Foreign policy group meets in capital

Annual outreach offers information for policy-makers


Iqaluit’s parish hall was like a mini-United Nations this week as ambassadors and stakeholders met for a gathering called the “Northern Dimension of Canada’s Foreign Policy Outreach Roundtable.”

The Northern Dimension of Canada’s Foreign Policy is a policy document approved by the federal cabinet in 2000.

It sets out objectives and priorities for Canada’s foreign policy in the circumpolar world, including the northern territories of Canada, Russia, the U.S., the Nordic countries, and the waters that surround them.

The meeting is the third annual in a five-year, $10-million project sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to help policy-makers based in the south decide what to prioritize and spend money on.

Previous meetings were held in Yellowknife and Whitehorse.

Lee-Anne Hermann, the deputy director of aboriginal and circumpolar affairs with the Department of Foreign Affairs facilitated the meeting and explained the outreach was organized in partnership with the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Arctic College.

“In Ottawa we develop the policy but we try to base it as best we can on what the North wants,” she said. “The purpose of the outreach is to talk to the people here, give them what we’re doing, so there’s a basis for discussion and then get from them some ideas and suggestions.”

This is the first year that Canadian ambassadors to other countries were invited to the outreach. Ambassadors Shirley Wolff Serafini (Norway), Richard Tetu (Iceland) and Lorenz Friedlaender (Sweden) joined the discussion table at the parish hall.

“We thought it’d be a good opportunity for them because they represent all of Canada, so for them to see a little bit of the North and also for them to tell all the people here about what Canada through their embassies are doing in the North,” Hermann said.

Jack Anawak, the new ambassador for circumpolar affairs, welcomed the group on Tuesday, the first of two discussion days.

Presentations were given by people like Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, who talked about prospects for the future, and Renée Sauvé of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who presented a draft of the still-evolving Arctic Marine Strategic Plan, to be endorsed at the next ministerial meeting of the Arctic council in November.

The information will be brought back to Ottawa, Hermann explained, re-examined, and then used to help them to decide where their energies and dollars should be focused.

“This kind of outreach helps us in saying maybe we should focus more on children and youth initiatives, or maybe we should focus more on this, or women’s stuff or whatever, and try and develop different projects,” she said. “We don’t develop the projects ourselves, but if that’s where the interest is we encourage people to come forward with projects in those areas.”

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