The premier of the Northwest Territories says she stressed the importance of improving the NWT’s infrastructure and reducing inequalities between the North and the south in a recent meeting with her federal colleagues on Arctic security.
Premier Caroline Cochrane and her Northern colleagues — Yukon Premier Sandy Silver and Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok — met jointly with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Defence Anita Anand on Monday to discuss Arctic sovereignty. The three premiers advocated for the meeting following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the fears it ignited about security in Canada’s Arctic.
In a statement attributed to Cochrane, the premier said she stressed to Trudeau and Anand “the need for broadband, and other needs like infrastructure and energy. Northern security is not just about robust military presence – it’s also about building strong, resilient communities through significant investment in critical infrastructure like roads, telecommunications and energy.”
She said improving security in the Arctic would also mean “(eliminating) the gaps between Northern and southern Canadians.”
“While Canada is responsible for Arctic security, when it comes to investing in the North and improving Arctic sovereignty, decisions about the North must be made by Northerners. After all, Northerners have the biggest stake in a strong and sustainable Arctic Canada,” Cochrane stated.
The NWT premier did not reveal whether any concrete commitments were made during the meeting.
In March, Cochrane told the Legislative Assembly that earlier that month she had “attended a confidential briefing with officials at the highest level of military, security and intelligence branches of the federal government.” She also said she met with Anand and Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal to discuss Arctic security.
“The current invasion of Ukraine by Russia is a stark reminder of the importance of Arctic sovereignty,” Cochrane told the assembly. “We share a unique border with Russia: the Arctic Ocean. As the Arctic takes a more predominant role on the international stage, we want to ensure that the needs of Northerners remain a priority for Canada.”
In advance of the tabling of the federal budget on Thursday, Trudeau said “with NORAD modernization on the table, with increased investments in defence, the Arctic is an area we’re going to look at closely.”
Anand also strongly hinted that more military spending was coming, telling CBC’s Power and Politics in March that she was “bringing forward aggressive options which would see (Canada), potentially, exceeding the two per cent level, hitting the two per cent level, and below the two per cent level,” referring to the target of spending two per cent of Canada’s GDP on NATO. That figure is currently 1.39 per cent.
A spokesperson for the federal Department of Defence acknowledged a request for comment but did not respond in time for publication.