Canada’s Arctic ambassador hard at work

Mary Simon has spent her time as Canada’s ambassador to Denmark in encouraging more trade between Canada and Greenland.


QUEBEC CITY — As Canada’s ambassador to Denmark and the Arctic, Mary Simon juggles responsibilities for the Arctic Council, along with running a 20-person embassy in Copenhagen.

This double-duty requires a full day of work in her office consulting with her employees and government officials or visitors, as well as representing Canada at formal events almost every night.

“That’s the challenge, to balance the two, and the circumpolar work requires a lot of travel,” said Simon, who was in Quebec City to serve as honorary co-president of the First People’s Business Association’s gala.

As ambassador to Denmark, one of Simon’s priorities is to boost commercial contacts between Canada and Denmark.

“My role is to open the door for freer trade,” Simon said.

This means she’s been able to pursue ways of increasing trade between Greenland and Canada’s North.

Although Denmark wants to protect its traditional market share in Greenland, Simon said there may yet be opportunities for Canadian companies to supply housing and food, or become involved in mining ventures.

She said she is encouraged by an announcement made when a Canadian trade delegation visited Greenland in February about a plan by Greenland’s Royal Arctic Lines plans to begin shipping between Canada and Greenland this summer.

“I think part of the problem is that people are set in their ways and their relations are very established,” Simon said. “It’s hard to make new trends and new ways of doing things.”

But soon, Simon’s boss, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, is expected to announce Canada’s new northern foreign policy. This long-awaited policy should provide much more concrete support to Simon’s work as ambassador to Denmark and within the Arctic Council.

According to a 1998 policy document, Canada’s new northern foreign policy will deal with the sustainable development of renewable resources, environmental protection, as well as social and cultural issues that include housing, education and health care. It will also address regional development, northern sovereignty, national unity and relations with other northern neighbours.

Expanding circumpolar cooperation on Arctic issues, such as trade, will be an important part of this new policy.

Last September, Axworthy told Nunatsiaq News that his department’s goals included breaking down trade barriers, building up a better trade and transportation corridor between Nunavut and Greenland, and creating an aboriginal trading network.

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