Information will be released ‘in the coming weeks’ on the federal government’s long-awaited Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, according to a spokesperson.
“We are taking the necessary time and steps to co-develop a framework that reflects and integrates the shared interests, goals and priorities of our partners and is responsive to the needs of Northerners and Arctic residents,” stated Stephanie Palma, media relations for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.
“Once adopted, the framework will be a long-term vision to 2030 and beyond and will inform our collective priorities and investments in the region.”
Palma says her department is also reviewing a recent senate committee report that calls on the government to conduct bold action in our Northern region.
The 139-page report, Northern Lights: A Wake-up Call for the Future of Canada, was released by the Special Senate Committee on the Arctic on June 11. The committee is chaired by Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson but NWT Senator Margaret Dawn Anderson joined the committee after taking her seat in the Red Chamber last fall.
The report focuses on economic development and infrastructure, peoples and communities, protection of the environment and biodiversity, science and traditional knowledge, and the context of our Arctic in the circumpolar world.
“I hope government takes this report seriously,” said Anderson. “As northerners, we are well aware of the impacts of the policies imposed upon us by the South, and the scale of under-investment when it comes to programs, services and infrastructure in our region.”
Palma said the committee’s recommendations align with the tack the government has been taking in Northern investment over the past four years, and the topics that will be covered in the framework mirror, to a degree, those covered by the report.
Anderson says she can identify a few of the report’s recommendations that are vital to the NWT in particular.
Recommendations two and three recommend more devolution of federal services to local governments, more funding for the settlement of land claims, and more co-management with Indigenous and territorial governments for Arctic offshore waters.
Other recommendations Anderson identified call for climate change mitigation strategies for infrastructure and housing, investments in alternate energy to lessen reliance on diesel, increased funding for adult education, education and labour force strategies, more cultural understanding in health care, investment in community-driven environmental conservation and co-management, as well as investment in Indigenous stewardship programs and a conservation economy.
“Election cycles are relatively short,” said Anderson. “It is my hope that the findings and recommendations in this report remain front of mind for many years to come as the Government of Canada works with the Indigenous governments and organizations, as well as the Government of Northwest Territories to address both the socio-economic disparities that exist between the NWT and the rest of Canada, as well as the significant impacts of climate change in our region.”
Anderson said the committee worked with a common vision of making a document that reflects the thoughts and values of Northerners, and that it was a “successful bipartisan process.”
Another major piece of the report had to do with security and sovereignty, especially as major world players like Russia and China bolster their Arctic presence, and while the U.S. has recently publicly rejected Canada’s claim to sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, claiming it is international water.
Palma said sovereignty is a priority for the feds.
“Canada is firmly asserting its presence in the North, ensuring we have the capability and capacity to protect and patrol the land, sea and sky in our sovereign Arctic territory,” stated Palma.