There isn’t a single person among us who Is not affected by the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. We are all being called, all of us, to show solidarity with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters and each other. If this invasion is telling us anything, it’s how fragile and precious this life is.
We might think that by living in the North we are free of the impacts but we are not. It’s effect on our sovereignty, safety and ability to deal with crucial issues such as climate change are in question. We are being called in ways we have never been called on before.
Seven of eight member countries (with the exception of Russia) suspended their participation in the Arctic Council chaired by Russia and scheduled to meet again in that country. The council, established in the 1990s, and including Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the U.S. meet to tackle issues of special concern to the North, including climate change, shipping and resource development upon which our financial security and sovereignty are dependent. This is so important especially now considering that the U.N. said only last week that the climate change emergency is worse than we thought and demands our immediate attention, something we have known for some time.
We needed to see this work done - especially in the North. With the invasion, dealing with climate change is on the back burner again.
In addition, Canada’s three Northern territories have asked to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss growing concerns about Arctic security. While we cannot panic or live in fear, we must be aware that this threat on our sparsely populated and vulnerable land is real.
Many of us remember that Northern security has been a major concern before, such as during and after the cold war, as it serves as an easy entry by a hostile force into Canada. As proof of that, many are scratching our heads wondering how a plane with a Russian citizen on board was so easily able to land in the capital last week. This vulnerable nature of the North is why some indigenous communities were resettled at times against their will so that there would be a human presence if unwelcome guests tried to lay claim to our North. Though Yellowknife is home to Joint Task Force North which holds exercises throughout this part of Canada, with a population under 45,000 in the NWT and no operational NORAD bases, it could be an easy entry if Russia decided to break rules here, too.
Last week, a fire occurred in a major nuclear plant in the Ukraine and though on a different continent, we were all put at risk. But for the grace of God and hard work by the tenacious Ukrainian forces, we were spared a major nuclear explosion. This is not to say it could not happen again. It could.
Though the fighting is overseas, we must be aware and prepared here too.
More than anything else, what this invasion is a call for is that we reassess what matters in life. We thought that the pandemic was a call for unity and this invasion is also a call for us to reaffirm our concern for the well-being of each other.
This is a time for all of us to decide that the most important thing in life is how we treat and care for each other — not the stuff we surround ourselves with - but our willingness to lend our support and helping hands.
Here in Canada, we can be proud of the ways we have and continue to show our solidarity with the people of Ukraine, whether it be through flying the Ukraine flag (Hay River), making financial or material donations, marching and preparing to welcome refugees.
We are all being called and we will continue to be called as this struggle continues. But we must not give into fear but to act from that deep place within us that believes in generosity, integrity and most of all love and that through this battle too, we prove once again that we are in this together