Today, some of the most influential voices guiding the social and economic development of Canada’s North are women and the ones gracing our cover will attend the second Northern Lights conference in Ottawa – a business and cultural showcase celebrating Canada’s North and the eastern Arctic, including the regions of Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and Labrador.
The event is a joint venture of the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce and the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce. Of particular interest is the Northern Ambassadors’ Forum, hosted by the Hon. Bill Rompkey, former Senator for Labrador. Five ambassadors will serve as panelists, including David Jacobson from the United States, Erik Vilstrup Lorenzen from Denmark, Else Berit Eikeland from Norway, Teppo Tauriainen from Sweden and Georgiy Mamedov of Russia. This should be a riveting session, given the interest surrounding Arctic sovereignty and issues related to the development of Arctic natural resources. It will also be one of the last opportunities to catch a glimpse of Georgiy Mamedov, the very popular Russian ambassador to Canada who is in the final year of his nine-year posting. This will be the first time Ambassador Mamedov is present at a public forum with Canadian government officials and the American ambassador since it was disclosed that a Canadian Forces soldier in Halifax was arrested and charged with supplying top secret U.S.-Canada military secrets to Russian agents in Canada, working out of the Russian Embassy in Ottawa.
Georgiy Mamedov is a well-known, recognized political and diplomatic force in international circles. Prior to his Ottawa posting in June 2003, he was a key advisor to then President Putin, the current Prime Minister, and a trusted mentor and advisor to President Medvedev. I have interviewed Mamedov on several occasions and appreciate his refreshingly candid responses. In 2003, I asked him about Russia’s views on the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He replied that it would prove to be a costly and disastrous tactical error that the United States would eventually come to regret. He also added that George W. Bush should listen more to Jean Chrétien, whom he viewed as a very wise man. In 2005, I asked him why Russia should expect to become part of the G-8 and a member of the international trading community if it imposed illegal trade and business practices against legitimate Western entities investing in Russia. Mamedov replied that “Russia’s first priority would be to protect natural resources in the state interest and that Russia and Russia alone would decide what natural resources were in the national interest. If BP, Petro Canada, Shell or other multinationals didn’t like it, too bad.” He noted that Canada and other Western countries are hypocrites because they do the same thing to protect their national interest so there should be no problem for them if Russia did the same. Several years later, when the Harper government moved unilaterally to protect Canada’s potash industry from falling into foreign hands, I was reminded of Mamedov’s remarks. In May 2010, I asked if Russia had any interest or claims on Canada’s Arctic territory or in the Northwest Passage. He laughed and said: “Listen… your problem is with the Danes in the eastern Arctic over that little island. Besides, we don’t have any claims against your Arctic territory. We are too busy dealing with our own Northeast Passage so Canada can relax about any such claims.” Then he added …“but the Americans have interests there, so you should be careful”… and he smiled. We are going to miss you, Mr. Mamedov.