Senate report says Arctic security requires ‘human security’

Planned spending by federal government won’t be enough to clear the North’s infrastructure deficit

Senator Margaret Dawn Anderson said a lack of engagement by the military with Northern Indigenous populations was part of a continuing “pattern of colonialism.” (Photo by Jorge Antunes)

By Jorge Antunes

The nearly $5 billion the federal government plans to spend on modernizing its North American defence won’t be enough to solve infrastructure deficits in the North, according to a report released by a Senate committee Wednesday.

The committee hoped that that new planned spending, which was announced last year, will have “collateral benefits” to improve services such as roads and housing as well as economic development, said Sen. Tony Dean, the chairperson of the Senate’s national security and defence committee.

However, the committee determined, that won’t be possible under the $4.9 billion over six years the federal government announced a year ago.

“[The government] will not address housing [in the North]. They will not address food insecurity. There are a number of things that they will not address,” said Dean at news conference following the release of the study on Wednesday.

In a written response to the committee’s report, Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok said “Arctic security and sovereignty rely on robust transportation, energy, and telecommunications infrastructure.”

Akeeagok said nation-building investments “are needed to promote social development and realize the full economic potential of our regions and Canada.”

The senators’ study of Arctic security followed the federal government’s June 2022 announcement that it will spend $4.9 billion over six years to modernize Canada’s NORAD, or North American Aerospace Defence Command, capabilities.

The committee also cited the growing importance of Arctic sovereignty in the world’s changing geopolitical climate for its decision to conduct its study.

A few weeks before the Senate began studying Arctic security, Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, adding urgency to the study.

The timing of the committee’s work means the preparation of its report took place after the war in Ukraine began.

In the report, the senators called the invasion of Ukraine the greatest “upheaval in Europe” since the Second World War.

Existing Arctic civilian and industrial infrastructure is “stretched,” the committee said. Food insecurity, poor internet and inadequate housing are also concerns.

Meanwhile, the North’s abundant “natural gas resources and rare-earth elements” remain largely inaccessible.

For that reason, the senators called on the federal government to put in “parallel strategies and investments” to address those needs, Dean said.

“The importance of the Arctic and military defence and security cannot be overstated,” said Sen. Margaret Dawn Anderson of the Northwest Territories, the only Inuk member of the committee.

“I think there is a belief that in Canada there’s equality and equity between all the provinces and territories,” Anderson added. “I can affirm that that is not true.”

She said there are large inequities, especially in the territories.

Witnesses interviewed for the study noted northern governments must consider updated interpretations of Arctic security when making decisions.

One of them, historian P. Whitney Lackenbauer, said it’s harmful to view Arctic security as a trade-off between hard security and “human security,” such as access to food and health care.

The senators agreed that involvement and engagement from Indigenous communities is key.

However, Anderson said, engagement on the part of the federal government “is not as fulsome or meaningful as Indigenous” people would like.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Are you a qualified news org? on

    No articles about Bill C18 Nunatsiaq?

    • Posted by iWonder on

      I’ve been wondering what this publication’s position on Bill C 18 is, considering the potential downsides of Google and Meta decisions to stop providing free services to Canadian news outlets.

      Hope you are scratching away on an editorial, Corey. The time seems right for that.

    • Posted by The news is a cost center on

      Advertising by local governments is the only thing keeping this publication alive.

  2. Posted by Mit on

    They need to pave the runways so that fighter Jets can do training in the arctic

  3. Posted by Sam on

    Nunavut politicians, this person knows how politics work smart, at a time when Russia is threatening the world, build infastructure, in the north and housing for the true north, rather than whine, and say need more money, this person should help train all of Nunavut on how to approach and come across as a professional.we sadly lack this type of diplomacy in Nunavut.

    • Posted by Delbert on

      The Canadian military. Will eventually need to build. A base in the north. The will require all the infrastructure and equipment. To house and arm. A full complement of trained military personnel. Plus all the support staff.
      staging for a rapid response force. Like JTF 2

  4. Posted by Taxpayer on

    The north’s abundant “natural gas resources and rare-earth elements” remain largely inaccessible for a couple of reasons.

    With respect to natural gas, many of the Sverdrup Basin gas is offshore, and all of the Baffin and Hudsons Bay Basin gas is also offshore. In 2016, the Trudeau government placed a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in Canada’s Arctic Ocean including Nunavut. The moratorium was extended earlier this year. The inaccessibility of natural gas in Nunavut is not infrastructure related. It is based on politics.

    With respect to critical minerals in Nunavut, little is known about what mining potential exists except for dozens of mineral showings. They are there, but we do not know how much, and whether they can be mined.

    Many if not most critical mineral showings in Nunavut are now subject to limited and conditional use areas under the recommended Nunavut Land Use Plan. That means either companies will not be allowed to explore for critical minerals, or they will face great difficulty in actually mining them. Again, the main stumbling blocks will not be infrastructure that can be overcome as critical minerals prices increase as demand grows, but due to decisions people are making.

    Nunavut’s remoteness and inaccessibility are wonderful crutches for politicians. They can easily point to this big problem as an excuse for why we are so poor up here. However, this is also a great distraction for all the times that politicians literally shoot Nunavut in the foot when it comes to economic development, and make prosperity even more unattainable.

    In Nunavut we need Defense spending, not only to protect Canada, but also to get some activity going for our youth. We have taken other options for them off the table already.


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