Canada is a northern country. The North has inspired our artists and adventurers. It defines us all as Canadians. And it is more central to our national destiny than ever before. Our Government has recognized this since taking office in 2006. It is the reason that we have has made the North a much higher priority that it had been for many, many, years. This is especially timely, given increased interest by other nations in the Arctic region.
Increased access to ice-free Arctic waterways comes with the serious risk of pollution. The gathering global demand for northern resources -widely thought to be so abundant that they should be considered transformative economic assets – has generated worldwide interest. And in 2013, the nations of the North, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the U.S., begin complex, sciencebased negotiations to set national boundaries in the Arctic. At stake is control over vast swathes of the Arctic sea bed.
With these things in mind, our government has developed a Northern Strategy, based on four objectives:
• Protection of Canada’s Sovereignty
• Environmental preservation
• Economic and social development and
• Improved governance for northerners themselves
The protection of our sovereignty is the highest responsibility of any Canadian government. That is why we have undertaken several initiatives.
The Canadian Armed Forces have conducted regular exercises in the Arctic over the past five years, and will continue to do so.
We passed legislation to prevent pollution of the fragile Arctic ecosystem, by doubling the reach of our authority to regulate shipping in the Arctic.
We’re also mapping the continental shelf in the high Arctic, to assemble the geographic data needed to assert our sovereignty under the abovementioned negotiations through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
We have striven to promote the reasonable expectation among northerners that they will have the leading role in advancing their own development.
Our claim to sovereignty over the Arctic is most strongly embodied in the communities of the far North. From Iqaluit to Ellesmere to the Beaufort, Canadians are working, raising families and helping build those communities.
We understand that living in the North is not always easy, as Aboriginal peoples have understood for centuries. In return for its breathtaking beauty and extraordinary opportunity, it exacts a toll: cold, darkness and isolation. But many people choose to live in the North today, and pay that price, for they have a sense of the greatness that awaits.
They have the same hardy, adventurous spirit that defined southern Canadian pioneers in centuries past. They are hunters and trappers, sealers and whalers, hard rock miners and tourism outfitters. They’re teachers and nurses, doctors and lawyers, entrepreneurs and public servants. No matter what they do, they are today’s Canadian pioneers, and they are charting the destiny of the North. In another century, Canada’s government helped pioneers develop, by building railroads, highways, ports and other economic infrastructure. They also helped local communities deliver the schools, hospitals and cultural and recreational facilities that are so vital to our quality of life. Today, our government is doing the same for the pioneers of the New North.
We share their belief that Canada’s future is inextricably linked to our Northern frontier.
It is the same belief in Canada’s northern imperative that former prime minister John G. Diefenbaker proclaimed nearly half a century ago, with these words: “I see a new Canada, a Canada of the North.” Then, his government took the first steps to bringing this vision to life, building airports, icebreakers and paving over 2,200 kilometres of roads across the territories.
Our government is the proud inheritor of that great Northern legacy. We too, have a dream to unleash the region’s vast potential, to advance and prosper a great Northern future – one that will benefit northerners, and all Canadians. And we have a vision of one Canada, East, West and into the far, far North – a vision that we will continue to press vigorously.
PHOTOS: JASON RANSOM