Northern premiers talk Arctic sovereignty and security at annual forum

Climate change and its effect on global security also major concern at meetings

From left, Premiers Ranj Pillai of Yukon, Nunavut’s P.J. Akeeagok and Caroline Cochrane of the Northwest Territories take a photo break during the annual Northern Premiers’ Forum which took place this week in Inuvik. (Photo courtesy of Ranj Pillai)

By Jorge Antunes

Canada’s territorial leaders say they want a greater role in issues such as climate change mitigation and Arctic sovereignty.

At their annual Northern Premiers Forum, which wrapped up in Inuvik, N.W.T., Wednesday, they also discussed the mining of critical minerals and their role in the future of the Arctic and its people.

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok noted that on recent visits to Alaska and Greenland he was inspired by the rapid development of new infrastructure.

He said that in Anchorage last year, he saw the “incredible investment” government has made in airstrips, deepsea ports and rail lines.

The majority of Nunavut’s communities remain isolated and only accessible by air or water.

“The lack of investment [from the federal government] is not [only] making the North vulnerable, but Canada vulnerable in the global picture,” Akeeagok said.

“So we’re calling on Canada to really step up and start investing on critical infrastructure that we bring forward as solutions. We’re really hoping to see that shift in terms of those investments coming to the North.”

In a joint communique released after the forum, the premiers noted changing levels of global security as a concern, specifically citing the incursion of Chinese surveillance balloons into Arctic airspace earlier this year.

Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane noted the Department of National Defence briefed the trio about ongoing upgrades to the critical infrastructure of the defence system for Norad, or the North American Aerospace Defence Command.

Still, she said, the premiers expect more meaningful engagement and teamwork between National Defence, territorial governments and Indigenous leaders as defence policy evolves.

The premiers also see a role for both the federal government and private sector to invest in “dual-use infrastructure,” including clean energy.

Dual-use infrastructure is defence parlance for transportation networks that can be used for both civilian and defence purposes.

“Arctic sovereignty is about making sure that people have the support and the resources so that we can live in the Arctic,” Cochrane said.

In their joint statement, the premiers said, “Norad modernization could be used as a valuable tool for economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”

The premiers also discussed the ever-present threat and financial burden of climate change, noting the ongoing wildfires in the N.W.T. communities of Hay River and Kátł’odeeche First Nation and flooding in Fort McPherson, as recent crises.

For emergency responses to climate change just for this year, “we had to put a $50-million contingency [for flooding] based on what we’ve seen trend for the last number of years,” said Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai.

The premiers called on the federal government to create a “northern-specific tax credit” to bolster existing credits as a response to the operating costs of mineral exploration in the North.

Any resource extraction must ensure Indigenous communities and culture are not harmed, they added.

To that end, the premiers said they want the federal government to work with territorial and Indigenous governments to create regulatory frameworks to ensure their inclusion in “critical mineral opportunities.”

“The ice is receding and we must be prepared,” Akeeagok said.

Share This Story

(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by S on

    Does it even matter that none of these people have any competency (or even knowledge) on any of the matters they discuss?

    • Posted by Project much? on

      The most ironic thing I am likely to read all day.

  2. Posted by Culture Creep on

    Critical minerals are essential to the development of next generation technologies, especially ones that will mitigate our carbon footprint. The potential for Nunavut in this near future are considerable. Knowing that I wonder who the Northern Premiers are speaking to when they say “Any resource extraction must ensure Indigenous communities and culture are not harmed…” ?

    Are they cautioning the Federal Government, or signaling to their constituents? Are they setting a clear boundary around what’s tolerable, or easing anxieties around the inevitability of cultural change in the face of development?

  3. Posted by Taxpayer on

    There are 2 main reasons why the US federal government has invested more heavily in infrastructure in Alaska than the Canadian government has in Nunavut.

    The US takes defense seriously. They have developed the capacity to defend Alaska against the USSR/Russia. This includes roads, air force bases, army and marine bases that link and support public infrastructure.

    Canada does not take defense seriously. The closest one base we had (Inuvik), has been basically disbanded. We have the Rangers, and patrol ships that can be here 1/5 of the year.

    People in Alaska welcome development. Everything from extensive tourism, oil and gas development, mining, commercial fishing, power generation, the works. Government is only 19% of their economy. The US Government has made investments to support these sectors knowing these sectors knowing residents are actually demanding this.

    Nunavut does not welcome development. Limited cruise ship traffic we have is now viewed as problematic, oil and gas development is banned/curtailed, mining projects struggle for approval, we have outsourced our fishery, and our focus is now trying to import energy. When Ottawa is asked to support these sectors, they see that these investments would be controversial. The unanimous outcry for more investment in Nunavut is for public housing, which only perpetuates dependency.

    For Premier Akeeagok, the work before him is not to point fingers at Ottawa for more public infrastructure. The more important work is to see if a consensus that can be built within Nunavut that development is actually a good thing. Based on his recent comments on land use planning, he can start with himself.

    • Posted by iThink on

      If Canada had similar resources to the United States its posture on Defense would be more expansive. Geopolitical luck finds us positioned next to the greatest military power in history. Our softness on Defense is not because we don’t care, its because we believe there is minimal net benefit from whatever we invest.

      Your last paragraph is an important one that needs to be spoken about, and loudly. PJ appears to gesture toward development here, but the commitment seems tepid. He needs to do exactly as you say and start a whole new conversation about deveoplment and the future. That is leadership.

    • Posted by MARK SEIDENBERG on

      As a duel USA and Canadian Citizen
      (mother born in Canada & father born in USA), I remember W. A. C.
      Bennett telling me how he tried to make British Columbia an “Arctic Power” to the north of Alaska by having the Plover Islands which were
      formally annexed in the name of Queen Victoria by the British Royal Navy in 1850 and added to Canada in 1880. Yet the federal government would not go forward, because of a hang up with a “Sector Theory” which was reject by most nations of the world. It is time to remember the USA offered in both 1930 and 1938 Michias Seal Island of Washington County in Maine for the four islands of the.Plover Group, but
      the officers were rejected by both the British (1930) and Canada (1938)
      over a reject “Sector Theory” for the Arctic by the USA.

  4. Posted by Tooma on

    Our beliefs into becoming Christianity and believing is only way for change. And those who say are sovereign it is time to use the people who actually lives there and put them apart of the territory.

  5. Posted by TSA on

    When Inuit are ready and able. Not now we are catching up slowly. They should be the ones growing their territory

  6. Posted by Chesley on

    Less war mongering and dominance by the military industrial sector would bring about stability and security. Look at what Bobby Kennedy Jr is saying in his run for office And note how scant it is being covered by the press. Democracy functions with a free press, without it it is a badly crippled system serving those in power.

Comments are closed.