuit of foreign interests and human-induced disasters. As a whole, these changes highlight the importance of enhancing situational awareness across the region, and of promoting research and observation, including charting and mapping, that will provide the information necessary for sound decision-making.
A collaborative approach to climate change research is underway in the region, bringing together Inuit organizations, northern communities, federal and provincial agencies and the private sector. This effort is directed at understanding how climate change will affect communities and biodiversity. However, the current lack of baseline data poses major challenges to evidence-based decision-making. The responsible use of data can help cultivate a better understanding of the 'big picture' of environmental issues, contributing to the development of informed, data-driven policy and decisions that can help Arctic and northern communities build resiliency in the face of climate change.
Other currents are also driving change in the lives of Arctic and northern people. The place of the Arctic in the global consciousness has changed enormously over the past few years.
- Growing global interest in the region has been shown by several non-Arctic states and actors in Europe and Asia that have developed Arctic policies or strategies.
- Increased interest in the Arctic reflects concern about the global impacts of climate-driven changes in the region, including its increasing strategic and military importance.
There are already national and international efforts to ensure that growing international interest does not lead to additional problems for people in the region. For instance, the International Maritime Organization's Polar Code has mandated that larger ships travelling in polar waters are better equipped than previously, and their crews better prepared.
In particular, the idea of the "Northwest Passage" continues to stir the imagination of people around the world. While transiting the various waterways that are commonly referred to as the "Northwest Passage" may be increasingly feasible at certain times of the year due to diminishing ice coverage, extremely variable ice conditions continue to make navigation difficult and hazardous. Unregulated vessel traffic and accidents could have a devastating impact on Arctic and northern people and the unique environment in which they live. As these waterways are Canada's internal waters, Canada will continue to manage vessel traffic within our national waters to ensure that navigation is conducted in accordance with our rigorous safety and environmental protection standards.
There are robust rules, norms and institutions in place that guide international affairs.
- The Arctic Council and other multilateral forums such as the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, Arctic Economic Council and various United Nations organizations, including the International Maritime Organization, make decisions affecting the region
- An extensive international legal framework applies to the Arctic Ocean, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
- Canada is also a signatory to several legally-binding international agreements that address Arctic-specific issues
- Canada has bilateral relationships in place with other Arctic states to address issues of a bilateral nature
Territorial and provincial governments and Indigenous partners are regularly engaged in the development of Canada's international Arctic policy through a well-established mechanism, and are often members of the Canadian delegation to international meetings and negotiations. Canada strongly believes that the rules-based international order in the Arctic and the North has been beneficial to national and global interests by helping to foster peace, security and stability for the region.
Through the wide range of activities undertaken by the Government of Canada, its partners and local communities, Canada's enduring sovereignty over its Arctic and northern lands and waters is continually expressed. Canada's sovereignty over the region is long-standing, well-established and based on historic title, and founded in part on the presence of Inuit and First Nations since time immemorial.
The Canadian Armed Forces play a key role in demonstrating Canada's sovereignty across all of its territory. In the Arctic and the North, this is undertaken through:
- an established and permanent presence, with the Joint Task Force — North headquarters in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
- detachments in Iqaluit, Nunavut and Whitehorse, Yukon
- the 5 Wing Goose Bay base in Labrador which protects North American airspace and also supports military training
- the Canadian Rangers which serve as the military's eyes and ears in remote and northern communities.
The Canadian Armed Forces conduct:
- regular operations and exercises in the Arctic and the North to enhance their ability to operate and demonstrate presence
- air, land and sea patrols
- air and sea search and rescue activities
- monitor and control airspace through the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) network
- work with government and community partners to ensure safety and security in the region.
What we heard and what we know
Broad engagement with Arctic and northern people and other interested Canadians was an important element in the co-development of this document. The engagement helped shape the content of this framework, as did the work undertaken by territorial, provincial and Indigenous partners in developing their own priorities. This includes foundational documents developed by public governments, such as the Pan-Territorial Vision for Sustainable Development, as well as those of Indigenous governments and organizations.
"To create a better North for our children, the focus needs to be on what forms of knowledge and skills exist within our communities and how the federal government can assist in building upon and supporting these strengths. This means focusing on what we have versus focusing on what we lack, and valuing our existing capacity over voices that tell us we are not capable."
— "We Are One Mind" report, written submission
Arctic and northern leadership
During public engagement on the framework, participants underscored the importance of decision-making about the Arctic and north moving closer to the region. The need for Arctic and northern leadership in crafting solutions, and the necessity of stable and accessible funding for federal programming, were often given as conditions for progress on regional challenges. Building capacity in regional organizations was also identified as a key part of developing leadership.
Participants highlighted the importance of building upon previous strategies, policies and agreements, notably land claim agreements and Canada's commitment to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They want to see full implementation of economic, social and cultural rights, as laid out in the land claims and in the declaration. They also want to see implementation of provisions related to economic development and land use planning.
Strong people and communities
Views expressed through the engagement sessions varied widely, but for many participants the theme of "strong Arctic and northern people and communities" was seen as the most central to the development of the new Arctic and Northern Policy Framework for Canada. Institutions and services rooted in local cultures and language were a widespread prescription for addressing social challenges, and for building strong people and communities. There was concern about the erosion of Indigenous languages, and a demand for programs that would assist with the revitalization of language and culture.
- In 2014, about 22% of Northwest Territories households indicated that they often or sometimes worried that food would run out before they had money to buy more
- Just under 70% of Inuit households in Nunavut are food insecure
Life expectancy is considered one of the most fundamental indicators of the overall health and wellness of a population, given that it is influenced by a range of factors including access to health care, nutrition, living conditions and lifestyle. Gaps are stark and striking. For instance, life expectancy for Inuit in Canada is 72.4 years versus 82.9 years for Canada's non-Indigenous population.
- 52% of Inuit in Inuit Nunangat live in crowded homes, which are associated with high rates of communicable disease such as tuberculosis, as well as other challenges, compared to 9% of Canadians overall
- In 2016 18% of Northwest Territories households required major repairs compared to the Canadian rate of 6.5%
References to social challenges, and especially those affecting the Indigenous peoples of the region, were common during the framework engagement sessions. Statistics make it clear that not everybody is similarly disadvantaged. For instance, income inequality does not only exist between the Arctic and the North and the rest of Canada; there is also considerable income inequality within the region itself. The median before-tax individual income for Inuit in Inuit Nunangat is 75% lower than for non-Indigenous residents.
While some of the highest median and average incomes in Canada are found in the region, this should not mask the fact that the costs of living and the rates of poverty and food insecurity are also among the highest in the country. In 2017, for instance, the Nunatsiavut Government Household Food Security Survey identified that food insecure households in Nunatsiavut are over 4 times the level reported in Newfoundland and Labrador, and over 5 times the level of food insecurity in Canada overall.
The deep and ongoing impact on Indigenous peoples of the residential school experience and the broader colonial legacy were consistent themes at regional roundtables, especially when participants spoke of language and culture, education and Indigenous knowledge. Some participants called upon the framework to support the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. Links have been made between the intergenerational trauma caused by the impacts of the residential school system and the high rates of substance abuse and suicide in Indigenous populations.
"For many Yukon First Nations, the legacy of colonization continues and the impacts are both real and present. The underlying mental illness experienced by many First Nations is a normal human response to very abnormal conditions brought on by intergenerational impacts of colonization."
— Yukon First Nations Mental Wellness Workbook
Education and skills development, including early childhood education, improvements in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, access to higher education as well as the need to enhance opportunities for local higher education in the region, were raised in regional roundtables and other forms of engagement. In written submissions and during stakeholder roundtables, industry representatives talked about the need for more qualified local workers, and about matching education and training with job opportunities. Youth similarly saw education as a path to participating in the local economy, and called for higher-quality education. Participants in engagement sessions described how students from the region graduating with high school diplomas found that their available selection of high school courses or levels of knowledge did not match the requirements of post-secondary education.
- 34% of Inuit in Inuit Nunangat aged 25 to 64 have a high school diploma compared to 86% of Canadians aged 25 to 64 with a high school diploma
- In 2016, nearly three-quarters, 74%, of 25 to 64 year old Northwest Territories non-Indigenous residents had a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree compared to 43% of Indigenous peoples
"Employment and education are inextricably linked, with 83 per cent of residents 15 years of age and older with post-secondary education having a job, compared to an employment rate of 49 per cent for those without a post-secondary diploma, certificate or degree. Employment and education also have strong linkages to reduced issues related to health, crime and housing."
— Mandate of the Government of the Northwest Territories 2016–2019 (revised)
The provision of health-care services can be challenging in the Arctic and the North due to the lack of infrastructure and trained professionals, the small populations spread out over vast distances and the need to deliver services in an inclusive, culturally appropriate and responsive manner. Access to health care in the region is currently not comparable to the average Canadian's access to high quality care.
- Hospitals and specialized health services are often not locally available
- Many people are forced to fly out from their home communities to access specialized care, or to give birth
In addition to facing barriers to care, people face disproportionate health challenges.
- In 2014, the rate of new or retreatment cases of tuberculosis was almost 50 times higher in the Inuit population than in the Canadian population overall
Mental health facilities and services are also generally lacking. The severity of mental health challenges in Arctic and northern communities, including the unacceptably high rate of suicide among Indigenous peoples (particularly youth), was a common theme at regional engagement sessions. For example, the rate of self-injury hospitalizations in Labrador is 231 per 100,000. That is more than 3 times the Canadian average. These health outcomes are further complicated by social determinants of health, such as overcrowded housing, high unemployment and low formal education levels.
The importance of local partnerships with municipalities, regional Indigenous associations and development corporations, chambers of commerce and others emerged at roundtable discussions and in written submissions. Local governments, including Indigenous governments and institutions, play a special role in a region which includes urban centres as well as many smaller communities dispersed over large areas.
Municipalities and other forms of local and regional government play key roles in developing and supporting Arctic and northern communities, and are integral to addressing challenges such as housing, health and education.Footnote 6 Many communities are already taking actions that contribute to the goals and objectives of this framework.
"Northern and remote communities play a critical role in delivering essential services. Working with citizens, the private sector, civil society and other orders of government, Arctic municipalities improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of their communities."
— Jenny Gerbasi, President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, written submission
Infrastructure concerns were a common theme in engagement, including the need for transformative investments in infrastructure, rather than a remedial approach that only perpetuates a state of crisis.
Almost everyone who spoke about infrastructure mentioned reliable broadband access as a priority, given its role in enabling business, research, education, justice and health.
"With only 1 access into Yukon, 1 misstep from a backhoe operator in British Columbia knocks out the internet across the territory. No telehealth, banking, purchasing of gasoline or supplies, on-line education, and general office use — gone in an instant."
— Association of Yukon Communities, written submission
"'All weather roads, rail, air and broadband were among the most common topics to arise in conversation in the north."
— Look North report and action plan
Other highlighted infrastructure needs included:
- improved charting and mapping
- energy infrastructure
- better port facilities
- better airport facilities
- reliable rail networks
- roads to access communities and mineral resources
On a more local level, insufficient housing is a chronic problem in many northern communities. The lack of housing is linked to several other poor health and social outcomes.
- In Nunavik, no communities have all-season roads or connection to a regional energy grid, 58% have suitable housing, and 35% have access to a terrestrial backbone for internet communications.
Rather than simply expressing a desire for greater federal investment, communities and organizations emphasized their desire for partnerships and opportunities to play an active and constructive role in infrastructure investments through, for example, financial partnership, as well as the development of business capacity and skills. They noted that new infrastructure must come with a local capacity to maintain it, and that its construction should bring local jobs and wealth. Territorial governments, through their participation in the co-development process and in strategic documents such as the Pan-Territorial Vision for Sustainable Development, have pointed to large-scale infrastructure investments as foundational to creating economic opportunity and prosperity for Indigenous communities.
The Government of Canada has provided funding to restore rail service on the Hudson Bay Railway Line, which is expected to grow into a key transportation and export hub serving both
international markets and northern Canada. The rail line acquisition by the Arctic Gateway Group represents a historic partnership which combines First Nations and community ownership with private sector leadership. Restoration of the rail line opens the door for economic investments and opportunities for the town of Churchill and northern Manitoba residents and reflects a shared priority to strengthen transportation infrastructure for Canada's Arctic and North.
Strong, sustainable and diversified economies
Economic development was often mentioned by participants as a key theme. Territorial and provincial governments emphasized that regional economies will need to be built upon both sustainable resource extraction and the development of other sectors. They also highlighted that entrepreneurial research and innovation will help in strengthening and diversifying their economies.
"Supporting small business development across the Arctic is key to diversifying the economy, creating sustainable industries that are alternatives to extractive industries, and facilitating young people to stay within their communities rather than having to move for employment."
— Gwich'in Council International, written submission
- The National Aboriginal Economic Development Board estimated in 2016 that the Indigenous peoples employed in the 3 territories could make an additional $1.1 billion in annual income if they had the same education and training as non-Indigenous people working in the territories
At the roundtables, a thriving economy was linked to foundational elements such as a skilled workforce, social and physical infrastructure, diversity and meaningful opportunities. Stakeholders and experts approached economic development issues from differing perspectives. In public submissions, some saw the answer in more support for non-renewable resource development such as mining. In 2017, mining was the largest private sector contributor to the economies of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut: the 6 mines operating in the territories spent over a billion dollars within the jurisdictions. Documents such as the Pan-Territorial Vision for Economic Development, Quebec's Plan Nord, and Manitoba's Look North Report and Action Plan all highlight the place of resource development in supporting a robust economy.
"Responsible [mining] means meeting socio-economic commitments (including economic, employment and community development commitments); acting in an environmentally responsible manner; and protecting the health and safety of our employees and the Peoples of the North."
— Mission statement, Northwest Territories (NWT) and Nunavut Chamber of Mines
"The benefits of developing a sustainable, community-driven tourism industry range from healthier lifestyles for youth, to cultural preservation, to new economic opportunities for elders and youth."
— Parnasimautik Consultation Report, Nunavik
Participants from the business community suggested that by articulating a long-term, strategic vision for the Arctic and the North, the Government of Canada would provide greater certainty for industry and incentivize investments in larger-scale projects. Organizations representing Indigenous economic development corporations and small business interests noted needs for increased access to capital and business supports, as well as more supportive federal procurement policies. There was also a common view that economic development could be facilitated through greater access to international markets. Academics called for the identification and development of alternative economic approaches, including innovation, arts and crafts, and traditional or cultural activities. Some representatives of Indigenous and non-governmental organizations cautioned against a reliance on major projects. They stressed the importance of land-based or traditional economic activity, as well as the potential of "conservation economies" focused on connections between culture, communities and local ecosystems.
Science and Indigenous knowledge
"For Inuit, economic development must be guided by Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit knowledge)….. Taking this approach applies an Inuit worldview to decisions and action that influence Inuit lives"
— P.J. Akeeagok, President, Qikiqtani Inuit Association, in A New Approach to Economic Development in Nunavut, 2018
At regional roundtables, conversations about knowledge creation often focused on the relationship between communities and researchers, as well as the place of Indigenous peoples in research, including the role of Indigenous knowledge. Participants described both science and Indigenous knowledge as valid and equal contributors to knowledge-building and decision-making in the region. Participants also expressed the desire for stronger local and Indigenous involvement in setting and determining research priorities as well as carrying out research. Prioritizing stronger involvement in the research process means that it is crucial to expand the research capacity of communities and strengthen local and regional research infrastructure and institutions. Indigenous knowledge also has an important role in informing international policies that in turn affect Arctic Indigenous peoples.
"Gwich'in need to be directly represented in the key decision-making forums about research to ensure that research is responding to community desires for information into the issues that are important to them. Moreover, there is a need for increased funding to support the collection and analysis of Indigenous knowledge."
— Gwich'in Tribal Council, written submission
The importance of social science research was also brought forward, as it can provide an essential evidence base for decisions and policies that meet the needs of Arctic, northern and Indigenous communities. For research to give people a full base for decision-making it should include elements which are not only university-led and partnership-based, but also locally-led and accessible though regionally-based institutions. It was also noted that the vast majority of funds spent on Arctic and northern research are spent in the south. Communities want improved sharing of the results and benefits of research with the communities where the research is being conducted. Many of these points brought up in engagement sessions are also emphasised by territorial research documents and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami's National Inuit Strategy on Research.
Protecting the environment and conserving biodiversity
"For Inuit the purpose of conservation is the creation of socio-economic and cultural equity between Inuit and all other Canadians, while considering reconciliation, climate change, and, ecological integrity."
— Qikiqtani Inuit Association (Nunavut), written submission
The social and environmental impacts of climate change were recurring themes at all regional roundtables. Those impacts affect a broad range of issues, from infrastructure to housing to security. At stakeholder roundtables, many people felt that adaptation activities should take precedence over mitigation actions in the region, considering its small emissions footprint versus the magnified impacts. Another key message was the need for more robust mitigation activities from southern Canada and major international emitters.
Conservation issues drew a varied response. Some engagement participants emphasized the need to reduce development impacts on wildlife. The harvesting of country foods, particularly caribou herds, provides nutrition, food security and the continuation of traditional practices for many Indigenous peoples. Others expressed concerns over the weight of regulation and its impact on resource development. Co-management of renewable resources was highlighted as a venue for collaborative management that can help integrate different viewpoints. There was a recognition that protected areas are unable to guard Arctic and northern ecosystems against pollution and climate change with distant origins. There was also acknowledgement that a holistic approach to conservation activities can make an overall positive contribution to the region. Suggested options for such an approach included:
- the advancement of concepts such as Indigenous-led conservation and monitoring
- Indigenous protected and conserved areas
- conservation economies, through which conservation becomes an integral aspect of local economies
The global context
"As we see it, the barriers to feeling empowered and healthy are not neatly segmented into 'domestic' and 'international' boxes. As a nation which spans across territorial and international boundaries, the issues that concern Gwich'in are at the same time both local and international."
— Gwich'in Council International, written submission
There were some consistent key messages on international issues raised by participants from all regions. They included a desire to maintain the circumpolar Arctic as a region of peace and cooperation through efforts to strengthen the international rules and institutions that govern the Arctic. Preserving the role of the Arctic Council as the leading forum for circumpolar cooperation was singled out as a priority by many participants.
Engagement participants would also like to see Canada target its international cooperation in areas that improve socio-economic living conditions. For example, strengthening north-to-north cooperation through forums such as the Arctic Council and at the sub-national level was encouraged, including exchanges of knowledge and best practices on issues such as:
- mental wellness
- Indigenous languages
- renewable energy
Indigenous participants were particularly interested in improved mobility of Indigenous peoples and cultural goods throughout the circumpolar region. Participants called for:
- strengthening the voice of Indigenous peoples in international Arctic forums including increased support for the Indigenous Permanent Participants at the Arctic Council
- Canada to take a strong stand on protecting Indigenous rights to self-determination, pursuing sustainable harvesting of flora and fauna and combatting international efforts that negatively affect these rights
People who spoke or wrote in also expressed a desire to see Canada play a leadership role on the global stage when it comes to addressing climate change, contaminants and other environmental challenges that have a disproportionate impact on the region.
Safety, security and defence
Throughout the engagement process, participants highlighted the transformative role of climate change in increasing commercial interest and activity in the region. Questions around environmental protection and response, safe regional transportation, and search and rescue capabilities were raised as critical issues, especially in the context of a rapidly changing climate.
In response to rapid regional changes, roundtable participants recognized the need for a whole-of-government approach to safety, security and defence. As part of this, increased presence in the region by the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard was highlighted as an important response, in conjunction with clear communication and engagement with local people. The Canadian Rangers were identified as an important presence in the region, and support was expressed for enhancing and expanding the Rangers' training and effectiveness. In addition, participants expressed appreciation for the way in which the Canadian Armed Forces consult local communities and Indigenous groups, and called for such collaboration to be continued.
Participants noted that partnering with communities and investing in regional infrastructure will solidify Canada's regional presence while exercising its sovereignty, and that existing partnerships can be expanded through collaboration, information sharing and training.
"Youth across the Arctic understand that education is a portal to opportunity. They aspire to a quality education equivalent to other Canadians: an education that also reaffirms the central role of their culture and Indigenous languages in their identity as Canadians. A new Arctic Policy Framework, if it is to separate itself from many previous documents on the future of the Arctic, must speak to these young voices in this era of reconciliation."
– A New Shared Arctic Leadership Model
Youth are transforming the region by their very numbers: in Canada, the median age is just over 40; in Nunavut, it is just over 26. These booming populations of young people are producing many great successes as artists, as leaders and in other walks of life. However, figures show that there are still many obstacles and challenges to being well, succeeding at school and finding meaningful work.
"To move forward in any aspect in life and in our society, we need to be educated. The youth want to be well with who they are and where they come from. Youth also understand the importance of quality, formal education so they can become active members of their communities and society and have access to all levels of employment in the communities, region or elsewhere if that is what they choose."
— Qarjuit Youth Council, Nunavik
Today's young Indigenous leaders are eager to build upon the work of previous generations. As stated in the report We Are One Mind, Perspectives from Emerging Indigenous Leaders on the Arctic Policy Framework, the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework must be people-centric to be effective. The report, which was developed by the Indigenous youth collectives Dene Nahjo, Our Voices and Qanak, contains 25 recommendations organized under 3 themes:
- Northerners leading northern policy engagement
- Investing in land, language and culture for future generations and as the basis for a healthy society
- Healthy lands, healthy economies
The report urges the federal and territorial governments to act in a timely manner to resolve existing unsettled land claims and self-government agreements. It recommends the establishment of a ministerial working group to review federal legislative impediments that exclude northerners from accessing federal programs or impose inappropriate regulations on people and communities, and recommends that the federal and territorial governments update their consultation frameworks to address gaps and redundancies.
The Government of Canada and its partners will close the gaps and divides that exist between this region, particularly in relation to its Indigenous peoples, and the rest of the country. The clear and ambitious goals and objectives of this framework point the way to a vibrant, sustainable and prosperous future.
In our shared future, Canada's Arctic and North will no longer be pushed to the margins of the national community.
- Its people will be full participants in Canadian society, with access to the same services, opportunities and standards of living as those enjoyed by other Canadians
- The resources required for their physical and mental wellness will be accessible
We will endeavour to create an environment in the Arctic and North in which youth will get the education they need to thrive, and Indigenous peoples receive the support required for their languages and cultures to be not only maintained, but revitalized.
We will encourage development that is environmentally and socially sustainable, that employs local people and creates wealth in the region. Stewardship of Arctic and northern lands, waters and resources will be accomplished through new and existing measures, including support of Indigenous stewardship and Indigenous protected and conserved areas. The Pikialasorsuaq (North Water polynya) between Canada and Greenland and Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve in Northwest Territories are 2 examples of proposed Indigenous protected areas.
We will work to fill knowledge gaps in the Arctic and the North in a way that is responsive to the needs of local governments and people, and enables and encourages their participation in all aspects of the research process. We will define knowledge inclusively, embracing the contributions of Indigenous knowledge as well as western science.
We will support a rules-based international order in the Arctic that prioritizes human and environmental security and meaningful engagement of Arctic and northern peoples, especially Indigenous peoples. We will reduce barriers to the freedom of Indigenous peoples to move freely across international boundaries that now separate families and cultures.
Realizing this shared future will mean doing things differently to address persistent social and economic challenges in the Arctic and the North. We know that closing the gaps between the region and the rest of Canada means closing gaps between where decisions and resources are based, and where the needs are. Closing the gaps requires greater effort, focus, trust and collaboration, and more self-determination for the peoples of the region.
Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples
"Recognizing …the disproportionate socio-economic and cultural inequity facing Inuit compared to most other Canadians, and committing to working in partnership to create socio-economic and cultural equity between Inuit and other Canadians. This commitment includes energetically and creatively pursuing the socio-economic, cultural, and environmental conditions of success through the full implementation of land claims agreements as well as reconciliation"
— Inuit Nunangat Declaration on Inuit-Crown Partnership
Ongoing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is foundational to achieving the goals and objectives of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework.
The negotiation and full implementation of land claims and self-government agreements are key components of reconciliation. They require recognition within the framework as part of the continuation and renewal of relationships. These continued and renewed relationships come with a strong foundation, including the Principles Respecting the Government of Canada's Relationship with Indigenous Peoples.
In 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepted the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on behalf of the Government of Canada and committed to a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.
In 2016, the Government of Canada committed to renewing the relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples through the creation of permanent bilateral mechanisms.
- All 4 Inuit regions have settled land claims
- Agreements on land and governance rights have been signed with First Nations and Metis across much of their traditional territories in the Arctic and the North
The fundamental instruments that define the Indigenous-Crown relationship are treaties, historic and modern, underpinned by section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982. Each treaty established a unique relationship between Indigenous peoples and various levels of government. These relationships provide the foundation for a just and lasting reconciliation, founded in the honour of the Crown with federal, provincial and territorial governments. Implementing modern treaties is a shared responsibility, which Canada will work with Indigenous peoples, provinces and territories to realize.
The work of reconciliation is not only happening at the federal level, it has also been undertaken by Indigenous peoples, by Arctic and northern governments and through other mechanisms. Reconciliation in the region is intertwined with political evolution and is ongoing. Progress has been made on this path, led in large part by Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens who have worked together to secure and implement land and self-government agreements, evolve public governments, and find practical ways to work together for the shared goals of improving the quality of life for their children and sound stewardship of land and resources.
Assuming global leadership
Canada will strengthen its international leadership on Arctic and northern issues at this critical time, as the region undergoes rapid environmental change and international interest surges.
Canada's ambition is to robustly support the rules-based international order in the Arctic, and all its institutions, and to seek ways to strengthen and improve those institutions for the 21st century.
- work collaboratively with Indigenous peoples and territorial and provincial governments in the multilateral forums where decisions that impact the Arctic are made, including the Arctic Council and United Nations organizations
- enhance bilateral cooperation with Arctic and key non-Arctic states and actors
Canadian leadership will be advanced bilaterally and in multilateral forums in order to promote Canadian values and interests such as human and environmental security.
Our shared ambition includes:
- better leveraging our international Arctic engagement to address domestic priorities such as social and economic development
- enhanced knowledge of our Arctic and North
- environmental protection
In a globalized world, many of the issues facing Canada, including in the Arctic and the North, cannot be addressed effectively through domestic action alone. A whole-of-government effort that leverages both domestic and international policy levers is therefore required. For example, economic growth in Canada's Arctic and North can be facilitated through infrastructure investments that increase access to world markets, along with trade commissioner services to help businesses based in the region access international markets and attract and retain foreign direct investment that benefits Northerners and respects Canada's national interest.
Promoting sustainable development
A key international commitment that informs this framework is the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Canada has committed to implementing and measuring progress toward these goals.
The United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals
- End poverty in all its forms everywhere
- End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
- Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
- Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
- Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
- Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
- Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
- Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
- Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
- Reduce inequality within and among countries
- Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
- Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
- Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
- Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
- Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
- Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
- Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Adopted in 2015, the 2030 Agenda is an ambitious 15-year global framework with 17 goals that cover the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, and integrate peace, governance and justice elements. It is universal in nature, meaning that implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is a commitment to take action domestically within Canada, as well as internationally, to eradicate poverty and leave no one behind.
These goals fit well with what we have heard regarding the need to narrow gaps between Arctic and northern Indigenous peoples and other Canadians. We intend to match our ambition in the framework, domestically and internationally, to the ambition expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals. This ambition is expressed in the framework's goals and objectives, and aligns closely with the Pan-Territorial Vision for Sustainable Development principle that "the territories will stand together to create long term sustainable development of northern economies." The Pan-Territorial Vision indicates that this will be achieved through environmentally responsible and sustainable resource development, job creation and economic diversification.
A safe and secure Arctic and North, now and into the future
The qualities that make the Canadian Arctic and North such a special place, its size, climate, and small but vibrant and resilient populations, also pose unique security challenges, making it difficult to maintain situational awareness and respond to emergencies or military threats when and where they occur. These difficulties are often compounded by the effects and accelerating pace of climate change, making the region both environmentally changed and increasingly accessible to a broad range of actors and interests.
To protect the safety and security of people in the region and safeguard the ability to defend the Canadian Arctic and North, and North America now and into the future, a multi-faceted and holistic approach is required. The complexity of the regional security environment places a premium on collaboration amongst all levels of government, Indigenous peoples and local communities, as well as with trusted international partners, and we will continue to improve the ways we work together to keep pace with the evolving challenges.
The Government of Canada is taking steps to augment its Arctic and northern footprint in support of regional safety and security, including through Canada's defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged, and through key elements of the Oceans Protection Plan. Canada will enhance the Canadian Armed Forces' presence in the region over the long term by setting out the capability investments that will give the Canadian Armed Forces the tools they need to help local people in times of need and to operate effectively in the region.
Under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Canadian Coast Guard will continue to enhance its:
- maritime search and rescue capacity, including through an expanding Coast Guard Arctic Auxiliary
- capacity to respond to maritime environmental emergencies
- icebreaking capacity
- its capacity to contribute to Maritime Domain Awareness
Canada's ability to respond to regional challenges, provide security and ensure compliance with our laws and regulations largely depends on our ability to build and maintain a comprehensive picture of what is happening across the region, as gaps can have life-threatening consequences. For example, increased maritime and cross-border traffic creates new challenges for border enforcement and effective vessel tracking, such as illicit drugs and illegal imports. This is why it is so critical for partners to work together to develop strong domain awareness, including through information sharing, enhanced coordination, the acquisition of new air, land, sea and space-based capabilities, and exploration of innovative solutions to surveillance challenges in the Arctic and the North.
Goals and objectives
Goal 1: Canadian Arctic and northern Indigenous peoples are resilient and healthy
There are unacceptable gaps in health and social development outcomes between Arctic and northern Indigenous peoples and most other Canadians. The poor health outcomes in the region are directly linked to both inadequate access to treatment options and to serious social problems, including:
- a critical shortage of housing
- low educational attainment levels
- high rates of incarceration and unemployment, particularly in smaller communities
Climate-driven changes are worsening the risks to Indigenous peoples in the region, such as travel over traditional routes. As well, a high cost of living and changes in the availability and accessibility of traditional foods have resulted in rising rates of food insecurity. For example, 1 in 2 households in Nunavut are food insecure. Eliminating food insecurity includes both affordable food from the grocery store, as well as having access to traditional food to support a healthy diet, community well-being and connection to local cultures and traditions.
Life expectancy is a key index of a population's wellbeing. Projected life expectancy for Inuit in Canada is 10.5 years below that of Canada's non-Indigenous population. While the most recent Statistics Canada information on First Nations and Métis is not disaggregated by region, at a national level First Nations and Métis were found to have a projected life expectancy rate of approximately 4 to 5 years below that enjoyed by non-Indigenous Canadians.
- One study shows that northern populations suffer from the lowest life expectancy in Canada
- Another study finds that life expectancy is approximately 7 to 12 years lower in areas with a high concentration of Inuit, First Nations and Métis
- Rates of communicable disease and suicide are much higher among Arctic and northern Indigenous populations than elsewhere in Canada
- Violence is being perpetrated against Indigenous women and girls, with the likelihood of violent death being significantly higher for Indigenous than for non-Indigenous women, according to statistics cited in the 2019 final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Together, we will close these stark gaps, taking a distinctions-based approach that respects the unique rights, interests and circumstances of Inuit, First Nations and Métis peoples.
Meeting this goal will depend on progress on other objectives, including economic development, public safety, justice and reconciliation. Adaptation and resilience-building measures will be required to respond to the climate-driven change happening now, and projected for the future. Cultural revival will play a role in resilience. Land-based activities and practices will support education, healing and well-being. Solutions advanced in other Arctic states that face similar challenges will also be examined. Strong communities in our North can be supported by the circumpolar exchange of knowledge and best practices. Freer movement of Indigenous peoples and cultural goods across Canada's international boundaries in the Arctic and the North will further strengthen long-standing familial and cultural ties.
Goal 1 objectives
- End poverty
- Eradicate hunger
- Eliminate homelessness and overcrowding
- Reduce suicides
- Strengthen mental and physical wellbeing
- Create an environment in which children will thrive, through a focus on education, culture, health and well-being
- Close the gaps in education outcomes
- Provide ongoing learning and skills development opportunities, including Indigenous-based knowledge and skills
- Strengthen Indigenous cultural and family connections across international boundaries
- Address the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls
- End the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in Canada's criminal justice system
- Implement culturally-appropriate approaches to justice issues, such as restorative justice measures and other alternative measures to incarceration
Goal 2: Strengthened infrastructure that closes gaps with other regions of Canada
As a gap experienced by every person in the Arctic and the North, infrastructure is a top priority of this framework. Canada is investing in transformative infrastructure corridors to achieve more efficient and effective communications, clean energy and transportation. We also need to address deficits in weather and climate monitoring, particularly in climate-sensitive sectors. The National Aboriginal Economic Development Board has estimated that every dollar invested in transportation and energy infrastructure can generate more than 10 times that amount.
We commit to creating economic opportunity and prosperity for northerners, and to better enabling Canada's northern and Arctic regions to catch up to other areas of Canada.
There are significant transportation infrastructure deficits in the region.
- Approximately 70 communities are only accessible year-round by air, or seasonally by water or ice roads
- Marine and aviation infrastructure is the gateway for many northern and Arctic communities and needs improvement
The limited transportation infrastructure makes it difficult, time-consuming and expensive to move passengers and goods in and out of communities, and to deliver government programs and services. Infrastructure deficits are also a significant restriction on trade and commerce.
Climate change threatens the resilience of existing infrastructure and presents challenges to constructing new infrastructure. The costs, sustainability and reliability of energy are a concern, with nearly two-thirds of Arctic and northern communities relying exclusively on diesel, which is expensive, difficult to transport and a source of greenhouse gases.
Many communities rely exclusively on satellite for access to internet services; they lack access to the fast, high quality and reliable telecommunications networks that people need to enable economic growth, education, health and research.
Goal 2 objectives
- Investment in significant infrastructure projects
- Fast, reliable, and affordable broadband connectivity for all
- Expand multi-modal transportation infrastructure and operations to connect communities to Canadian and international opportunities and improve access to essential services
- Develop multi-purpose corridors for broadband, energy and transportation, including connections to hydroelectricity grids
- Achieve energy security and sustainability in all communities and improve access to reliable, affordable and clean energy solutions
- Integrate climate change resilience into new and existing infrastructure
- Strengthen community-level infrastructure, including social infrastructure
- Enhance monitoring infrastructure for the collection and use of weather and climate data
Goal 3: Strong, sustainable, diversified and inclusive local and regional economies
A strong economy contributes to the resilience of Arctic and northern communities and sustainable growth that benefits all Canadians. However, northern economic development is challenged by higher operating costs for businesses due to the region's small and dispersed population, sparse infrastructure and higher energy and connectivity costs.
Limited access to formal or higher education, a barrier to local participation in the workforce, especially amongst Indigenous peoples, highlights the need for policies which aim to foster increased mobility as a means of supporting education and employment paths.
For many small businesses, access to professional support, such as banking and legal services, is limited. As stated in the Pan-Territorial Vision for Sustainable Development, "responsible, sustainable resource development and job creation is the cornerstone of the territorial economies. Indigenous ownership, investment and participation in the resource industry are key to the success of this sector." There is also a need to grow other areas to help insulate northern economies from the "boom and bust" cycle, and to provide more diversity of opportunity for Arctic and northern peoples. This will grow the middle class and build a diverse, prosperous and truly inclusive economy, where all can realize their full potential.
We will support local economies, such as sealing, fishing, hunting and crafts. Measures aimed at fostering innovation, diversification and promoting access to domestic and foreign markets will support both existing and future economic activities.
Achieving sustainable economies will also require the provision of long-term employment and other benefits to Arctic and northern people, along with a central role in decision-making. The resolution of land and governance rights and the negotiation of benefits underpin economic development. Canada is committed to meaningfully consult with Indigenous peoples on resource and infrastructure projects in the decision-making process, in accordance with Aboriginal and treaty rights. Fulfilling consultation obligations while respecting the decision-making roles of Indigenous groups recognized within modern treaties can help realize inclusive economies.
Many areas within the region are expecting growth over the next decade, capitalizing on their considerable economic potential. Much of the growth will come from the natural resource sector, as well as other sectors such as:
- commercial fisheries
- cultural industries
Certain economic sectors, including resource development, tourism and shipping, are expected to grow as climate change alters the northern environment, though these activities bring new risks for people, infrastructure and ecosystems and place additional stress on search and rescue and disaster response capacity. To ensure that local and regional economies are able to grow sustainably, climate change considerations will need to be taken into account.
International trade and foreign investment are important contributors to growth, by helping Arctic and northern businesses:
- take advantage of global export opportunities made possible by existing and new free trade agreements
- attract and retain foreign direct investment in a way that enhances economic development and environmental protection while ensuring Canada's national security interests
Goal 3 objectives
- Increase Indigenous participation in the economy
- Grow the northern and Arctic economy, to the benefit of Northerners and all Canadians
- Increase retention of wealth in Canada's Arctic and North
- Reduce income inequality
- Drive innovation and support investments in cold climate resource extraction
- Optimize resource development, including the mining and energy sectors, while ensuring that this development is undertaken in a responsible, sustainable and inclusive manner
- Provide the necessary supports to help businesses grow
- Building on a strong economic base, foster economic diversification through innovation and partnerships
- Enhance opportunities for trade and investment
- Maximize economic opportunities flowing from infrastructure investments
Goal 4: Knowledge and understanding guides decision-making
Canada's Arctic and North is a region of significant interest to scientists and other researchers, domestically and internationally. Ongoing research and observation in the region seek to address knowledge gaps. Mapping and understanding climate change impacts, vulnerabilities and avenues to adaptation and resilience are keys tasks for research. Other tasks range from geological mapping to tracking species distribution to understanding the socio-economic and cultural impacts of development.
Arctic and Northern peoples want those knowledge gaps filled, but they also want changes to the way knowledge is gathered, created and shared. Our approach to Arctic and-northern research will feature:
- stronger regional and Indigenous involvement in the research process, including:
- setting priorities
- undertaking research itself
- enhanced community-based observation
The research agenda will include more social science research to meet the pressing needs of communities. Indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge will be equally considered in decision-making.
Collaboration at the international level plays a major role in addressing gaps in our knowledge of the region, particularly given the complexities, interconnectedness and costs related to Arctic and northern science.
Internationally, Canada will:
- bolster its efforts to champion Indigenous knowledge
- facilitate stronger international research collaboration
Indigenous knowledge holders as well as academic institutions and research facilities relating to natural sciences, social sciences and health have built an international reputation for high-quality knowledge and research, though more meaningful and equitable partnerships with Indigenous researchers and institutions must be achieved. The Canadian High Arctic Research Station campus in Nunavut is the newest addition to the pan-northern and Arctic network of research infrastructure welcoming scientists from all over the world.
Goal 4 objectives
- Ensure that Arctic and Northern people, including youth and all genders, play a leading role in developing research and other knowledge-creation agendas
- Ensure that Arctic and Northern people have the tools and research infrastructure to participate in all aspects of the knowledge creation process
- Increase support for health, social science and humanities research
- Create and store knowledge in a manner consistent with the self-determination of Indigenous peoples, balancing ethics, accessibility and culture
- Increase international polar science and research collaboration with full inclusion of Indigenous knowledge
- Work with partners to implement their research strategies
- Develop innovative technological solutions on widely-shared community and economic development needs
- Support development of data collection, production and measurement specifically focused on Arctic and Northern populations
- Reduce barriers to accessing research funding for Indigenous knowledge holders and organizations
Goal 5: Canadian Arctic and northern ecosystems are healthy and resilient
Climate change is a lived reality for Canada's Arctic and northern residents. The temperature in the Canadian Arctic has increased at a rate of 2 to 3 times the global average, which has placed immense pressure on Arctic and northern communities, ecosystems and infrastructure.
Rising temperatures are also:
- having widespread impacts on terrestrial and marine ecosystems
- exacerbating the effects of existing threats to biodiversity, such as:
- habitat shifts
- invasive alien species
Urgent action is needed to:
- mitigate climate change
- adapt to its current and future impacts
- promote and build resilience through efforts that:
- increase the availability of, and access to, locally relevant information for decision-making
- build capacity to reduce risk
Environmental data gathered from information and warning services on weather, water, ice, climate and air quality are an important foundation for situational awareness and can be leveraged to better understand the impacts and risks of changing environmental conditions.
Addressing critical gaps in earth observation across Canada's Arctic and North, and adapting these services to the unique context and evolving needs of the region, will be essential to support effective decision-making.
This will enable communities to be:
- more prepared for emergencies
- better informed
- resilient when it comes to facing the challenges posed by climate change
Minimizing other environmental pressures, such as pollution, will help to reduce adverse effects. Sustainable management of natural resources, conservation of biodiversity and the safeguarding and restoration of ecosystems are necessary to protect the Arctic and northern environment and communities. Indigenous peoples continue to play a unique role in stewardship of northern ecosystems, including through guardians programs, which work to protect sensitive areas and species, monitor ecological health and maintain cultural sites.
Some of the most pressing environmental issues affecting Canada's Arctic and North, from climate change to contaminants to marine pollution, cannot be managed through domestic action alone as the sources of the problems largely originate in areas outside of the region. While these environmental issues are global in scope, there is a disproportionate impact on the health of northern Canadians, in particular on Indigenous peoples who live off the land. For this reason, Canada will play a leadership role in advocating for more timely and ambitious international action to address environmental challenges that have an impact on Arctic and northern environments and peoples.
Goal 5 objectives:
- Accelerate and intensify national and international reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and short-lived climate pollutants
- Ensure conservation, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems and species
- Support sustainable use of species by Indigenous peoples
- Approach the planning, management and development of Arctic and northern environments in a holistic and integrated manner
- Partner with territories, provinces and Indigenous peoples to recognize, manage and conserve culturally and environmentally significant areas
- Facilitate greater understanding of climate change impacts and adaptation options through monitoring and research, including Indigenous-led and community-based approaches
- Enhance support for climate adaptation and resilience efforts
- Enhance understanding of the vulnerabilities of ecosystems and biodiversity and the effects of environmental change
- Ensure safe and environmentally-responsible shipping
- Decommission or remediate all contaminated sites
- Strengthen pollution prevention and mitigation regionally, nationally and internationally
Goal 6: The rules-based international order in the Arctic responds effectively to new challenges and opportunities
The circumpolar Arctic is well-known for its stability and high level of international cooperation, a product of the robust rules-based international order in the Arctic that Canada played an instrumental role in shaping. The rules-based international order is the sum of international rules, norms and institutions that govern international affairs. It benefits the national and global interest by fostering peace and stability for the Arctic; conditions which are necessary for Arctic and northern communities to thrive socially, economically and environmentally.
The international order is not static; it evolves over time to address new opportunities and challenges. The Arctic and the North is in a period of rapid change that is the product of both climate change and changing geopolitical trends. As such, international rules and institutions will need to evolve to address the new challenges and opportunities facing the region. As it has done in the past, Canada will bolster its international leadership at this critical time, in partnership with Northerners and Indigenous peoples, to ensure that the evolving international order is shaped in a manner that protects and promotes Canadian interests and values. These interests and values are widely shared by Arctic states and include:
- improving the lives of Indigenous peoples and Northerners
- protecting the region's fragile environment
- strengthening the voices of Northerners, especially Indigenous peoples
The international rules and institutions that form part of the rules-based international order will also play a critical role in helping Canada resolve our outstanding boundary disputes and continental shelf overlaps in the Arctic.
Goal 6 objectives
- Bolster Canadian leadership in multilateral forums where polar issues are discussed and decided upon
- Enhance the representation and participation of Arctic and northern Canadians in relevant international forums and negotiations
- Strengthen bilateral cooperation with Arctic and key non-Arctic states and actors
- Define more clearly Canada's marine areas and boundaries in the Arctic
Goal 7: The Canadian Arctic and North and its people are safe, secure and well-defended.
In the Arctic and the North, as in the rest of Canada, safety, security and defence are essential prerequisites for healthy communities, strong economies and a sustainable environment. Climate change is having far-reaching effects on the lives and well-being of northerners, threatening food security and the transportation of essential goods and endangering the stability and functioning of delicate ecosystems and critical infrastructure.
As the region becomes increasingly accessible due to the effects of climate change and improvements in cold-weather technologies, the region is emerging as an area of international strategic, military and economic importance, with both Arctic and non-Arctic states expressing a variety of interests in the region's potential.
- Steady increases in domestic and foreign-based tourism, scientific research and commercial activities are being experienced in the Canadian and circumpolar Arctic.
- There is also increased vessel traffic through the various waterways commonly referred to as the "Northwest Passage," which is part of Canada's internal waters.
The relationship between the land and these waterways is unique in Canada's north. For thousands of years, the Inuit have lived on; traveled across; and hunted, fished and trapped in the Canadian Arctic, making no distinction between the frozen land and the frozen sea. These practices continue and remain vital to Inuit culture and the Inuit economy today.
In today's increasingly complex Arctic and northern environment, the continued safety and security of the North depends on strengthened emergency management and community safety, including the enhanced presence and ability to respond of security providers, such as the:
- Canadian Armed Forces
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- Canadian Border Services AgencyFootnote 7
Strengthened emergency management requires a coordinated strategy, including enhanced participation of Indigenous representatives; this will be essential in building community resilience and capacity against emergencies and natural disasters.
Northern communities experience multiple risk factors and other challenges that affect their ability to respond to crime issues, such as remote geographical location and limited capacity. Culturally-sensitive crime prevention and community safety planning initiatives build knowledge and capacity that are required in order to support healthy, safe and stronger communities.
Improved situational awareness, including through NORAD and the Maritime Security Operations Centres, will also be key to protecting our north now and into the future. In this context, Canada will:
- continue to demonstrate its sovereignty
- defend North America from conventional and advanced military threats
- protect the integrity and sustainability of our northern economy, environment and critical infrastructure
- ensure a safe and secure transportation system
- safeguard the technological advantage that the Canadian Armed Forces rely on to defend our north
- effectively manage border security
- enhance the ability of the Canadian Coast Guard to help provide partners with essential Maritime Domain Awareness
- support the safety and prosperity of northern peoples and communities
Collaboration among all levels of government, with Indigenous and northern peoples and communities, and with international allies and partners, will be important.
Goal 7 objectives
- Strengthen Canada's cooperation and collaboration with domestic and international partners on safety, security and defence issues
- Enhance Canada's military presence as well as prevent and respond to safety and security incidents in the Arctic and the North
- Strengthen Canada's domain awareness, surveillance and control capabilities in the Arctic and the North
- Enforce Canada's legislative and regulatory frameworks that govern transportation, border integrity and environmental protection in the Arctic and the North
- Increase the whole-of-society emergency management capabilities in Arctic and northern communities
- Support community safety through effective and culturally-appropriate crime prevention initiatives and policing services
Goal 8: Reconciliation supports self-determination and nurtures mutually respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples
In its final report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada describes reconciliation as "establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes and action to change behaviour."
The Qikiqtani Truth Commission based in Nunavut also called for a new relationship between government and Qikiqtani Inuit grounded in "awareness and acknowledgement of past wrongs, and commitment on both sides to collaborate in building a better future." In recent years, the Government of Canada has publicly recognized the negative impacts of its past policies upon Indigenous peoples, for instance through the:
- Statement of Apology to Former Students of Indian Residential Schools in 2008)
- Apology for the Inuit High Arctic relocation in 2010
- Statement of Apology on Behalf of the Government of Canada to Former Students of the Newfoundland and Labrador Residential Schools in 2017
The Government of Canada will continue to redress past wrongs, acknowledge harm and raise awareness. The government is also working to take actions to improve and renew relationships with Indigenous peoples through distinctions-based approaches that respect the unique rights, interests and circumstances of Inuit, First Nations and Métis peoples. The Government of Canada is moving towards the recognition and implementation of rights as the basis for Canada's relationship with Inuit First Nations and Métis. Canada has also committed to exploring new ways of working together, including through the Inuit-Crown Partnership and the other permanent bilateral mechanisms formed to jointly advance shared priorities.
The improvement and devolution of governance to give all people in Canada's Arctic and north more control over their lives will underpin reconciliation, build long-term capacity and contribute to the building of healthier and more resilient communities. The vast majority of Indigenous self-governments are found in the north. Innovative approaches to self-determination have also been established through public governments.
One of the roles of the federal government is to advance self-determination for Canada's Arctic and northern residents, including the devolution of province-like powers to territorial governments. This helps enable a locally-based approach to reconciliation, to be undertaken together by the peoples of the Arctic and north.
In addition to the recognition of rights and innovative forms of governance and collaboration, reconciliation in Canada's Arctic and north means closing the socio-economic gaps that exist between Arctic and northern Indigenous peoples and other Canadians. Canada will work with Indigenous governments and organizations, territories, provinces and other partners to close these gaps. This will be achieved, in part, through the implementation of the:
- Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- goals and objectives articulated in this framework
Goal 8 objectives
- Honour, uphold and implement the rights of Arctic and northern Indigenous peoples, including those outlined in historic and modern treaties and in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Change federal operating practices and processes in support of increased self-determination and representation of Arctic and northern Indigenous peoples, and recognize the unique operating environment of various Indigenous and public governments in the Arctic and north
- Ensure that Arctic and northern Indigenous peoples have the opportunity, choice and capacity to enter into treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements with the Crown that provide a foundation for ongoing relations
- Reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen the cultures of Arctic and Northern Indigenous peoples, including their languages and knowledge systems
- Complete outstanding devolution commitments, including the devolution of land, inland waters and resource management in Nunavut
- Work with Indigenous governments and organizations, provinces, territories and other partners to close socioeconomic gaps between Arctic and northern Indigenous peoples and other Canadians
- Continue to redress past wrongs against Indigenous peoples
Conclusion: Next steps
The development of this framework has strengthened collaborative relationships between framework partners and among federal government departments. This development of new ways of working together is, in itself, a significant achievement.
In the second phase of the framework, governance mechanisms will be co-developed through discussions among framework partners, the governments and Indigenous peoples' organizations that worked together on the first part of the framework. These mechanisms will describe how partners will regularly collaborate to share information and assess progress on framework implementation, building on significant developments in governance over the last 50 years. Governance mechanisms will:
- support the jurisdictional and institutional landscape created by devolution, modern treaties and land claim and self-government agreements
- adhere to the principles of partnership articulated in A New Shared Arctic Leadership Model, the final report of Mary Simon, the Minister's Special Representative on Arctic Leadership
- meet partners' expectations for meaningful, ongoing involvement in policy decisions related to their interests
- provide a forum for all partners to be regularly convened for collaborative discussions on implementation of the framework
- commit to reconciliation in the context of renewed federal-provincial-territorial-Indigenous relationships
- ensure that existing fora, such as the Inuit Crown Partnership Committee, the Yukon Forum, and the Intergovernmental Council of the Northwest Territories, are leveraged to assist in implementation
- reflect the authorities and powers of territorial, provincial and Indigenous governments
Financial investment in the framework will be an integral element of its success. Partners will work together to develop an implementation and investment plan. The plan will outline how new investments together with other economic and regulatory levers will be used to contribute to implementation of the framework.
The implementation and investment plan will:
- define new investments
- provide information on how partners' funding initiatives are aligned with and supportive of the goals and objectives described in the ANPF policy statement, including in partner chapters
- provide strategic alignment and flexibility of investments to accommodate the unique nature of 'doing business' in the Arctic and north
- define indicators, data collection and reporting commitments related to specific funding and initiatives
Annex: Principles for the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework
The principles below were developed to provide continuing guidance on implementation of the framework.
- Decisions about the Arctic and the North will be made in partnership with and with the participation of northerners, to reflect the rights, needs and perspectives of northerners
- The rights and jurisdictions of Canada's federal, territorial, provincial Indigenous and municipal governments will be respected
- Development should be sustainable and holistic, integrating social, cultural, economic and environmental considerations
- Ongoing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, using the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a starting point, is foundational to success
- As climate change is a lived reality in the region, initiatives will take into account its various impacts, including its impact on Indigenous northerners, who continue to rely on the land and wildlife for their culture, traditional economy, and food security
- Policy and programming will reflect a commitment to diversity and equality, and to the employment of analytical tools such as Gender-Based Analysis Plus to assess potential impacts on diverse groups of people
- The framework will respect a distinctions-based approach to ensure that the unique rights, interests and circumstances of Inuit, Arctic and northern First Nations and Métis are acknowledged, affirmed and implemented
- The Government of Canada recognizes Inuit, First Nations, and Métis as the Indigenous peoples of Canada, consisting of distinct, rights-bearing communities with their own histories, including with the Crown
- The work of forming renewed relationships based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership must reflect the unique interests, priorities and circumstances of each people
- Every sector of society, from the private sector to universities and colleges, the not-for-profit sector, community-based organizations and individual Canadians, has an important part to play in building a strong Canadian Arctic and North.
Introduction to partners' chapters
The content in the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework was discussed over the course of more than a year by the partners in the co-development process. The ideas, the aspirations, and the goals and objectives are the result of the meeting of many minds and perspectives. This often meant compromise on the part of governments and Indigenous partners as we strove for consensus. As part of the development of the framework, we decided it was important for partners to be able to express themselves directly, to lay out their visions, aspirations and priorities. While the framework chapters are an integral part of this process, they do not necessarily reflect the views of either the federal government, or of the other partners.
Safety, security and defence chapter