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Canada's Northern Strategy

Canada’s Northern Strategy: Our North, Our Heritage, Our Future

Author: Published under the authority of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
Date: Ottawa, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-662-05765-9
QS- Y309-000-GB-A1

PDF Version (2.4 Mb, 48 Pages)

Table of Contents

Message from the Honourable Chuck Strahl, P.C., M.P. Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Canada is a Northern nation. The North is a fundamental part of our heritage and our national identity, and it is vital to our future. The North is home to many Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples, as well as those drawn there from around the world. Our government recognizes the tremendous opportunities – as well as the many challenges – that exist in the North today. That is why we are allocating more resources and attention to Northern issues than at any time in our country's history.

We have a clear vision for the North and are working to ensure the region achieves its rightful place within a strong and sovereign Canada. This document and the Government's related web site provide an overview of our integrated Northern Strategy, elaborating on our overarching vision, the four pillars of our strategy, and our significant activities to date throughout the North, including major investments made as a part of Canada's Economic Action Plan.

Canada's Northern Strategy focuses on four priority areas: exercising our Arctic sovereignty; promoting social and economic development; protecting the North's environmental heritage; and improving and devolving northern governance, so that Northerners have a greater say in their own destiny.

We are taking concrete action to deliver on our vision for the North, and to fulfill our promises. I am proud of our Government's achievements on this vital initiative, and look forward to contributing to an even greater future for a region so central to Canada's character and identity.

Our North, Our Heritage


Canada's far North is a fundamental part of Canada – it is part of our heritage, our future and our identity as a country. The North is undergoing rapid changes, from the impacts of climate change to the growth of Northern and Aboriginal governments and institutions. At the same time, domestic and international interest in the Arctic region is rising. This growing interest underscores the importance of Canada to exert effective leadership both at home and abroad in order to promote a prosperous and stable region responsive to Canadian interests and values.

The Government of Canada has a clear vision for the North, in which:

  • self-reliant individuals live in healthy, vital communities, manage their own affairs and shape their own destinies;
  • the Northern tradition of respect for the land and the environment is paramount and the principles of responsible and sustainable development anchor all decision-making and action;
  • strong, responsible, accountable governments work together for a vibrant, prosperous future for all – a place whose people and governments are significant contributing partners to a dynamic, secure Canadian federation; and
  • we patrol and protect our territory through enhanced presence on the land, in the sea and over the skies of the Arctic.

We are achieving this vision by delivering an integrated Northern Strategy based on four equally important and mutually reinforcing priorities:

  • Exercising our Arctic Sovereignty
  • Promoting Social and Economic Development
  • Protecting our Environmental Heritage
  • Improving and Devolving Northern Governance

The Government recognizes what must be done to secure the future of Canada's North, for the benefit of all Canadians, and is taking concrete action to turn this vision for the North into reality. We are moving much further – and much faster – to prepare for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

"We are a northern country. The True North is our destiny – for our explorers, for our entrepreneurs, for our artists. To not embrace the promise of the True North, now, at the dawn of its ascendency, would be to turn our backs on what it is to be Canadian."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, August 2008, Inuvik, Northwest Territories

The North is central to the Canadian national identity. The longstanding presence of Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples and the legacy of generations of explorers and researchers are fundamental to our history. Our ability to meet the opportunities and challenges currently facing the North will shape our future.

Canada's North is first and foremost about people – the Inuit, other Aboriginal peoples and Northerners who have made the North their home, and the Canadians in other parts of the country who recognize how central it is to our shared heritage and our destiny as a nation.

Inuit – which means "people" in Inuktitut – have occupied Canada's Arctic lands and waterways for millennia. Long before the arrival of Europeans, Inuit hunters, fishers and their families moved with the seasons and developed a unique culture and way of life deeply rooted in the vast land. Our nation's strong presence in the Arctic today is due in large part to the contributions of Inuit, who continue to inhabit the North.

The lands just south of the Arctic Circle have been occupied for thousands of years by the ancestors of today's Aboriginal peoples including the Dene, Gwich'in, Cree and Métis. Today, these Aboriginal peoples live in communities across the Yukon, southern Northwest Territories and northern border regions of mainland provinces. Over the past two hundred years, non-Aboriginal residents from southern Canada and other parts of the world have also chosen to make the North their home.

The Arctic on the cusp of change

Just a few decades ago, federally appointed Commissioners oversaw decisions about all aspects of life in the North. Today, federal and territorial governments are working in partnership as the territories take on jurisdictional powers and responsibilities similar to those of the provinces.

Aboriginal people throughout the North have negotiated land claim and self-government agreements that give them the institutions and resources to achieve greater self-sufficiency. The increasing political maturity and certainty in the North are helping to encourage private sector companies to explore and develop the region's vast natural resources and to diversify the region's economies.

From the development of world-class diamond mines and massive oil and gas reserves, to the growth of commercial fisheries, to a thriving tourism industry that attracts visitors from around the globe, the enormous economic potential of the North is being unlocked. Areas that require urgent attention – such as infrastructure, housing and education – are being addressed to help ensure Northerners are positioned to seize these unprecedented opportunities.

International interest in the North has intensified because of the potential for resource development, the opening of new transportation routes, and the growing impacts of climate change. In September 2007, satellite imaging verified that the Northwest Passage had less than 10 percent ice coverage, making it, by definition, "fully navigable" for several weeks. This was well ahead of most recent forecasts. Although the Northwest Passage is not expected to become a safe or reliable transportation route in the near future, reduced ice coverage and longer periods of navigability may result in an increased number of ships undertaking destination travel for tourism, natural resource exploration or development.

Canada's North

Canada's North

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1. Alert
2. Amundsen Gulf
3. Arctic Bay
4. Arviat
5. Axel Heiberg Island
6. Back River
7. Baffin Bay
8. Baffin Island
9. Baker Lake
10. Banks Island
11. Beaufort Sea
12. Behchokò
13. Cambridge Bay
14. Cape Dorset
15. Chesterfield Inlet
16. Churchill
17. Clyde River
18. Coral Harbour
19. Davis Strait
20. Dawson
21. Déline
22. Devon Island
23. Ellesmere Island
24. Eureka
25. Faro
26. Fort Liard
27. Fort McPherson
28. Fort Resolution
29. Fort Simpson
30. Fort Smith
31. Foxe Basin
32. Gjoa Haven
33. Great Bear Lake
34. Great Slave Lake
35. Grise Fiord
36. Hall Beach
37. Hay River
38. Hopedale
39. Hudson Bay
40. Hudson Strait
41. Igloolik

39 Inuvik
40 Iqaluit
41 James Bay
42 Kimmirut
43 Kugaaruk
44 Kugluktuk
45 Lancaster Sound
46 Lincoln Sea
47 Łutselk’e
48 Mackenzie River
49 M’Clure Strait
50 Melville Island
51 Mt Logan 5959 m
52 Nanisivik
53 Norman Wells
54 North Magnetic Pole
55 North Pole
56 Old Crow
57 Pangnirtung
58 Paulatuk
59 Pond Inlet
60 Qikiqtarjuaq
61 Rankin Inlet
62 Repulse Bay
63 Resolute
64 Sachs Harbour
65 Sanikiluaq
66 Taloyoak
67 Thelon River
68 Tuktoyaktuk
69 Ulukhaktok
70 Ungava Bay
71 Victoria Island
72 Watson Lake
73 Whale Cove
74 Whitehorse
75 Wrigley
76 Yellowknife


The effects of environmental change, such as shifting and melting permafrost, melting glaciers, shrinking ocean ice and a shortened season for ice roads could have significant cultural and economic consequences for the people of the North, and the entire nation. Furthermore, new development projects may increase the number of pollutants, threatening Northerners' health and the region's fragile ecosystems.

Few countries are more directly affected by changes in the Arctic climate – or have as much at stake – as Canada. We have an important role to play in the ongoing stewardship of the Canadian Arctic, its vast resources and its potential.

Canada’s Northern Strategy

Exercising Our Arctic Sovereignty

Canada's Arctic sovereignty is longstanding, wellestablished and based on historic title, founded in part on the presence of Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples since time immemorial. However, in a dynamic and changing Arctic, exercising our sovereignty includes maintaining a strong presence in the North, enhancing our stewardship of the region, defining our domain and advancing our knowledge of the region.

Strengthening our Arctic presence

The Government of 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. We are putting more boots on the Arctic tundra, more ships in the icy water and a better eye-in-the-sky.

"The geopolitical importance of the North and Canada's interest in it have never been greater. That is why this government launched an ambitious Northern agenda, based on the timeless responsibility so elegantly captured by our national anthem – to keep the True North strong and free."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 2008

Significant investments in new capabilities on the land include establishing an Army Training Centre in Resolute Bay on the shore of the Northwest Passage, and expanding and modernizing the Canadian Rangers – a Reserve Force responsible for providing military presence and surveillance and for assisting with search and rescue in remote, isolated and coastal communities of Northern Canada.

In the sea we are establishing a deep-water berthing and fueling facility in Nanisivik and procuring a new polar icebreaker, the largest and most powerful icebreaker ever in the Canadian Coast Guard fleet. This vessel will be named in honour of the late Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker. We are further bolstering Canada's Arctic-capable fleet by investing in new patrol ships capable of sustained operations in first-year ice. These ships will be able to patrol the length of the Northwest Passage during the navigable season and its approaches year-round. Polar Epsilon, National Defence's space-based wide area surveillance and support program, will use RADARSAT II to provide the Canadian Forces with greater capacity to monitor Canada and its Maritime Boundary.

The Canadian Forces, in cooperation with other federal departments and agencies, will continue to undertake operations in the North, such as Operation NANOOK, conduct regular patrols for surveillance and security purposes, monitor and control Northern airspace as part of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and maintain the signals intelligence receiving facility at CFS Alert, the most northern permanently inhabited settlement in the world. Defence Research and Development Canada will continue to explore options for cost-effective Arctic monitoring systems, building on the current Northern Watch Technology Demonstration Project.

Enhancing our stewardship

Canada is taking concrete measures to protect our Arctic waters by introducing new ballast water control regulations that will reduce the risk of vessels releasing harmful aquatic species and pathogens into our waters. We also amended the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to extend the application of the Act from 100 to 200 nautical miles from our coastline, the full extent of our exclusive economic zone as recognized under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This amendment gives us pollution prevention enforcement jurisdiction over an additional half million square kilometres of our waters. In addition, we are establishing new regulations under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to require all vessels entering Canadian Arctic waters to report to the Canadian Coast Guard's NORDREG reporting system. And finally, Canada is working with Northern communities and governments to ensure that its search and rescue capacity meets the needs of an ever-changing North.

Defining our domain and advancing our knowledge of the Arctic

Canada's North is a vast region still yet to be fully mapped and studied. As a result of the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Canada is in the process of conducting scientific studies to determine the full extent of our continental shelf as defined under UNCLOS. This research will ensure Canada secures recognition for the maximum extent of its continental shelf in both the Arctic and Atlantic oceans when we present our submission to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf by the end of 2013. This process, while lengthy, is not adversarial and is not a race. Rather, it is a collaborative process based on a shared commitment to international law. Canada is working with Denmark, Russia and the United States to undertake this scientific work.

Canada's sovereignty over its Arctic lands and islands is undisputed, with the exception of Hans Island, which is claimed by Denmark. The dispute regarding Hans Island is on a diplomatic track following the Joint Statement of September 2005 between Canada and Denmark. This dispute is only about the island, not about the waters, seabed, or the control of navigation. Managed disagreements exist between the United States and Canada regarding the maritime boundary in the Beaufort Sea and between Canada and Denmark over part of the maritime boundary in the Lincoln Sea. The United States and Canada disagree about the legal status of the various waterways known as the Northwest Passage. All of these disagreements are well-managed and pose no sovereignty or defence challenges for Canada. In fact, they have had no impact on Canada's ability to work collaboratively and cooperatively with the United States, Denmark or other Arctic neighbours on issues of real significance and importance. Canada will continue to manage these discrete disputes and may seek to resolve them in the future, in accordance with international law.

The human dimension

Northerners have an important role to play in shaping regional priorities and actions. At the Arctic Council, for example, Canada works closely with the six international indigenous peoples groups that have Permanent Participant status – three of which have strong roots in Canada: the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Gwich'in Council International, and the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

Promoting Social and Economic Development

Economic and social development in the North helps ensure that the vast potential of the Arctic region is realized in a sustainable way and that Northerners participate in and benefit from development. Working together with Northerners, the Northern Strategy is helping to build self-sufficient, vibrant, and healthy Northern communities.

Supporting Economic Development

Economic development is aided by effective institutions and transparent and predictable rules. New investments are being made to establish key institutions of economic development and improve the regulatory environment under which development can occur. In order to strengthen support for economic activity, a new economic development agency for the North is being established. A core activity for this agency will be delivering the renewed Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development program.

The Government of Canada is introducing measures to ensure that regulatory systems across the North protect the environment in a predictable, effective and efficient manner. Efforts such as the Northern Regulatory Improvement Initiative are helping resolve the complex approval process for development projects, to ensure new projects can get up and running quickly and efficiently.

Mining activities and major projects such as the Mackenzie Gas Project are the cornerstones of sustained economic activity in the North and the key to building prosperous Aboriginal and Northern communities. Diamond mining in the North is now a $2-billion-per-year industry, which is about half of the economy of the Northwest Territories. The Mackenzie Gas Project – now estimated at over $16 billion – will provide direct benefits to Aboriginal communities through the development of a new model for Aboriginal participation. The Aboriginal Pipeline Group will provide for Aboriginal participation in the developing economy, notably through an ownership position in the Project. In addition to on-shore exploration and development there is renewed interest in the off-shore, including a new era of oil and gas exploration in the deeper waters of the Beaufort Sea. Canada will continue to support the sustainable development of these strategic resource endowments.

The large-scale projects already underway barely scratch the surface of the North's immense store of mineral, petroleum, hydro and ocean resources. However, the full extent of the natural resources potential in the Arctic is still unknown. The Government of Canada announced a significant new geo-mapping effort – Geo-Mapping for Energy and Minerals – that will combine the latest technology and geoscientific analysis methods to build our understanding of the geology of Canada's North, including in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The results of this work will highlight areas of mineral and petroleum potential, lead to more effective private sector exploration investment and create employment opportunities in the North.

The North is also home to vast renewable and cultural resources that make important contributions to its economy and society. The Government is providing increased funding for tourism promotion and for local and community cultural and heritage institutions. In Nunavut, for example, the Government is helping to establish the Piqqusilirivvik cultural facility in Clyde River where students will participate in Inuit cultural programs and study many elements of traditional land-based knowledge.

Addressing critical infrastructure needs

Modern public infrastructure will contribute to a stronger economy, a cleaner environment, and safer and more prosperous communities in the North. Northerners also need crucial infrastructure to move their goods to markets in southern Canada and other parts of the globe.

The three territories have very different economies and very different infrastructure requirements, which is why Canada is working closely with the territorial governments to develop tailored responses to local needs. With this reality in mind, stemming from a joint report by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Government of Nunavut, a commercial fisheries harbour is being constructed in Pangnirtung to help support the development of fisheries in the territory. Territorial governments and communities in the North are benefitting greatly from investments in a range of infrastructure programs, including Broadband, Recreational and Green infrastructure, to lay a much-needed foundation for a growing North. Together, these investments contribute to a stronger economy, a cleaner environment and more prosperous communities.

Mine properties and deposits in Yukon, Nunavut and Nortwest Territories

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Supporting Northerners' well-being

In order to support healthy and vibrant communities, the Government of Canada today provides annual unconditional funding of almost $2.5 billion to the territories through Territorial Formula Financing, which enables territorial governments to fund programs and services such as hospitals, schools, infrastructure and social services. We are also addressing the need for housing, health care, skills development and other services through targeted investments. Working with the territories, significant investments have been made to improve the quality and availability of housing, particularly in Nunavut where core housing need is the greatest. These investments are helping reduce the problems of overcrowding and substandard housing and improving the health and well-being of Northerners.

To ensure Northern citizens develop the skills, knowledge and credentials they need to excel in a fast-changing economy, we have invested in a range of supportive programs. The successful Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership initiative, for example, is a tripartite initiative involving the federal government, Aboriginal groups and industry to create sustainable employment for Aboriginal people across Canada in major industries like mining, oil and gas, and hydro-electricity.

Map of Russia

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The Canada Social Transfer provides territories with substantial on-going and growing funding in support of social programs, including programs for children and for post-secondary education. The territories also receive federal support for targeted initiatives to address specific challenges in the North, such as for labour market training, infrastructure and community development, and for clean air and climate change.

"As a government, we are proud of our recent and ongoing efforts to support territorial governments, Aboriginal communities and Northern business leaders as they generate genuine economic and social development throughout the North. And I can assure everyone throughout the North that we will continue to meet with them, listen to them and work with them to help fulfill the promise of this rich, beautiful and distinctly Canadian region."

Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, August 18, 2008

Together with the territorial governments, we are making progress to ensure territorial health systems are more responsive to Northerners' needs, patient wait times are reduced and community level access to services is improved. Through the Territorial Health Systems Sustainability Initiative we are working with the territories to reduce reliance on outside health care systems and medical travel. Through the Canada Health Transfer, the territories receive significant, long-term and growing federal funding in support of health care, as well as targeted funding to reduce health care wait times. We will continue to work collaboratively with Northerners on issues such as health promotion and disease prevention, supported by a strong evidence- base on Northern health issues, to improve health outcomes, reduce inequalities and foster self-reliant individuals living in healthy, vibrant communities. We are also continuing to ensure Northerners in remote and isolated communities have access to good quality, nutritious food at affordable prices.

"Our Government recognizes the importance of the North. Through Canada's Economic Action Plan and our Northern Strategy, we have taken significant steps towards helping this critical region flourish."

Leona Aglukkak, Minister of Health, Regional Minister responsible for the North and Member of Parliament for Nunavut
July 12, 2009

We have provided strengthened support to Canada's university granting councils for research in support of industrial innovation, health priorities, and social and economic development in the North, and are establishing graduate student fellowships on Canada's role in the circumpolar world. Increasing our understanding of and attention to Arctic human health issues continues to be an emerging priority among circumpolar countries. Canada has been at the forefront of these issues and will continue to support domestic and international research on Arctic human health.

Arctic Sea Ice Changes 1979-2007

2007 was a very significant year. That summer, the minimum sea ice area was lower than even the most aggressive climate models had predicted.

Map of September Sea Ice Area

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Protecting our Environmental Heritage

Visitors from every corner of the globe are drawn to Canada's North because of its spectacular scenery, unique fish and wildlife and unequalled opportunities to explore its Arctic wilderness. However, the North also has fragile and unique ecosystems which are being negatively affected by the impacts of climate change. Canada is committed to helping ensure these ecosystems are safeguarded for future generations.

Being a global leader in Arctic science

Science and technology form an important foundation for Canada's Northern Strategy priorities and provide the knowledge necessary for sound policy and decision-making. Canada made the largest single contribution of any country to International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2008, the largest-ever global program dedicated to polar research. Scientific research carried out as part of IPY focused on two key priorities: climate change impacts and adaptation; and the health and wellbeing of Northerners and Northern communities. Aboriginal people and Northerners played a significant role in the planning, coordination and implementation of IPY and were actively engaged in science and research activities. Canada's IPY investments helped mobilize the participation of hundreds of new researchers, including 90 from Canada's North. Training the next generation of specialists is a key legacy of IPY, so that we can build on the world-class science being conducted today and secure expertise for the Arctic of tomorrow.

Through scientific collaboration with organizations such as the United Nations, World Meteorological Organization, International Maritime Organization and the Arctic Council, Canada is building the baseline of knowledge on the Arctic environment and forming important partnerships around the world.

To ensure Canada remains a global leader in Arctic science, the Government of Canada committed to establish a new world-class research station in the High Arctic. There have been extensive consultations at home and abroad about the role of this new research facility and a feasibility study is being conducted to determine where the facility will be located. Our vision is that the new Arctic research station will serve as the hub for scientific activity in our vast and diverse Arctic. To that end, an Arctic Research Infrastructure Fund has been established to upgrade other key research facilities across our North.

Protecting Northern lands and waters

Canada is taking a comprehensive approach to the protection of environmentally sensitive lands and waters in our North, ensuring conservation is keeping pace with development. In the Northwest Territories, Canada has protected large areas from development through land withdrawals and work is underway on a number of conservation initiatives such as the creation of new national parks in the East Arm of Great Slave Lake and in the Sahtú Settlement Area. Canada also committed to a major expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve – the world's first UNESCO world heritage site.

Together with Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Canada announced the establishment of three new National Wildlife Areas on and around Baffin Island to protect local species and habitat, including the bowhead whale. The Land Claim Agreement with the Inuit of Labrador gave national park status to the Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve of Canada, creating a new national park in the Arctic wilderness of Labrador.

The North also benefits from Canada's Health of the Oceans initiative, which strengthens the ability of Northern communities to respond to pollution and fosters greater cooperation with domestic and global partners for integrated ecosystems-based oceans management. We are increasing our protection of the marine environment, including fish and fish habitat. One important marine protection initiative is our work towards the establishment of a national marine conservation area in Lancaster Sound, one of the most ecologically significant marine areas in the circumpolar Arctic. Transport Canada continues to assess Canada's capacity to respond to marine pollution in the Arctic and ensure that the Canadian Coast Guard and communities have the necessary equipment and response systems in place for emergencies.

Just as important are our clean-up programs to repair or remediate environmental damage at abandoned mines and other contaminated sites throughout the North. We have learned from past mistakes. Any company now undertaking industrial development in the North must undertake a rigorous environmental assessment, establish a site closure and remediation plan, meet standards for operational and environmental safety and satisfy the requirements of various laws including the Fisheries Act.

Improving and Devolving Northern Governance

In the past few decades Northern governments have taken on greater responsibility for many aspects of their region's affairs. One exception was control over lands and resource management, which stayed with the federal government. In April 2003, Yukon became the first territory to take over these responsibilities, putting decisionmaking over its resources squarely in the hands of Yukon citizens. We are making progress toward a similar devolution agreement-in-principle in the Northwest Territories. In Nunavut, we have been working closely with the territorial government and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated to study the issues relating to devolution and have developed a protocol for future negotiations.

Map of Modern Treaties in the North

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Made-in-the-North policies and strategies

Canada's North is home to some of the most innovative, consultative approaches to government in Canada and the world. Through land claim and self-government agreements, Aboriginal communities are developing made-in-the-North policies and strategies to address their unique economic and social challenges and opportunities. Today, 11 of 14 Yukon First Nations have signed self-government agreements. A majority of the Northwest Territories is covered by Comprehensive Land Claims Agreements that give Aboriginal people the authority to manage their lands and resources. The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement led to the creation of Canada's newest territory in 1999, providing Inuit of the Eastern Arctic with some 350,000 square kilometers in the largest Aboriginal land claim settlement in Canadian history.

We've seen similar progress on agreements with Inuit living in Labrador and in the Nunavik region of Northern Quebec. The Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, the first modern-day treaty of its kind in Atlantic Canada, provides Inuit in Labrador with defined rights and territory in northern Labrador. The Inuit of Nunavik Agreement-in-Principle, signed in August 2007, created a new form of public regional government adapted to the needs of the people of Nunavik. The Nunavik Inuit Land

Providing the right tools

To build on this progress, Canada and the territories are working closely with First Nations, Métis and Inuit to address pressing issues, implement past agreements and conclude new ones – including outstanding land claims and self-government agreements – more quickly.

We are also providing significant financial resources to territorial governments through Territorial Formula Financing in recognition of the unique issues faced by Northern governments, including the enormous challenge of serving a small population in communities spread over vast distances.

Recognizing that all regions of the North are at various stages of political development, Canada is committed to continuing to work with all its partners to advance practical, innovative and efficient governance models.

Map of The Circumpolar Arctic

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The international dimension of our Northern Strategy

Canada has a strong history of working with our northern neighbours to promote Canadian interests internationally and advance our role as a responsible Arctic nation. Through an Arctic foreign policy, Canada is supporting the international dimension of all four pillars of the Northern Strategy, engaging international partners and advancing Canadian priorities bilaterally, multilaterally and through the Arctic Council.

Our Arctic partners

The Arctic Ocean connects us in new ways to our neighbours in the Arctic region. Cooperation, diplomacy and international law have always been Canada's preferred approach in the Arctic. As international interest in the region increases, effective Canadian stewardship of our sovereign territory and the active promotion of Canadian interests internationally are more important than ever before. We continue to work closely with our Arctic partners to achieve our common goals for the region as we advance our priorities at home.

The United States remains an exceptionally valuable partner in the Arctic. Canada and the United States share a number of common interests in the Arctic, such as environmental stewardship, sustainable resource development and safety and security – including effective search and rescue services. We have a long history of effective collaboration and cooperation with the United States and continue to deepen cooperation on emerging Arctic issues, bilaterally and through the Arctic Council and other multilateral institutions.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the Russian Ministry of Regional Development to examine cooperative projects with Indigenous Peoples is a recent example of Canada's bilateral efforts with Russia, which include new trading relationships and transportation routes, environmental protection and indigenous issues.

We also have common interests with, and things to learn from, our other Arctic neighbours – Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. Our annual Northern Dialogue with Norway, for instance, covers issues such as climate change adaptation, oil and gas development, oceans management and scientific cooperation. We are also working with non-Arctic states on Arctic issues. For example, Canada and the United Kingdom signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in polar research.

The Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is an important venue for deepening global understanding of the Arctic and has played a key role in developing a common agenda among Arctic states. Canada was the first Chair of the Arctic Council and has been active in all of its working groups. Canada played a lead role, along with partnering nations, in the Arctic Council's Arctic Human Development Report, the Oil and Gas Assessment and the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment. Canada will chair the Council again in 2013. Until that time, we are committed to ensuring the Arctic Council has the necessary strength, resources and influence to respond effectively to emerging challenges affecting the Arctic and its inhabitants.

There are other forums that provide opportunities to raise Arctic issues. These include scientific bodies working to establish an international legacy for International Polar Year, discussions and negotiations at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the International Maritime Organization where guidelines are being developed for Ships Operating in Arctic Ice-covered Waters.

Canada will continue to strengthen our domestic and international partnerships to ensure we are able to seize opportunities and address challenges in the Arctic region.

The Ilulissat Declaration

In May 2008, Ministers representing the five Arctic Ocean coastal states – Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States – adopted the Ilulissat Declaration. This declaration acknowledges the unique ecosystems of the Arctic Ocean and recalls that an existing extensive legal framework applies to the Arctic Ocean. Notably, the Law of the Sea provides for important rights and obligations on a wide range of issues. This framework provides a solid foundation for responsible management by the five Arctic Ocean coastal states and other users of this Ocean. The five coastal states remain committed to this legal framework and to the orderly settlement of any possible overlapping claims.


"The Government of Canada is dedicated to ensuring that the international spotlight stays focused on the challenges and opportunities facing the Arctic. We are commited to representing the interests of Canadians as we implement the international dimension of the Northern Strategy. Building a strong Canadian North is an essential part of building our nation, an expression of our deepest aspirations."

Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs March 11, 2009

Our North, Our Future

Canada's North is at the very heart of Canadian identity. Canada's future is intimately tied to the future of the North. The Government of Canada recognizes its responsibility to preserve and protect Canada's rich Northern heritage in the face of new challenges and opportunities. We are working in partnership with Northerners and demonstrating our commitment to the North both at home and abroad.

Canada's Northern Strategy sets out a clear action plan for the North that will leave a lasting legacy and enrich the lives of Canadians for generations to come.

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Canada's Northern Strategy

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