Proceedings of the Special
Senate Committee on the Arctic

Issue No. 22 - Evidence - March 18, 2019 (afternoon meeting)

OTTAWA, Monday, March 18, 2019

The Special Committee on the Arctic met this day at 1:15 p.m. to consider the significant and rapid changes to the Arctic, and impacts on original inhabitants.

Senator Dennis Glen Patterson (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Good afternoon and welcome to this meeting of the Special Committee on the Arctic.

I am Dennis Patterson, senator for Nunavut and I’m chair of this committee. I’d like to ask senators around the table to please introduce themselves.

Senator Bovey: Patricia Bovey, senator from Manitoba.

Senator Eaton: Welcome, doctor. I’m Nicky Eaton from Ontario.

Senator Anderson: Dawn Anderson, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

Senator Coyle: Mary Coyle, Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

The Chair: Thank you, colleagues.

Today, as part of our continuing study on the significant and rapid changes to the Arctic, and impacts on original inhabitants, I’m pleased to welcome, from the University of the Arctic, Peter Sköld, Chair, Board of Governors, who is joining us by video conference. Thank you very much, professor, for joining us today. Please proceed with your opening statement. You can expect some questions afterwards.

Peter Sköld, Chair, Board of Governors, University of the Arctic: Thank you. I will try to keep within the given minutes. Besides the chair of the Arctic Board of Governors, I’m also director of the Arctic Research Centre here at the university. I’m also past president of one of the other Arctic Council observer organizations, IASSA, the International Arctic Social Sciences Association.

With that, I would like to begin with the statement that the Arctic has two faces and they are not always on display at the same time. By that, I mean there is an Arctic that is primarily of global interest. That is, of course, heavily related to climate change effects that rapidly change the circumstances in the environment. However, there is also an Arctic where people are the main focus. The Arctic, as a region, has 4 million people and communities, societies, and even big cities if we look in the different parts of the Arctic. The needs are definitely different from these two sides and the research efforts are not always equal. There is need for different research for different purposes, of course.

I often promote the human dimension of the Arctic. The region is considered a valuable treasure not only for the people who live there but also for the people who come there. We, as researchers, and also the University of the Arctic, are striving to make this region one of the best places in the world to live in, meaning that we want to take careful treatment of the resources that we have, with the beautiful landscape and the treasures that are kept here, while also trying to further economic development where innovation processes are supported, where demographic challenges are faced and where the health situation is of major concern.

This relates, of course, also to the 10 to 15 per cent of the people living in the Arctic that are Indigenous and of multiple ethnicities living in all different areas of the Arctic. You know this, but we still have to repeat that Indigenous peoples face challenges and problems — yesterday and today — with, from their perspective, a situation where culture, languages and religion are under supported; where they find themselves in a marginalized position; where their legal rights are questioned; and where extractive industries are in an almost constant battle over the land and the resources that we have here. On top of that come infrastructure developments that can also be a problem. On our Scandinavian side, it relates to the Sami and the reindeer herders.

Also, it represents a troublesome situation with employment rates and the health situation. The Arctic is very different. In some parts of the Arctic, the health transition has been rather positive. In Scandinavia, we can see that the Sami are more or less the only Indigenous people in the whole world that now have an experience of closing the gap, where they can have equal life expectancies compared to the rest of the people in Sweden. This has, unfortunately, not happened in all places in the Arctic, and our ambition is to promote the positive health transition, supported by research efforts. What we can see today is the situation with high mobility levels, infant mortality levels, infectious and parasitic disease, obesity and diabetes, suicide problems, mental health problems, fatal accidents and so on. We do believe that there is good ground for positive development if appropriate support is given.

I printed out a quote from the very famous, and now very old, researcher Noam Chomsky, who said:

It’s phenomenal all over the world that those who we call “primitive” are trying to save those of us who we call “enlightened” from total disaster.

By quoting Chomsky, I want to put traditional and Indigenous knowledge into the picture. It goes not only for climate change but for so many different areas and disciplines where we have a lot to learn from centuries of knowledge that has been developed. We can see in many areas that this is a true challenge today, where it’s difficult for researchers, for the Arctic Council and for national governments to make the best use of traditional knowledge, and we want to put this very high on the agenda.

Otherwise, the game plan for our collaboration is engagement and international collaboration, and we do this together with the three research and science organizations that have observer status to the Arctic Council. Apart from the University of the Arctic, that is IIASC and IASSA. We strive to inform the policy makers and the decision makers with our knowledge in the best way so the best decisions can be made.

This is in need of development where different disciplinary fields address joint challenges and work together and develop their own interdisciplinary fields in such a way that they are valuable not only to the Arctic but to scientific development. To do this, we need to strengthen the research partnerships across borders and we need to develop our international educational collaboration, building integrated models, increasing mobility, summer schools, field schools and possibilities for students to take courses in different countries and travel across the Arctic, and by this, educating the future leaders of the Arctic, not only the leaders in the Arctic but also those leaders who have an impact on the development of the region. Into this picture comes, of course, indigenous and traditional knowledge.

I also want to state that the Arctic is not an isolated region. Indigenous peoples are found all over the world, and there is a need to develop, on a global scale, international cooperation. We also have a situation where there are good reasons to increase our cooperation with, for example, Alpine researchers, Antarctic researchers and with the Third Pole researchers. UArctic strives to create shared knowledge, competences and resources by matching capacity to needs.

I also want to stress the importance from a geopolitical perspective to be aware that there are many more countries interested and active in the Arctic that are not in the Arctic Council. Countries like China, Japan, India and, of course, the European Union, have an increased interest in the Arctic.

When we build our research corporations, there is a need for a holistic understanding of what is happening, like starting out from the one health perspective where people, environment and animals are seen as one and not three different parts. There is also a strong need to have a look and dialogue with the UN sustainable development goals.

If research is to be of best use, it has to have a coproduced picture of where we want to go. What is the desired future of the Arctic? This has to be co-decided on the global, regional and even local levels so we have a direction to follow. Then, research can start with community-based research, with education, risk assessments, observations, monitoring, et cetera, in the dialogue with policies, making correct actions and then adjusting for stressors like climate change, demographic shifts, et cetera, so we can see we are going in the direction where we want to end. The problem is that the end station is not very clear today. There is a strong need to have a discussion and decision-making around that.

I also would like to stress my support for the Arctic science agreement, which will enable many positive shifts if it is fulfilled as it is written. There is a need to develop the infrastructure for research, like icebreakers, field stations and databases. I would like to remind that databases are not only climate change-related but they are also with a human dimension, and there is a huge challenge to integrate these systems in a holistic Arctic perspective.

Of course, the political dimension is always important. Arctic researchers, not least Indigenous researchers, are sometimes accused of being part of the game, of wanting to do things that are good only for the Arctic, but I would like to stress that what is good for the Arctic is good for the global system.

I would like to see an opening in the opportunities to share international projects, where it’s possible to apply at different national research councils for Arctic projects and incorporate international researchers from all over the region, and also outside, in a more efficient and easy way than what happens today.

The basic statement I would like to make is that the Arctic needs informed decisions based on scientific knowledge production, and that is what we do every day. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Senator Bovey: Thank you so much for your insights, your survey and your concerns. I’m really intrigued with the concept of the global Arctic, and having been at the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region meeting in Inari last fall with our chair, I was very taken with some of the shared research that was going on, depressed by some of it but intrigued by it anyway.

I want you to go a little deeper with your concept of the holistic Arctic. I’m well aware, and have been for many years, of some of the shared research going on between some of the universities in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Canada, and that has intrigued me greatly for a number of years. Can you tell us more about your vision of the holistic Arctic, how that can be achieved through research, and if you would be willing to be so bold as to perhaps give us some direction as to what aspect of this you think we should be embedding in our Arctic framework?

Mr. Sköld: Thank you. The holistic part is complex because when we begin to look at the Arctic as one, we realize that the Arctic is many. There are huge differences between Canada, Siberia, Scandinavia and Greenland, for example. It’s very risky to speak of the Arctic as one without seeing the complexity and differences and different needs of the people who live in the different parts of the Arctic. That sends us in the direction of our research. When we ask ourselves what kind of research is needed and is the most important, well, that depends on which part of the Arctic you are looking at.

I’m not saying this to state that it’s not possible to cooperate in the Arctic because there are, parallel to this, several challenges we share. They are perhaps the most important. They are, of course, related to climate change and responses and how we build communities in the future, based on the scenarios we can see from research reports. We know that the Arctic is changing rapidly. We know it’s going to continue to change a lot, and we need to adjust and adapt to that situation to build a future scenario of a development that is taking as much of the scientific research into consideration as possible.

With that, I would like to encourage research development that brings researchers from different fields together but still with a great expertise in their respective fields so we don’t lose that and end up at a very general level. We need research that is challenge-driven, solution-driven, and that can come up with suggestions and solutions to tackle the challenges we see. I’m not totally satisfied with what I see today. I would like to improve that development more in the future.

Senator Bovey: You mentioned the Sami, and I was very pleased to hear that the gap is decreasing for life expectancy shortfalls for Sami people. You talked a bit about culture and arts and the need for the support of culture, religion and language. It was 15 years ago that I brought an exhibition of the work of Holman’s Island, an Inuit artist from Canada, to Tromsø in Norway for a Sami First Nations Inuit festival. Can you talk about how, in this holistic Arctic, the arts and culture are part of the expression of that holistic Arctic?

Mr. Sköld: Arts and culture are important not only to Indigenous people but, of course, to all people, not least the people who live in the Arctic. If we want to build a true Arctic identity, because that is also very different in different parts of the region where people feel that I am an Arctic citizen and we belong together, we people who live in the Arctic, if we want to improve that identity or understanding, arts and culture are very important mediators and expressions of what we represent in terms of historical understanding, of our own identities and cultures, and there is a need, parallel to research corporation, to develop this.

I can give you one example. We have a new project with the five northern universities of Scandinavia, all of them inside the Arctic region — one in Norway, two in Finland and two in Sweden — and we encourage and support very much mobility programs. We want to get these universities to know each other better, so we send a group of researchers for speed talks to the different universities, but together with these researchers comes a group of cultural workers who perform with music, acting, art and paintings exhibitions, and that is two different sides of our culture. We have a scientific culture where we need to present what we’re doing and what we want to achieve with that, but we also want to build a common identity where we know each other.

This system could be expanded over the whole Arctic, where research and culture could work together much more than they are doing today, and there are some good examples of when we do it, for example, the ICAST conferences held every three years — four years ago it was in Prince George, Canada — and where we tried to bring in both these elements to the same place for a mutual meeting, understanding and discussion on how we should approach the future together.

Senator Bovey: It has long been my belief, and I would like your thoughts on this, do you believe that arts and science are decades ahead of the rest of society in terms of innovation and coming to some of these thoughts collectively?

Mr. Sköld: Generally speaking, yes, I do.

Senator Eaton: Mr. Sköld, you brought up the Arctic Council. Do you think the Arctic Council gives appropriate consideration to Indigenous people — in particular, Indigenous learning — and do you think that states that only have observer status — and I’m thinking principally of China — have any interest in the plight of Indigenous people? Or is their concern mainly using the shipping lanes through what eventually would be the Northwest Passage?

Mr. Sköld: That is a good question.

Senator Eaton: You don’t have to be tactful.

Mr. Sköld: I never am. Oh, I’m afraid I am sometimes.

Honestly speaking, the Arctic Council is making great efforts to include Indigenous peoples and opinions. The system, with the permanent participants, is unique in the international political map. With that said, I’m not totally satisfied. I’ve been at many Arctic Council meetings where they have discussed, for example, how to deal with Indigenous knowledge. As far as I’ve seen, until today, the solutions are not very good, so there is definitely a need for Indigenous representation and voices to the Arctic Council in an improved way.

I am also very well aware that there are many people living in the Arctic who are not Indigenous, and they sometimes ask, “Well, are we not forgotten to some extent here, that there is very strong focus on Indigenous perspectives?” That may be so, but at the point where we are today, it is necessary to do it this way.

I also think that the Arctic Council, and Arctic collaboration, generally, is a ground-breaking and unique way of collaborating between some really big countries. I’m not counting Sweden there. I’m basically looking at Canada, the U.S. and Russia. We can continue our cooperation more or less irrespective of the political situation. That’s very important, but maybe I have blue eyes and don’t see the whole picture.

Senator Eaton: We can’t see in this light. Thank you. That’s an excellent point to remember.

I will ask you one more, because I thought it was very interesting. Something we don’t have in this country — we haven’t managed to do it— is you talked about the Sami life expectancy being the same as your own. We have not managed to do that in our country. Can you give us a few brief steps of what it took to do that?

Mr. Sköld: I can explain it in one word, and that is “assimilation.” Assimilation is, to some extent, dangerous because it can bring in the good of having a long life, but it is also setting your identity, culture and language skills at risk if it goes too far.

You should also remember that Sweden does not have Indigenous communities in the same way you find them in Canada or U.S., and that is a result of assimilation. Sami people live in every community. We don’t have one single place in Sweden with a Sami majority. We can dispute whether that is good or bad, but that is what happened. The result of that is that the Sami now have the same education, the same social services, the same access to health care systems and the same knowledge to use for building a good health. That is the good side. What we can see, then, is that language is going down and the question as to whether identity has been strengthened at the end of the road. So it’s difficult.

I also want to stress that life expectancy is one thing; good health is another. You can be alive, but it’s not for sure that you have well-being because of that. We also have to struggle with a situation where marginalization, even racism and bullying, come into the picture. Those have strong impacts on the lives of Indigenous people in Scandinavia, too. Life expectancy is one step, but it’s not the last step.

I want to come back very briefly to your question about China. Yes, they are interested in supporting risks that can possibly promote the positive development of Indigenous people in the Arctic. I have been asked by Chinese representatives, “What can we do?” I say, “Well, you can start with Indigenous people in your own country and try and paint the picture and understand the challenges they have. Then you will understand the challenges of the Arctic much better.” That, they don’t want to listen to. They want to isolate the Arctic and the Indigenous peoples there. They don’t acknowledge at all that they more or less even have Indigenous people in China.

Then, of course, I’m also aware that some people say, “Well, the Indigenous researchers are more or less hostage-taken by the Chinese because their true interest is somewhere else.” Again, that might be so. That might be related to transport routes and so on — economic factors — but as long as we can do something that is good for the Indigenous peoples, I’m ready to listen. I’m open for these collaborations with the Chinese and the Japanese, as it is today.

Senator Eaton: Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you for your candour, professor.

Senator Coyle: I have two quick questions. Thank you, professor, for your wonderful presentation. I’m sorry we only have a little bit of time. Canada — and I believe Sweden must be the same — and many countries of the Arctic have signed on to Agenda 2030. I’ve been reading an article that you co-wrote on the issue of the sustainable development goals and the Arctic and how the targets are not really well adjusted to the Arctic context. You’ve talked about how to develop polar indicators. Can you speak a little bit to this and how the progress is going in that area?

Mr. Sköld: The progress is slow, I’m afraid. We are now in the situation where we start up new collaborations based on the challenges of Agenda 2030. I think it’s true for every part of the world that the goals themselves are not perfectly designed to fit their part of the world. It’s not unique to the Arctic.

Irrespective of that, when we start out from the 17 goals, the sub-goals and the indicators, we can see that many of them are not relevant to the Arctic. Many of them are not possible to answer or to do something about in the Arctic because we don’t have the data and, most of all, we don’t have data from all different countries that are comparable and possible to put into the same system. So there is a huge need to do that. But aside from that, we also need new sub-goals and new indicators that fit the situation and the challenges of the Arctic much better. You can find a need for these new sub-goals in each and every one of the 17 main goals, even if some of these goals might be seen as more important to the Arctic than others.

But I think we have a complex system here that is a very useful tool to put in the hands of researchers and say, “Please assist us in, first of all, understanding the situation from these perspectives and, second, help us develop a positive development here.” We can do that with the tools that are given by Agenda 2030, but we need to co-produce Arctic version 2.0 of it before it’s really good and important.

Senator Coyle: Thank you for that. Of course, the clock is ticking as we move toward 2030. I’m sure it’s being done on a collaborative basis but also on a country-by-country basis, because we, as countries, have signed on to those commitments.

This is my second and final question. You spoke very eloquently and passionately about the importance of international educational collaboration, in and of itself, and also the importance to educate future leaders of the Arctic — those who live in the Arctic and those who will be having some sort of governance responsibility for the Arctic. We are here as representatives of Canada, so how would you see the Canadian government improving cooperation in this educational area? What ideas would you have for that?

Mr. Sköld: I think there are different needs. One need from a Canadian perspective is — and this is what we tried to do in Scandinavia — to shape and improve our national cooperation. You have so many universities with very strong research capacities, but they are not cooperating as much as they could be. I would like to see Arctic-integrated campuses. They could be digitized to start with, but in the best of worlds, they could be physical as well.

It would be a situation where universities put their best researchers and educators into a common pool, a campus system, an educational model, where the students can make use of more than one university in the same program. Then I would like to lift that up to the international level, where the program development can take place, integrating, to begin with, the eight Arctic countries but, in an extended version, also other countries, to contribute their skills and resources to offer the best education ever possible to these future students and future leaders.

I could continue for a long time, because I’m passionate about this. It’s important. If you ask me, compared to research, education has been a bit marginalized in the discussions in the Arctic Council and in the academic discussions overall. So over the next 20 years, we will see much more educational effort.

Senator Coyle: Thank you very much. If you have anything written on this that you would like to share with us, we would appreciate it.

Mr. Sköld: All right.

The Chair: Following up on that, professor, as chair of the board of the University of the Arctic, is Canada pulling its own weight in its contributions to support for the University of the Arctic?

Mr. Sköld: Yes. Canada has been a great supporter of University of the Arctic. It’s actually a bit different in these eight Arctic countries. I would like to say that Canada is top three in their support. As far as I’ve understood from the recent discussions, Canada has also renewed their ambitions to support the University of the Arctic for the next period of years. We appreciate that very much, and we are honestly depending upon this support. So I would like to say “yes” but with the reservation that there is always a need for more.

The Chair: Thank you for that.

Senator Anderson: Thank you for your information.

I’m an Innuvialuit from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. It’s a small community by the Arctic Ocean. China has actually attended the community of Tuktoyaktuk with an interest to purchase land. I’m wondering if you see any potential impacts to Indigenous people, to Arctic sovereignty and to the Arctic in general with the interest or involvement of China or any other countries. I’m relying back on the historical context of the region that I’m from — I’m not sure if you’re familiar, but I’m guessing you may be — with the Hudson’s Bay Company, whalers, the government and religious groups that came into the Arctic and which had a huge impact on the Indigenous peoples and the Indigenous communities.

Mr. Sköld: Yes, it’s a tremendous challenge and I’m close to saying “problem” as well. Colonization has many faces, and we’ve seen them throughout history. It’s not always with a rifle in the hand that the colonizer enters a new area. Today, it’s very often with a wallet — a bunch of money — in hand instead. We have to be very careful with these investments, that it might, in a short time perspective, be seen as something only positive, but in the long-term perspective is better understood as colonization.

I’m not an expert on China, although I have been in many collaborations with them. I think there are good reasons to be very careful and very good reasons to support geopolitical research in the Arctic with observations on not only what is taking place today, but what the future, long-term plans are with these activities. I’m afraid to say that China is number one on the list of non-Arctic countries to be careful with.

Senator Anderson: Thank you.

Regarding Indigenous people, when you’re facing basic social problems in a community, including housing, food security, health, education and employment, how do you engage Indigenous peoples and communities to become part of the holistic picture that you described?

Mr. Sköld: Number one is education. The second is getting an identity that includes other parts of the Arctic than your own, and that is supported through not only education but also mobility programs, where young people of today can see all the good things that actually happen in the Arctic and can get inspiration and knowledge based on that. This experience is best given if it is physical, where people can meet, discuss and learn from each other, and see that what might seem to be an impossible problem is actually or perhaps not. People have treated this in different ways in other parts of the Arctic with similar challenges, and that can give hope and knowledge. Isolation is one of the greatest dangers we have when it comes to community development.

Senator Anderson: Qujannamiik.

The Chair: With that, Professor Sköld, thank you for joining us all the way from Sweden and putting up with our technical hiccups. Thank you for your valuable insights. They’re greatly appreciated. Good day.

Mr. Sköld: Thank you, and good luck with your work.

The Chair: For this second segment, I’m pleased that we are able to welcome three experts to this panel.

We have Michael Byers, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia, by video conference from Salt Spring Island. Welcome. We have in person, Suzanne Lalonde, Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal; and we have Whitney Lackenbauer, Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in the Study of the Canadian North and Professor, School for the Study of Canada, Trent University.

I’d suggest that we begin with our presenters by video conference, Professor Byers and then Professor Lackenbauer, and then we’ll turn to Professor Lalonde to round out those presentations. You’ll all then be available for questions.

Michael Byers, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia, as an individual: Thank you, and it’s a great honour to be with you today.

I want to start by explaining briefly the sovereignty issues concerning the Canadian Arctic. They are actually quite few, contrary to public misperception. There’s only one dispute over land in the entire Arctic, and that is a small island between Canada and Greenland named Hans Island. It is 1.3 square kilometres. It is a dispute that only involves the island and not the water or the seabed around it because those issues were resolved in a boundary treaty between Canada and Denmark in 1973. So it is a small dispute with a very close military and trading partner. Therefore, in my view, it’s almost insignificant.

We have two maritime boundary disputes, one of them to the north of Hans Island in the Lincoln Sea, which is so small as to also be nearly irrelevant, and the larger dispute in the Beaufort Sea with the United States, which isn’t so significant given our close relationship with the United States, particularly the fact that we are in a common energy market with that country. It’s a dispute that will have to be resolved at some point but is not of any imminent concern.

The final sovereignty issue in Canada’s Arctic is the legal status of the Northwest Passage. Canada claims that the Northwest Passage constitutes internal waters, consolidated by so-called strait baselines that we drew around our High Arctic archipelago in 1985. I think the most important thing for this committee is to realize that Canada’s historic claim to the Northwest Passage is based largely on Inuit use and occupancy over thousands of years, so there is a common interest and foundation for both the Inuit and Canada with respect to the Northwest Passage. That position by Canada has been explicitly and repeatedly opposed by the United States, which claims that the Northwest Passage is a so-called international strait, open to vessels from all countries. The United States’ position has not been explicitly and consistently shared by any other country. Most significant for this committee, neither Russia nor China have opposed Canada’s position.

The other thing I want to refer to is that, in the central Arctic Ocean, there is the possibility of sovereign rights over extended continental shelves more than 200 nautical miles from shore. We already have unquestioned sovereignty over the seabed within 200 nautical miles — that’s part of our exclusive economic zone — but it may be the case that we have sovereign rights further out. Canada is working very cooperatively with Denmark and Russia to follow a legal procedure set out in the Convention on the Law of the Sea. There are no problems on that front, either with Denmark or Russia, nor indeed with the United States, which accepts the rules of the UNCLOS as binding on it as so-called customary international law. They have not ratified the convention, but they accept the rules.

The big picture here is that there are not many disputes in Canada’s Arctic, and where there are disputes, we’re working with those other countries, including with the U.S. in the Northwest Passage as a result of Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan having concluded a cooperation agreement on that issue back in 1988.

Very quickly, I’d like to turn to the security dimensions of this. I mentioned that Russia actually supports Canada in the Northwest Passage and works with us in the central Arctic Ocean. Russia is not a state-to-state threat to Canada in the Arctic. That has been long accepted by Canadian military leaders. I think it was in 2011 that Walter Natynczyk said that if someone were to invade the Canadian Arctic, his first job would be to rescue them. Russia has lots of Arctic of its own. It has no need to claim or aspire to more. I would argue that Russia is fully occupied elsewhere in the world, causing trouble in places like Ukraine and Syria, and has no interest in provoking any kind of conflict in the North.

China seeks to become more involved in the Arctic through climate science, because China is acutely exposed to climate change, through the development of international shipping routes and through access to natural resources. All those things it can achieve in cooperation with Arctic countries like Canada. We allowed the Chinese research icebreaker, which does climate science, to pass through the Northwest Passage two years ago. We allowed foreign investment from China. In fact, there is a Chinese-owned mine in Northern Quebec that has exported minerals through the Northwest Passage to China with Canada’s full consent. We support the development of commercial shipping in the Arctic, provided that those foreign ships follow our rules. China, just a couple of years ago, adopted a guide to commercial shipping in the Northwest Passage where it recommended that all Chinese shippers follow Canada’s rules and work with the Canadian authorities. Again, on that front, there’s not a whole lot of concern. China is a concern in other parts of the world, but so far, it has been behaving itself in the Arctic.

That’s it for now. I look forward to your questions.

The Chair: Thank you so much for a very succinct but meaningful presentation, professor.

Whitney Lackenbauer, Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in the Study of the Canadian North and Professor, School for the Study of Canada, Trent University, as an individual: Thank you, and good afternoon. It is my pleasure to appear before the Special Senate Committee and offer introductory comments on Canada’s Arctic in a global context.

First, I appreciate the political attractiveness, even requirement, that strategies be packaged as something new, but I think as the Government of Canada prepares to release its Arctic and northern policy framework, it should also reinforce that the general elements of our strategy have actually been in place for a long time.

As Canada’s Northern Strategy noted back in 1970:

People, resources and environment are the main elements in any strategy for northern development. In the course of its policy review during the past year, the Government affirmed that the needs of the people in the North are more important than resource development and that the maintenance of ecological balance is essential. In the setting of objectives and priorities in the North, in line with national policy goals, the essence of choice for the Government is to maintain an appropriate degree of balance among those three elements.

A half century after this statement appeared, I think it still encapsulates the essential elements, both domestically and internationally, of what we’re trying to accomplish in the country.

In terms of broad goals, I think back to the northern dimension of Canada’s foreign policy released in 2000, which set four objectives: first, to enhance the security and prosperity of the Canadian, especially Northerners and Aboriginal peoples; second, to assert and ensure the preservation of Canada’s sovereignty in the North; third, to establish the circumpolar region as a vibrant geopolitical entity, integrated into a rules-based international system; and fourth, to promote the human security of Northerners and the sustainable development of the Arctic. In most essential respects, I think that these remain the fundamental pillars in the international orientation of any Canadian Arctic framework. We really need to focus on implementing this long-standing framework.

If we went back a decade, I would seek to disabuse the notion that there is a race for resources in the Arctic that threatens our sovereignty. I would focus on convincing you that the danger of ships sailing through the Northwest Passage and undermining our internal waters position is overblown. If we get caught up in this sort of anxiety, I worry that it closes our minds to the larger opportunities to enhance international cooperation and to address challenges and opportunities affecting the people, the economy and environment in our North. From what I have heard and read during your committee deliberation, I think you already realize that this is the case.

So what of Russia, as Professor Byers raised? Its behaviour in the Ukraine and Syria, strategic bomber flights to the limits of North American airspace, et cetera, suggest a return to great power competition globally. These activities warrant careful monitoring and analysis in concert with the United States and our other NATO partners. Although meeting threats from near-peer competitors may require new or renewed capabilities in the Canadian Arctic, I would like to highlight that these threats are not borne of Arctic-specific sovereignty issues or disputes. Russian military activities in its Arctic do not relate in any obvious way to environmental change, or to maritime corridors, or to military threats in our Canadian Arctic. I think this very much echoes what Professor Byers was speaking to.

Commentators often make a false correlation by conflating Arctic issues, those threats emanating in and from the region itself, with grand global strategic issues that may have an Arctic dimension but are best framed at a global rather than a regional level. In my view, this must be reflected in official Canadian policy or the policy itself may create the very misconceptions that build mistrust and sew the seeds of conflict.

In the near to medium term, I expect that Canada and Russia will find themselves on different sides in an era of renewed great power rivalry, but I do not think that this general state of strategic competition portends Arctic conflict. There is still room for meaningful collaboration in the circumpolar world in areas of common interest, which I am happy to discuss, based on respect for each state’s sovereignty and sovereign rights.

Circumpolar cooperation should not be held political hostage to broader geostrategic rivalries. We might look back to the Cold War and the important leadership roles that Indigenous organizations, scientists and NGOs, working in close concert with the federal government, played in working with their Soviet counterparts to share scientific and traditional knowledge as well as best practices in governance. I hope we can find space for similar relationships today and into the future.

Although some media and academic commentators speak primarily of China as an emerging military competitor or sovereignty threat in the Arctic region, I agree with Professor Byers that much of this rhetoric is a red herring. Of course, there are security and safety issues that arise from the activities of China and other non-Arctic states in our Arctic, including the potential for espionage and intelligence gathering activities, resource development and shipping activities that harm the environment — even the loss of Canadian economic sovereignty — but rather than casting these as Arctic sovereignty issues, I think these are best considered in the broader context of Canada’s relationship with China as an emerging global power. Again, I’m happy to discuss this further.

Finally, we cannot solve the Northwest Passage dispute with the United States bilaterally. That is a pipe dream. The difference of opinion on the legal status of transit rights through Canada’s Arctic waters is an international one. There is no simple solution to this long-standing issue, and anyone offering one, I would argue, is ignorant of history and international political realities.

Fortunately, our legal position is not in jeopardy. We should operate from a position of confidence in our Arctic policy and, in turn, our Arctic and northern policy framework should reiterate, wherever possible, that Canada welcomes navigation in our Arctic waters, as we do elsewhere, provided that ships respect Canadian regulations related to safety, security, protection of the environment and Indigenous rights holders’ interests. This approach also means having robust capabilities to maintain vigilance in ensuring that these vessels are not undertaking activities against Canadian laws or counter to our national welfare.

To conclude, I hope that our Arctic and northern policy framework will convince Canadians that enhanced international cooperation is compatible with defending and protecting our interests. Most important, I hope that it will build national will to implement Canada’s long-standing northern strategy, which the long co-development process undertaken over the last few years has confirmed. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much, professor. I think the reference both of you made to the international boundary issues is a good preface to hearing from Professor Lalonde.

Suzanne Lalonde, Professor, Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal, as an individual: Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be here among you. As a specialist of the Law of the Sea, I would like to focus on the sovereignty and the Law of the Sea Convention theme, specifically to offer some comments on the Northwest Passage and the issue of the extended continental shelf. Forgive me if some of my comments may touch upon some of the issues that my esteemed colleagues have already mentioned.

I believe the Northwest Passage is by far the most sensitive issue in terms of Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic. I have prepared some explanatory notes about the legalities of it that I forwarded to the clerk, if it can be of any assistance.

As Professor Byers mentioned, and is well known, the Canadian government claims all the waters of the Arctic Archipelago as Canadian historic internal waters. Under the Law of the Sea, a state exercises exclusive and absolute authority over its internal waters, including, critically, the right to control access.

As Professor Byers and Professor Lackenbauer mentioned, Washington has long held the view that the routes of the Northwest Passage constitute an international strait subject to the right of transit passage.

As defined under the Law of the Sea convention, “transit passage” means freedom — freedom of navigation for the ships of all nations, both civilian and military, as well as a right of overflight in the international air corridor above a strait for the aircraft, again military and civilian, of all states.

While this disagreement between Canada and the United States is long-standing, it has been well managed, and Washington has never sought — until now at least — to undermine the Canadian legal position by sending, for instance, a war ship unannounced through the passage. But the ice, which has been an ally isolating the Canadian Far North and allowing this issue to be dealt with for so long as a minor occasional irritant in the special relationship between Canada and the United States, is melting. This new access has transformed the Arctic into a strategic region at the heart of global affairs.

In September 2013, the German federal foreign office released guidelines for Germany’s Arctic policy, which announced that the German federal government was campaigning for freedom of navigation in the Arctic Ocean, defining “Arctic Ocean” as including the Northwest Passage.

In January 2018, China released its official white paper on the Arctic. Under Part 4 of that policy, we can read, “China maintains that freedom of navigation and the right to use Arctic shipping routes should be ensured. China maintains that disputes over the Arctic shipping routes should be properly settled in accordance with international law.” The reference to “freedom of navigation in the Arctic shipping routes” — again, specifically defined to include the Northwest Passage — is, of course, in complete opposition to the official Canadian position. The Chinese white paper also gives some legitimacy to the idea that a dispute exists as to the status of the Arctic shipping routes, which include the Northwest Passage for China.

In light of this ongoing international debate, and the fact that the waters within the Arctic Archipelago are an integral part of the Inuit homeland, it is essential that a robust but inclusive governance regime exist to regulate activities in Canada’s Arctic waters. Federal and territorial departments, institutions of public governance under land claims agreements and local communities all have responsibilities, rights and an important stake in ensuring that activities within those waters are respectful of the people and the environment.

Active involvement and participation by the Inuit and other northern Indigenous peoples in governing Arctic waters only strengths Canada’s position. There is slow but increasing recognition at the international level of Indigenous peoples’ deep connection with their natural environment and a growing commitment, again rather slow, to their right to manage activities on their traditional lands and waters.

Current initiatives and programs, for instance under the Oceans Protection Plan, must be maintained irrespective of changes of governments or priorities or perceived priorities.

As mentioned, under international law, both customary and the Convention on the Law of the Sea, Canada enjoys exclusive sovereign rights over the natural resources of its continental shelf, including the extended shelf. However, because it is a party to the Law of the Sea Convention, Canada must submit a dossier containing scientific evidence and information on that shelf beyond 200 nautical miles to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. According to this process established by article 76, once the commission has carefully reviewed a state’s submission, Canada’s, and the scientific evidence on which it was based, it will make recommendation to the coastal state in relation to the establishment of the outer limits of this continental shelf.

So far, all of the five Arctic coastal states are abiding by the rules of the game, even, as Professor Byers mentioned, the United States. Though not a party to the convention and not obliged to follow the article 76 process and, indeed, doesn’t have access to the commission, it is gathering its scientific evidence north of the Alaskan coast according to the convention’s formulas.

However, what I would like to emphasize before this committee is that paragraph 10 of article 76 unambiguously declares that the commission process does not and cannot prejudice the question of the delimitation of the continental shelf between states with adjacent coasts or opposite coasts. In terms of adjacent coasts, that means that the article 76 process will have no impact and will not provide a determination of the lateral boundary between Canada and the United States in the Beaufort Sea, or between Canada, Denmark and Greenland in the Lincoln Sea, nor will the article 76 process settle the issue of the overlapping outer limits of the Arctic states in the central Arctic Ocean, for instance along the Lomonosov Ridge, a situation of states with opposite coasts.

The commission is actually estopped by its own rules of procedures from considering a submission, the Russian or the Danish one, which includes an area in dispute, requested by more than one state, unless it has the prior consent of the parties involved in that dispute. So far, in the Arctic, because they are confident in the knowledge that the commission’s recommendations cannot in the end delimit the actual borders, Canada, Denmark and Russia have given their explicit consent to have the commission proceed with the evaluation of their neighbours’ submissions and science.

This is by far the most practical and efficient use of the commission process. I was very happy that Canada gave its agreement because the commission will study, for instance, the Russian dossier and the Danish dossier, assess the science and make its recommendation. This will be a very precious element, a critical layer of information, for the negotiation process that must inevitably take place between the competing states and that’s my main point.

The Convention on the Law of the Sea is fabulous, and the article 76 process is fabulous but, in the end, the parties will have to agree and will have to determine those boundaries. I think that is why it’s essential that lines of communication, including with Russia, remain open between Canada and its Arctic coastal neighbours. This is where the Arctic Council has offered a very valuable forum to foster that kind of dialogue, so efforts in this direction should be maintained.

I’d be happy to entertain any questions. Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you very much. We’ve had a wealth of important ideas here. I will now turn to senators for questions, beginning with our deputy chair, Senator Bovey.

Senator Bovey: I want to thank you all. This has been a very enlightening series of presentations, and you leave me feeling more calm than I may have been on this topic to begin with.

First of all, I want to clarify that none of you is really concerned about the fact that it seems that Russia and China have greater knowledge of our Arctic Ocean than we do. Is that a fair assessment from what I have heard? And depending on that answer, I’d like your thoughts a little bit more about the shipping routes, the rules of those shipping routes and the amount of our icebreaker time that is spent with ships, be they cruise ships or sailboats that go on the rocks and preclude thereby delivering goods to northern Canadian ports.

I note that transit rights means freedom of passage, so help my addled mind to sort all this out. I’m not concerned, but I fear I may have some concerns by what’s not getting delivered and who really knows what, and does it matter that others know more about us than we do?

The Chair: Senator Bovey, I think you’ve addressed your questions to all three panellists; is that correct?

Senator Bovey: Yes, and if one wants to pick it up, that’s fine.

Mr. Byers: There is an awful lot in that question, so I won’t try to answer every dimension.

Let me start by saying that Canada actually has a very good idea as to what happens in our Arctic. The senator will know of RADARSAT-2, Canada’s synthetic aperture radar satellite. Canada developed synthetic aperture radar because it can take high-resolution images at night and through clouds, and this was because of our incredibly long coastlines, the majority of which are in the Arctic. In May of this year, Canada will launch the next generation of RADARSAT, RADARSAT Constellation, which will provide even better coverage. We can identify every ship in the Canadian Arctic. We can track those ships, so from a maritime perspective, we have a good idea as to what’s going on.

There are issues concerning submarines, but submarines are not a challenge to sovereignty because the whole point of a submarine is to be covert, not be seen, and only visual actions can result in changes to sovereignty plans. On the strict concern about knowledge, we’re absolutely fine there.

We do also have pretty good capacity in terms of deploying to the Arctic. We have more than a dozen long-range maritime search and rescue helicopters that can operate very well in the Arctic. We have Canadian Rangers, more than 5,000, and Professor Lackenbauer is the expert on the Rangers. We have fixed wing search and rescue aircraft. In other words, we can reach places when we need to. Our big problem is twofold. One problem is that most of our assets are deployed in southern Canada and take time to the deploy to the North, so we probably have to forward deploy some things, like a search and rescue helicopter, in the future. But the other issue is that some of this equipment is growing old.

The senator mentioned the icebreakers. We do need to recapitalize the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaking fleet so that we can not only escort ships through ice but also resupply communities, support Arctic science and provide a search and rescue and surveillance presence on the water. We need to think now about recapitalizing our long-range search and rescue helicopter fleet. Those aircraft are now two decades old, and I don’t need to remind senators how long it takes to engage in military procurement in this country.

We need to be thinking in a forward direction about improving our capabilities over time. In terms of knowledge and the ability to reach situations, we’ve pretty well off.

Mr. Lackenbauer: Thank you, Senator Bovey, for the question. I do not agree with your first comment. I do not think it is true that the Russians or Chinese have a greater awareness of what is happening in our Arctic waters. In fact, Canada has the best awareness of what is happening in our waters. The question becomes whether we should be investing in increased surveillance and whether we can improve our awareness of what’s happening in our waters. Comparatively, we have more than anyone else, but I think the investments are worthwhile to continuously improve our knowledge of what’s happening, and that involves both Western science and indigenous knowledge working in concert as they often do.

In terms of your question on shipping routes, I think you raise an interesting point. We’ve had both Professor Lalonde and Professor Byers explain the issue over the status of transit rights through the Northwest Passage, which is the right to uninterrupted transit through it. To me, that dispute over that right often gets mixed up in issues regarding traffic that will arrive in our Arctic, destination traffic involving resource development and resupply. Your question is an important one because it is about the interplay between domestic and international agendas that lay at the heart of questions about shipping in these waters.

Domestically, it’s fair to say that we’re very clear that we seek opportunities for more vibrant communities and more economic possibilities being opened up if we invest in infrastructure to allow ships to go and create a diversified Northern economy. Investments in port infrastructure — you’ve heard some eloquent testimonies already explaining the visions of where that could go.

The interesting dynamic is when you take that same set of questions and apply them to international questions. Canada is much more reticent to openly say, yes, we welcome the international community to use our waters, on our terms, to help be a generator of economic developments and some of those opportunities. In my mind, if we maintain an awareness of what the dispute is over transit rights in an international straits regime, there’s a different way of parsing those issues to see that not all international activity and shipping activity should be construed or misconstrued as a threat to Canadian sovereignty. In fact, a lot of that activity, as both of our eminent legal experts have said, is actually confirmation of Canada’s sovereignty.

The bigger question still remains: As a country, do we have a vision for the North that really wants to see our Arctic waters become a hub of activity as a part of the catalyst for certain economic futures? Or do we want to adopt what Lester Pearson once described as a scorched ice strategy where we don’t build anything in the North and don’t encourage shipping through the Northwest Passage for fear that that will threaten our sovereignty and we want to freeze the world out?

Ms. Lalonde: I think you’ve raised a very good point, Senator Bovey. I think you were referring to the idea of the smaller adventure pleasure crafts that come through the passage ill-prepared and getting into trouble. In different forums, the question has been raised about whether it is time for Canada to charge for search and rescue to discourage — because they’re pulling important and limited assets away from community resupply. As far as I understand it from our global affairs colleagues, the issue has been to tread softly. They’re our waters, but we don’t want to push our authority. They fear to start charging for search and rescue might provoke protests and inflame the legal status debate. Yes and no. If they are our waters, they are our waters, and if these individuals are behaving irresponsibly — I think that’s why I’m such a big believer and can’t wait for them to be really — the maritime corridors, the corridors initiative, in the hope that these adventurers at least stay within —

At the moment, these small pleasure crafts escape the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act and the regulations because they’re too small to qualify and they’re not obliged to have ARS on board. But, for instance, Denmark and Greenland have a system to keep track of these rogue adventurers. I think maybe it’s time. Without being too pushy, I agree with you that we need to think about maybe ensuring the safety of these individuals and also making sure that they don’t detract from very essential services. It was really a problem last summer. One community went without because of a search and rescue.

I appreciate the comment and the question very much. I’m still thinking about the best way ahead.

Senator Bovey: Thank you.

Senator Eaton: Thank you all. This is very interesting.

I want to deal within the second column, to assert and ensure the preservation of Canada’s sovereignty in the North. Unlike our Professors Lackenbauer and Byers, I was at the maritime security conference in Victoria in October, where Singapore, Japan, India, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand were all represented, along with the U.S. and Canada. Their biggest concern is China keeping the South China Sea open to navigation, and they’re all building up their navies in consequence of that. I think New Zealand told me they are patrolling the south around Antarctica, NS Australia patrols around the north of Australia. Japan is increasing the size of its navy. India is building submarines. It’s because of the Chinese. They see them as a threat. When I was at a NATO parliamentary conference a couple of weeks ago in Brussels, they talked about China’s sharp power. When I hear the two of you say the Chinese are lovely people, they come over here to be cooperative and they’re lovely, I’m sorry, but I think you’re the only two people I’ve heard that think the Chinese pose no threat in the Arctic.

I just sometimes feel like we’re a big Canada Goose waiting to be carved up by bigger and more ruthless powers than ourselves. I’m wondering, professors, how do we assert and ensure Canada’s preservation of sovereignty in the North? I include you, madam, because I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. Do we have good, strong shipping regulations? Have we charted one route through the Northwest Passage so people can’t take little tangents off and get stuck, and can we enforce that? Do we have the capabilities to enforce that, and if we don’t, why not?

Ms. Lalonde: Thank you for the question. I think the Coast Guard has been working on these corridors that have changed names and have had different iterations, but as far as I understand, the Canadian Hydrographic Service has been very, very busy. There are some principal channels —

Senator Eaton: Is it true that only 1 or 2 per cent of the Northwest Passage has been charted?

Ms. Lalonde: I think that alarming statistic is a couple of years out. I think until recently, we were lagging, but there has been tremendous effort. If you think of the entire Arctic Archipelago, it is still a long way to go, but I don’t think we have the resources to chart to modern standards the entire waters. I think the idea is to encourage ships to borrow some channels.

I attended a workshop in Iqaluit and I came away after two days in despair because what if you identify a corridor and that year that’s where the ice is and the ships have to detour, and we had local communities telling us they must not — but if that’s the only option available.

I think we’re still on the right track with the corridors. I think this is the way to encourage with better navigational aids. It will help focus our assets. I will let my two colleagues talk about our capabilities. With the offshore patrol vessels, they know much more about that. This is a plus, but I think we need all the help we can get if most of the ships stick to well designated, well-charted, safer routes.

Senator Eaton: But could we make them stick to well charted, well-designated routes every year?

Ms. Lalonde: That becomes, what is our appetite for a fight? I think we’ve been treading softly, but perhaps you’re right. There is a point where, if these are Canadian internal waters, we are sovereign over them, so let’s act that way, but there is the fear that this might inflame, provoke and push other countries that are maybe on the fence on that one to insist that there is an international strait cutting through our archipelago. But I’ll let Professors Lackenbauer and Byers take that up with you.

The Chair: Before they do, I’ll add one bit of information here. The professors will know about this. I believe Russia has now announced new rules around their northern sea route requiring notice and taking steps to take control over their route. Maybe it’s not just China that’s taking action here.

Ms. Lalonde: That’s exactly the point. Then we get the U.S. announcing that this summer the navy will be conducting a freedom of navigation operation in the Arctic, and maybe on the Russian side. They’re our waters — Washington doesn’t agree — but a tightening of “We’re going to deal with them because they’re ours,” provokes a reaction. The policy of Canada has been to tread softly, but perhaps the time has come to take the gloves off.

Mr. Byers: Thank you for the question, Senator Eaton. I’m not naive about China —

Senator Eaton: Canadians are naive.

Mr. Byers: If you doubt that assertion, please read my review of Jonathan Manthorpe’s Claws of the Panda in The Globe and Mail a month ago. China is a very serious concern, but the South China Sea and the Northwest Passage involve different legal issues. The Northwest Passage is the question of internal waters versus international strait, and the one place where that issue actually involves China along its coastline is in the Qiongzhou Strait, not the South China Sea, between Hainan Island and the mainland of the People’s Republic. I’ve published a long article in the Chinese “Journal of International Law,” where I compare the Qiongzhou Strait and the Northwest Passage disputes and find they are almost identical. In other words, the Chinese legal interest in avoiding a negative precedent in the Canadian Arctic is there and quite strong. They have a legal reason for not challenging our claim, because to do so would contradict their own claim in the Qiongzhou Strait along their coastline.

There is room for coordination and even cooperation with China. China wants to have a commercially viable shipping route through the Northwest Passage. Canada can help to provide that. In fact, it’s necessary to provide that because only the coastal state in such a remote region can supply search and rescue, maritime charts and the weather and the ice forecasting in the ports of refuge. There’s a synergy in this one instance between Chinese and Canadian interests, and we should focus on that.

Again, I’m not naive, but I would point out that Stephen Harper’s government in 2010 produced an Arctic policy forum statement. Lawrence Cannon was the foreign minister. Neither he nor Mr. Harper were naive about Russia or China, but the core of that foreign policy statement was about cooperating with other Arctic countries to resolve these maritime issues. Again, that is not to lose sight of the bigger picture. Russia and China are threatening countries elsewhere in the world, but in the Arctic, for some reason, they want to cooperate, and we should encourage them to do so.

Senator Eaton: I respectfully disagree. Thank you.

Mr. Lackenbauer: Thanks, Senator Eaton, and lest my view of this issue be mistaken, I, like Professor Byers, do not believe that I’m naive regarding China’s interests globally. There are a couple of issues at play. In my opening comments, I wanted to emphasize that I think when we’re looking at China’s interests in the Arctic, it’s important, in a lot of ways, to carefully distinguish between what are the Arctic-specific issues that are at play and what are the concerns we have about China within a global context, of which there are many? I worry that we will end up conflating or mistaking that things like Arctic sovereignty are exceptional. As Professor Byers has done an important job of clarifying, China is going to be drawing analogies between potential stances or forcing issues in the Arctic and what that is going to affect in terms of their most acute interest.

Senator Eaton: So India, China, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand are all crazy to be building up their navies because they’re worried China wants to close down the South China Sea. You’re saying we’re right, and we’re the only country in the world that feels that China is no threat in the Arctic. Every other country feels threatened, but we’re special. Is that what you’re both saying?

Mr. Lackenbauer: I think you’re mistaking two issues — sovereignty does not equal security. You framed it in terms of sovereignty. We are all saying this is not a sovereignty issue. There are security issues to this, and there are very bright minds within the Canadian government thinking and anticipating what future security environments could look like.

Horizon 1, Horizon 2, none of the threat assessments coming out of the Canadian military, none of the threat assessments coming out of the United States navy on these issues, is identifying a short-to-medium-term Arctic threat posed by the Chinese in the military realm.

This is an Arctic issue that we’re speaking to here. More broadly, the South China Sea involves a whole different basket of interests and issues. In my mind, Canada might be mistakenly lured into taking the bait for thinking that we should be disproportionately investing resources and defending the Arctic rather than investing in resources that can be used to preserve Western interests in the South China Sea.

My biggest fear is we could become captive to a grand strategic play, which would have a country like Russia or China have us disproportionately swing our focus and posture toward the Arctic to free up their strategic mobility in other parts of the world.

The Chair: Very interesting exchanges. Thank you so much.

Senator Coyle: Thank you to all of our guests today. This is very interesting, and for the most part some agreement and perhaps a little disagreement with Professor Lalonde.

Professor Lackenbauer, since you said you would be happy to discuss something you hinted at in your presentation, I would like to bring you back to that. Consistent with what I’m hearing from everyone here is this importance of Canada’s international relations, our diplomacy; right? If I’m understanding some of what you’re saying, Professor Lackenbauer, even though, as you say here, Canada and Russia may find ourselves on different sides in an era of renewed great power rivalry, and we know which side we will be on and are already on, you say that doesn’t necessarily lead to Arctic conflict for us. In fact, you’ve drawn from other parts of our history where that collaboration/cooperation on science and other things can actually keep channels open between countries so long as we don’t raise the heat. Am I right?

Mr. Lackenbauer: Thank you for returning to that. We do have a range of options, and I think, as a mature actor on the global stage, we can look at things with nuance even as the world becomes more sharply divided, I worry, into black-and-white, we-they dichotomy, to realize a space like the Arctic, even in the heat of the Cold War — I guess maybe the opposite, the chill of the Cold War — we still found space for our scientists to share information on areas of common interest, whether it was permafrost or ice dynamics. We had opportunities for exchanges whereby Canadian representatives would go over and understand some of the concerns, difficulties and challenges being faced by local communities, often Indigenous communities in the Russian Arctic and the Canadian Arctic, and that didn’t preclude our ability to maintain deterrence in the military realm or to have very strong differences of opinion on high politics issues, big global international issues.

What I’m suggesting is a time for some finesse and nuance within Canada’s foreign policy, particularly in the circumpolar space. We’ve clearly put a lot of investment in the last few decades into multilateral mechanisms — certainly the Arctic Council being the premier forum for dialogue among the Arctic states, with close dialogue of permanent participants of Indigenous rights-holders in the region. What I think we also might look to is a greater emphasis on some of our bilateral relationships in the Arctic, realizing that not all of these issues may be ones that are dealt with through a common set of interests with all of the different Arctic states or the entire global community, but that we might go and figure out particular issues where we can find common ground and invest greater resources in those.

Lest I set the wrong tone in this, we do not want in any of our relationships with Russia to suggest that we are agreeing to a new status quo in which we accept the aggression that they have either undertaken or clearly backed in Ukraine. That is not tolerable for Canada as it stands right now in terms of the international sphere and our big foreign policy objectives.

To me, working with Russia in specific niche areas where we do have common interests, in pursuit of our individual national interests and common interests, is appropriate. It’s helpful. It requires a bit of finesse and it’s not prone to grand, simple, black-and-white statements. But if we have the political will and we have the national leadership to want to communicate these things, I think there are opportunities for some innovative and creative ways of exploring relationships moving forward.

Senator Coyle: Thank you. So avoid the all-or-nothing approach and embrace the nuance.

Mr. Byers: Can I just add an example?

Senator Coyle: Yes, this is helpful.

Mr. Byers: It is of how Canada and Russia can cooperate on some issues while disagreeing on others. A Canadian astronaut, David Saint-Jacques, is on the International Space Station as we speak, with two Russian cosmonauts and three American astronauts. He got there on a Soyuz rocket launched by the Russians from Kazakhstan.

We can have very major differences with the Russian government on issues like Ukraine and Syria and still work together closely on other issues. That’s what the three of us are arguing with regard to the Arctic. We can work with Russia because Russia is willing to work with us. We have enough common interests in the Arctic to make that productive for every country. That doesn’t mean that we’re conceding to Russia or lowering our guard. It’s simply very practical politics to focus your security investments, surveillance and all those other military assets on those parts of the world where there are real problems and to draw back in those parts of the world where things are quiet.

Again, we can walk and chew gum at the same time as a country.

Senator Coyle: Thank you very much.

Senator Anderson: Qujannamiik for the timely information today.

In speaking about sovereignty and opening up the waters, it’s just important not to forget sight of the Indigenous peoples. The water has been and continues to be very important to our survival as an Indigenous group in terms of food and transportation. I think it’s important not to forget that when decisions are made from the top down.

I also want to point out that I am Inuvialuit. I’m from a small community, Tuktoyaktuk, by the Beaufort Sea, by the Arctic Ocean. It is a small community of 950 largely Inuvialuit. I want to point out that China has been to Tuktoyaktuk, with an interest in the land. If China holds ownership to land within the Arctic, does that change their rite of passage to the Arctic waters?

The Chair: I know Professor Byers is a lawyer as well, but are you directing that to Professor Lalonde for starters?

Senator Anderson: I’m open to any feedback.

The Chair: Do you want to comment, Professor Lalonde?

Ms. Lalonde: Sure. On that one, I’m very confident to say, no, it doesn’t change — absolutely not. It’s not ownership in a sector of the Arctic that could transform what is a claim long established, based on historic title — a claim that affects the entire archipelago. I’ll just leave it at that.

Mr. Lackenbauer: Thank you, senator, for the very important reminder of grounding this conversation in the interests of Northerners. Certainly, within your community, you benefit from the active involvement of people like Ranger Sergeant Jackie Jacobson and Ranger Master Corporal Emanuel Adams, who are eyes, ears and voices of your community, not only in observing what’s going on in terms of unusual activities but in being essential first responders in the case that some sort of incident arises and would require a Canadian response.

Professor Lalonde mentioned this before. Through the Oceans Protection Plan and other initiatives being developed right now in Canada, there is a real opportunity to harmonize a lot of that local capacity that already exists — a lot of that deep knowledge that resides within your communities — and to complement and reinforce that with new investments and new tools. It might be possible to complete or fill out the picture that we’re able to develop locally to make sure that these either new activities or a different tempo of activities don’t negatively impact people living at the community level and people pursuing the activities they have been doing for hundreds of thousands of years as a collective. It’s about ensuring that all of these considerations and discussions are animated by a follow-up question asking: So what does this mean at the local level?

That said, there are certain fora or certain bodies on the international level where governments of Canada will be representing all Canadians. It’s very important that, with international audiences, we communicate, as Professor Byers did, that our sovereignty is based upon historic use of Inuit and other northern peoples of land and ice as a holistic space. They’ve been doing so since time immemorial. I think of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Joe Clark’s September 10, 1985, landmark speech reinforcing that particular message.

That’s an important message to reiterate, but at the same time, when we’re reaching out to international audiences, I also think there’s a need for a crispness and precision that we are exercising domestic sovereignty and that we are doing it in a way that’s been co-developed and co-exercised, but at the same time, the international community realizes we are acting in concert as a Canadian state.

I can explain a little more if you’re interested in terms of why I’m drawing that distinction, but I think it’s important to make sure that, internationally, we’re demonstrating that we’re exercising our sovereignty in partnership with our Indigenous peoples and rights-holders within our country who have particular rights internationally, but at the same time, those rights are being articulated by the Canadian state representing everyone at the same time.

Mr. Byers: I agree with both my colleagues.

I just wanted to add something that I think is quite important. The way the Canadian government treats its citizens in terms of their socioeconomic status, health, housing and education does not impact our legal sovereignty internationally, but it does affect our reputation internationally. Canada’s moral authority on Arctic politics is weakened by the suicide crisis in Canada’s North, by the endemic tuberculosis and the housing crisis. Other governments are not blind; they see how Canada treats its northern residents. I would encourage this committee to make that point. Although it doesn’t go to the legal issue, internationally, it is imperative that the Canadian government work very closely with Northern governments, with Inuit and First Nations, to improve all of those social, health and educational indicators. It matters for the individuals involved, but it also matters for our international reputation and the ability of our diplomats to do that essential diplomacy that we’ve been talking about.

Ms. Lalonde: Professor Byers makes an excellent fundamental point, as does Professor Lackenbauer. I’m encouraged by the Oceans Protection Plan because some of the initiatives being co-developed are making space for active participation and have a component of training and involving local populations. Jackie Dawson and her group, while looking at and researching how communities view shipping and shipping lanes, went into the communities ahead of time, took about four or five interested young people and showed them research methods.

There are so many other ills that must be tackled. I am in full agreement with what Professor Byers was saying, but on the waters issue I think there is potential there to not only integrate local populations into co-management in protected areas, et cetera, but also training and actual job opportunities as well.

The Chair: Just in connection with this discussion about the threat of what some people call “militarization” on the Soviet side, and of course we’ve talked about China, it’s fine to talk about collaboration with other nations on search and rescue and oil spill response, and I think the Arctic Council has made progress in those agreements, which are very important to Arctic residents. I want to ask you about Canada’s capacity on the ground.

As Professor Byers said, we can see what’s going on, but the last time I looked, the Soviets had 16 deep-water ports, and Canada still hasn’t finished building even one. I believe there are, between private and state assets, about 50 icebreakers in Soviet control and 6 new military bases. Could you comment on whether Canada should be doing more in terms of infrastructure and icebreaking capacity? By the way, even the Americans, I understand, are struggling with icebreaker deficiencies. Their Polar Sea icebreaker, which had been assigned to the Antarctic, broke down coming back from there, I understand. Could we have some comments on Canada’s capacity question, Professor Byers?

Mr. Byers: The first thing to point out is that Canada is further away from Russia than any other Arctic country. We’re separated by Alaska on one side and by Greenland and the Norwegian Sea on the other side. To the north is the very large, dark, cold, ice-covered Arctic Ocean. So Russia is quite a ways from Canada. That’s why we’re not worried about any kind of land invasion, if Russia for some foolish reason decided that it wanted more land to add to what is already the largest country on Earth.

If there were a situation requiring Canadian troops on the ground in the Arctic, we can get them there. We can land our C-17 big transport aircraft on gravel runways across the North. We also have our Hercules, smaller cargo planes, able to land on the same runways. We can put helicopters on the back of those planes and move them quickly as far north as Alert. So we can respond if we have to. But the security threats in the Canadian Arctic, today and in the foreseeable future, involve search and rescue incidents, which are increasing in number. They involve the possibility of criminal activity, including smuggling and the possibility of attempts at illegal immigration. These are constabulary duties that don’t require large numbers of troops or armoured vehicles, so I think we’re well covered on that front.

The only other thing in terms of icebreaking is that the Canadian government has recently acquired three second-hand icebreakers, which will help out a little bit, but they are not heavy icebreakers. They will help mostly in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the wintertime. We need to have some heavy icebreaker capability. The Louis S. St. Laurent is as old as I am, which is really old. The planned heavy icebreaker that’s supposed to be built in North Vancouver hasn’t even reached the actual construction contract stage of that procurement. If you could light a fire under the Canadian government to get moving on some real icebreakers, that would certainly help. The ice is melting, but that means it’s moving around more and becoming less predictable. The season for shipping is growing longer, and more ships are getting into trouble. We need to be able to get to where we need to be in any conditions, and for that you need real icebreakers.

The Chair: Professor Byers, you didn’t mention the Arctic offshore patrol vessels. There are to be five or six, and one of them has been launched. Would you comment on how much of an asset those will be?

Mr. Byers: I have two things to say. First of all, it’s Arctic/offshore patrol vessels. These are vessels that will operate on both the Atlantic and Pacific Coast in addition to the Arctic. They will be replacing the Kingston-class mid-shore patrol vessels as well as providing some Arctic capabilities. Don’t expect all those vessels to be in the Arctic in the summer months. They will be doing important work in the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Although I understand they can break up to one metre of first-year ice, that is not a capability that allows them to penetrate to the heart of the archipelago in most summers, or indeed to stay there much past September. So they’re a summertime vessel for the Arctic. We still need icebreakers.

Mr. Lackenbauer: Thank you for that question. I think, when we’re looking to the Russian analogy, a lot of their investments in infrastructure are dual use. They not only have a military utility, which is trumpeted by Putin and the Kremlin, in certain contexts, at the same time it was a way for Putin to be able to use federal Russian funds to build up infrastructure that would also benefit some of his commercial backers and allies as they are trying to open up certain resource development projects and also facilitate certain activities along the northern sea route.

Again, looking at the nature of why those were built in the form they have taken, this might, on a very general level, serve as a reminder that if we are undertaking activities for defence and security, that we think about what the secondary or tertiary benefits are for not only a diversified northern economy that might develop, but also figure out whether that’s the best use of funding to be able to help out communities if that’s our primary goal for reasons we’ve talked about collectively here.

In terms of the threat of militarization, the deterrence piece often goes unstated in Canada. All of my comments are always predicated on the idea that we have a stable deterrent that we are providing with our allies from preventing or dissuading foreign threats from emerging that would threaten North America. Determining whether or not there are infrastructure or capability deficits in that regard involves conversations with our American ally, big questions coming up about what NORAD looks like heading into the future and what we will do in terms of replacing the warning system in the North.

There are also questions raised in Canada’s recent defence white paper, Strong Secure Engaged, on what role NATO may have within the Arctic and whether Canada will change what has been a decade-long stance that we do not want NATO undertaking an explicit Arctic role, knowing full well this will be provocative towards Russia, or whether we think the threat environment has changed or is likely to change and will require us to play a more vocal and explicit role in showing NATO solidarity to dissuade Russia from any adventurism.

A very friendly amendment to Professor Byers’ comments: the Royal Canadian Navy would say they are the Arctic and offshore patrol vessels. Everything else we’re in agreement on in terms of how these are a capability that will provide a platform not just for the navy to undertake operations, but a bunch of other federal and territorial departments and community-level stakeholders to undertake quite a range of activities in the North, most of which, for the foreseeable future, will be constabulatory in nature, as Professor Byers so fairly represented.

Ms. Lalonde: If I could respond to your question in another register, I have been insisting for a long while now that it’s one thing to claim sovereignty, but you also have to act as a responsible sovereign, and Professor Byers took us on that level when he was talking about looking after your people.

I’m sensitive to the question that you raised, and I was confronted sometimes internationally at conferences with colleagues saying, “You say that they’re your waters; what are you doing?” So “putting your money where your mouth is” kind of thing.

Professor Lackenbauer explained brilliantly what Russia is maybe doing in its Arctic, but there is a balance whereby if we’re saying they are our waters and we want to govern them responsibly and co-manage them, there are some necessary steps we need to take, ports of refuge, places of refuge. There is some investment needed to back up our claim, if I could put it that way.

I talked about walking softly. Can we make people use the corridors? Canada likes to let the insurance market deal with that by making it extremely attractive for ships to go where it is safest and let the insurance companies make it mandatory in that sense.

The Chair: Professor Lalonde, you talked about the role of Indigenous people as having established sovereignty for Canada in the Arctic and in stewardship of the fragile and precious Arctic environment. We in the Arctic were almost universally shocked at the late 2016 announcement by our Prime Minister about the Arctic oil and gas moratorium, not necessarily because we agreed or disagreed with that but because there was, admittedly, no consultation.

Since that time, a new Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, has invited the Northwest Territories and the Inuvialuit to participate in what I would call negotiations about their future role in the Arctic offshore. As I understand it, that outreach has not yet been made in Nunavut.

What do you see as the vision of management of the offshore in the Arctic? We have models in the Atlantic that we can look at. How do you see Indigenous people participating, in particular, but also adjacent governments, in management of the offshore?

Ms. Lalonde: That’s quite the question. I’ve been working on it for weeks. Of course, the Constitution explicitly says that navigation and shipping is a federal responsibility, but in the Arctic, it’s a different context. I was looking at how there is interplay of federal responsibilities and authority, but with land claims agreements, actually bearing down on the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, it’s very rich.

One of the key roles that can be played — not just saying co-management or co-partnerships, but what does it mean? — or one of the promising areas is marine protected areas or conservation areas. Internationally, they’ve become a poster child for being responsible about the oceans. Marine protected areas are being discussed at the UN, and countries have made commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity. They’re all going toward targets, so this is it. It’s encouraging that the federal marine protected area strategy explicitly talks about respecting Aboriginal people. Here is an opportunity to manage our Arctic waters as we see fit according to priorities that are sensitive to local needs.

I don’t want to venture — I’m a southerner — but the realities of the western Arctic aren’t necessarily the realities of communities in the eastern Arctic. But with these legal tools, and with meaningful involvement at the time of creating management plans for these areas, it’s going to allow for not only a policy role, in a sense — I’m venturing; I’m a legal person — but also when it comes time to enacting those plans and ensuring that foreign ships respect those management plans and areas.

I like this proactive vessel management plan under the ocean protection plan. Cambridge Bay has been selected as a target community. It’s putting a lot of pressure on Cambridge Bay, but asking Cambridge Bay to think about local needs in terms of managing vessels, this is the way concretely that an area that is under federal responsibility can still be sensitive and involve local communities and rights holders.

Mr. Byers: You will recall that the world price for oil dropped sharply in 2014 and has only recovered to a small degree. It’s difficult to imagine offshore oil and gas being commercially viable in the Canadian Arctic, unless oil rises up to well over $100 a barrel, essentially twice what it is now. Although the Prime Minister introduced a moratorium, in practical terms, there wouldn’t have been any drilling anyway. I would also note that the moratorium provided for a five-year review, and that suggested a willingness to consider lifting the moratorium in full or in part in the future.

I am surprised that the federal government hasn’t taken the opportunity of the moratorium, therefore, to engage with northern governments, with Inuit and First Nations, to develop world-class safety and environmental and regulatory schemes for offshore Arctic drilling, to have a system in place for a possible future lifting of that moratorium.

I will say one thing: If you have a world-class regime with very stringent environmental protections, you will have high costs. I would caution northern governments and residents to not get too excited about the future for oil and gas in the Arctic offshore. It may be that there are better economic opportunities available that will require far less in the form of subsidies from the South.

Mr. Lackenbauer: A quick point — and maybe one that is painfully superficial — but to make sure that whatever strategy we are developing, there is ample space for a diversity of perspectives, and I think a question of scale enters in here. On the one hand, are we looking for a single vision for the management of the offshore in the Arctic? Is it an Inuit Nunangat approach? Or is it one that is regional in orientation? Certainly some of the testimonies from the KIA, and some of their strategies for trying to navigate around and figure out a way to seek desired outcomes within their region, is requiring creativity, and not necessarily turning to Iqaluit, but some of those relationships and negotiations they are fostering with Yellowknife speak to a diversity of desired futures or potential pathways forward, and then, as Professor Lalonde was indicating, differences certainly at the local level. One of the big questions within the strategy is how to frame a set of opportunities that will allow for diversity, some healthy debates and experimentation that may be different across the Arctic.

That said, there is also, in terms of governance, some contestation going on about who should have the right to have the ultimate say on things like the Arctic offshore.

The Chair: Speaking of Indigenous peoples getting engaged, Professor Lackenbauer, I would like to ask you whether you would recommend an expanded or a different role for the Canadian Rangers.

Mr. Lackenbauer: Thank you very much. This is a topic I’m very passionate about.

In terms of the Rangers, one of the key messages I’ve tried to get across is that if it isn’t broken, don’t break it. It’s a pithy way of suggesting that the Rangers have developed a way of existing, an identity and culture around them, over more than 70 years. In essence, the promise to invest in enhancing their capabilities and giving them more supports is perhaps the preferred option rather than trying to actually change their role.

In this particular case, short term, some of the areas to address are making sure there are more Ranger instructors to be able to support the activities they are undertaking at a local level, something that might be a relatively quick fix, to make sure the patrol groups themselves are better able to help the Rangers and their communities. It doesn’t require an expansion of their mandate, which has settled over 70 years on something realistic and allows them to perform essential roles within the Canadian Armed Forces while simultaneously serving community needs. That’s something we start changing to our potential peril.

On the other side is making sure that Rangers’ place within this growing constellation of different community-level actors responding to safety and security issues in the North is clarified. We now have guardian programs in some communities, and we have Coast Guard Auxiliary and volunteer search and rescue. Efforts to harmonize and clarify the exact state of capacity at the community level and how to invest in Northerners as individuals who will then collectively wear different hats on different days but with the net benefit of helping their communities — that’s the way to go forward.

Asking the question of whether the Rangers should be tweaked in terms of what they are being asked to do is relevant. It’s a first step to do the capacity mapping and better understand the landscape of local actors and what everyone is bringing to the table. That’s the first essential precondition before I would suggest we look at changing the Rangers themselves.

Just to be clear for the record, sometimes the temptation is to go for easy solutions, such as, say, expanding means growing the numbers. When we look at the rates of participation of Northerners within the Rangers already, 23 per cent of the Rangers are women in the Arctic, and if we look at what the capacity is of the communities, the expectation that they should be asked to do even more at the community level may be the wrong way of going about it. It is celebrating what is already being done, recognizing how significant and substantive it is, and helping to make sure that can be enabled to be done.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much, colleagues. We have been very privileged to have three well-respected experts in their fields present for us today. It has been very helpful to us. With that, I will warmly thank our very helpful witnesses.

We have come now to our last panel. I’m very pleasured to welcome, from the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Indigenous permanent participant of the Arctic Council, Ms. Cindy Dickson, Executive Director, who is joining us all the way from Whitehorse by video conference. Thank you for joining us today, Ms. Dickson. I invite you to please proceed with your opening statement, after which you may expect some questions or comments from senators. Welcome.

Cindy Dickson, Executive Director, Arctic Athabaskan Council: Thank you. First, I’d like to apologize for being a few minutes late.

I’ve been working at the Arctic Council level for about 19 years. When we first started working, the question we always received was: How will working at the international or circumpolar level benefit our people? Throughout the years, we’ve been able to provide a lot of firsthand knowledge of scientific work that’s been done around the Arctic and the circumpolar world, and we’ve been able to meet people around the circumpolar who are going through similar experiences as we are. Over the years, we’ve done a lot of research on traditional knowledge and science. We’ve participated in a lot of studies that helped us understand the changes that have been taking place in the Arctic.

Throughout our years of research, the two areas where we really need to focus and pay attention more are the environmental work that we do, and we also need to look at resource development in the Arctic. We need to bring the two together and try to look at ways we can educate our people. A lot of time, we hear second- and third-hand about resource development and extraction and a lot of the degradation that comes with it to our lands, but the reality is that, in the North, we need jobs and incomes. We need some of the resource development.

I think it’s really important that we focus a lot of our attention on education. In our communities, we don’t always have the type of education possibilities that you might have in larger urban centres. Our children are still behind when it comes to academic studies. In order to move forward in our territories, we really need to focus on education and the health and well-being of people in the Arctic. We hear a lot about mental health issues and suicides that are taking place in different communities and areas of the Arctic. Education, health and well-being are key components for future focus.

One of the areas that we don’t really discuss a lot at the circumpolar level but which you hear a lot more is this whole residential school issue that people have discussed more and more over the years. That’s another layer to what’s taking place in the Arctic, especially in the Canadian Arctic, but we hear it in other places as well. It’s such a large issue. It permeates throughout our communities, from the children growing up now, who have experienced a lot of intergenerational trauma, right up to our leadership. Again, I think the focus is on education. The focus should be on mental health and the well-being of our citizens.

We have participated in an Arctic Council study that’s going to be going forward to the ministers in May, and it’s called the Arctic Environmental Impact Assessment. In that area, we’ve been looking at best practices and different regimes across the Arctic. That is a positive start, and if we focus more on those areas, that would be one positive area. When we look at research, we look at traditional knowledge, we look at different regimes, and we take the best of those and try to bring it into our communities and do a lot of education around those areas.

I’m not sure how many more minutes I have left to speak.

The Chair: Go ahead and conclude your remarks, Ms. Dickson. You have some more time, if you wish.

Ms. Dickson: Thank you.

In conclusion, I think that the Arctic Council is a very positive place to speak and bring our issues. In our communities, we still don’t have a lot of information on the different mechanisms that we participate in, the different working groups, and we’re working on that. I think it’s really important that our younger generation, as well as our older generation, understand how connecting to different communities in the Arctic can help to strengthen partnerships, share best practices and share things that have worked for them. It’s a positive partnership between the Government of Canada, our territories and our communities. Thank you.

The Chair: We appreciate your perspective. Thank you for being with us.

Senator Bovey: Thank you very much, and I applaud the work you’ve done for 19 years with the Arctic Council. That’s a very important commitment, so thank you and congratulations.

I’m really encouraged to hear you talk about connecting communities. I think that’s really very important. I look forward to the Arctic Environmental Impact Assessment, which you said would be out in May this year?

Ms. Dickson: Yes, we’ve completed the work.

Senator Bovey: You said you were — and maybe these are my words so forgive me if I’m wrong — gathering scientific evidence and gathering Indigenous traditional knowledge and best community use. I wonder if you can dig a little deeper on that for me. Is it either/or, or have you found ways in various parts of the Arctic where there can be a combination of empirical science and traditional knowledge?

I may have a quick follow-up after this.

Ms. Dickson: Absolutely. When I first started my career, I worked with a program called the Northern Contaminants Program, and this was housed in Ottawa; it’s a federal program. This is where we first became knowledgeable about the Arctic Council. The Northern Contaminants Program has the best scientists in the world who participate. They participate with the communities, and the communities were able to identify, through hunting, different anomalies within the traditional foods. They used the science to verify it, and they together took the information and put it into the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, which is a working group of the Arctic Council.

We also formed a coalition between the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Dene Nation, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Inuit Circumpolar Council. We formed a coalition and participated in the intergovernmental negotiating committees that led to the Stockholm Convention. At that time, results were just coming out that there were long-range contaminants coming into Arctic country and traditional foods. We were able to work very well with policy-makers in Ottawa, the scientists and the communities to have a solid partnership that led to something that’s really positive and showing the effects today on reducing some of those first 12 contaminants.

Senator Bovey: That’s exciting. Thank you.

You mentioned, and as we all read about it and in many ways feel at a loss about it, the suicide levels in the Arctic. Putting that together with what you’ve just said about the 12 contaminants, I wonder if you can talk about medicine a little bit. I’m increasingly interested in medicine in the North, again from the scientific perspective and from the traditional knowledge. I have to wonder if we’re not missing something, if there isn’t a void between the two, and that each would benefit from the other. Are you aware of the work the Arctic Council might be doing on medical issues?

Ms. Dickson: We do have a small working group called Arctic Human Health Expert Group, or AHHEG. They do projects, but they haven’t had projects that are all-encompassing. It’s a small working group.

In our communities, we practise our own traditional medicine. I know some people are willing to share and others are not quite so certain. I think it would be beneficial to bring out those practices more along with the medical community. I think we over-prescribe medications in pill form, where we might be able to look at more traditional sources that our communities use.

Pitch is one example. We collect the pitch and boil it down, and you can put it on lesions or you could drink it for the flu. There are different ways of using it. It works quite well. It’s not in pill form and is accessible by the people, and we’ve been using that for probably thousands of years. I’m not an expert in that area, so that’s all I could really share.

Senator Bovey: In your experience, are medical doctors willing to work with traditional medicine? I’m going to be asking this question of medical doctors as we go forward, so I’m not picking on anyone. It’s something that we haven’t discussed in this committee yet, and I happen to think it’s an important part of science and Indigenous knowledge. Are you aware of medical doctors working with Indigenous knowledge?

Ms. Dickson: I am aware of a couple of doctors. My own cousin, who married and moved to Alaska, is a medical doctor. She is well aware and uses some of the traditional medicines that she has been taught, but not within her medical practice. I also have a very good friend who lives in Siberia. She is a medical doctor, and she takes her practice out into the tundra to the people who still have a traditional nomadic lifestyle. She takes her medical practice out in her yurt. She travels, sees the people and does use some traditional healing methods as well.

Senator Bovey: I wonder if this might help suicides — anything to try and improve a disastrous situation. Thank you very much.

Senator Eaton: I have a couple of little questions. Just following up on my colleague’s question — and the answer might be very quick, because as you say, medicine is not your area of expertise — but we had a previous witness, Peter Sköld, who is Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of the Arctic. You may know him. One of the points he made was that the melting of the permafrost can revive long-dormant diseases such as smallpox and influenza. Have you seen any of that yet?

Ms. Dickson: I have seen the reports.

Senator Eaton: Yes.

Ms. Dickson: Over in our part of the territory, I know there’s been a resurgence of measles. I’m not sure if that’s a disease that’s coming, but I know there’s been a few cases in the N.W.T. now.

Senator Eaton: It’s come out in other parts of Canada as well.

I’ll get back to something that is something perhaps you’re more of an expert at. You were talking about education and how important education is and the real challenge is to increase education levels in the North. Have you looked at what other northern societies, for instance, in Scandinavia, have done to increase their educational opportunities for their young people, and are they culturally appropriate? Because I think that’s very important as well.

Ms. Dickson: Yes, I have. In fact, when the University of the Arctic first started, there were about 12 members. AAC was a key participant in getting the Indigenous vice chair position into University of the Arctic. While we were exploring becoming members, we had the opportunity to meet with different educational institutes in Scandinavia. They do have very culturally appropriate mechanisms in place. I was very interested, because they have high levels of education, as well, similar to Russia. I know that Yukon College here in Whitehorse and the college in N.W.T. are also members.

Over the past number of years, they have been putting more culturally appropriate programs in place. There is an increase in that sense, but the issue really lies at the smaller grades, from kindergarten to grades 8, 9 and 10. That’s the major issue, because, in our communities, a lot of these smaller centres only have one teacher for two or three grades, sometimes. So when we get to the college and university level, we’re far behind.

Senator Eaton: Yes, and we’ve seen that in other parts of the North.

Have your young people lost the traditional skills? I was quite surprised. We had some Inuit from Labrador, and they were telling us that they were starting a program to teach the next generation to hunt with a dogsled team. I was surprised — I suppose because I’m ignorant — that such skills had been lost by a generation or two. Have your young people still maintained their traditional skills in terms of living off the land, if they had to?

Ms. Dickson: There’s a small number of our children who can actually do that, but you’re absolutely correct. Those skills are being lost at a very, very fast rate. We have people now who do not know how to hunt, or if you put an animal in front of them, they wouldn’t know what to do with it. It is being lost at an alarming rate.

Modern technology is quickly replacing a lot of things. One of the issues is that we have such access to the Internet. Children get into the games, Snapchat and others. I don’t even know how to Snapchat myself, but they’re getting into all this modernization, and it’s very quickly changing.

Senator Coyle: Thank you very much for your presentation and for your presence. It was wonderful to hear you articulate the benefits of participating in the Arctic Council. I have some questions related to that but also questions related to your own environment.

You mentioned at the beginning the importance of the environment, and you also mentioned the importance of resource development in the Arctic as well as the need to bring the two together. I believe that’s how you put it. Could you explain a little bit more about what you mean by that and how that should come about?

Ms. Dickson: In our communities, we have a lot of members who really want to protect our environment and lands. In much of Canada, modern treaties have protected those lands. We have the ability to pass our own laws to protect the lands and resources, but what I see missing is that a lot of our members do not have the levels of education like maybe elsewhere in the South. We do not have a lot of jobs. You either work for the First Nation government or you work for the territorial government or maybe the federal government, if there are any positions. We don’t really have a lot of our own resource revenues in communities. So you really see the haves and the have-nots. There’s a huge disparity. That, coupled with the residential effects, really makes it much worse for the people who don’t have jobs.

In the Arctic, we also use a lot of oil and gas, and we truck it thousands of kilometres or we barge it from the States or Alberta. If we really looked at it, we’re not going to reduce our consumption any time soon. If we had our own small resources from which we could draw, it would actually reduce greenhouse gases and our footprint. But in order to get to that, we need to have more education. We need to have education, not from the resource companies themselves, because communities won’t trust them; we need independent education systems in our communities so that maybe the resources will provide more jobs, more security, more education and maybe help with health care. I think there are a lot of pluses.

Right now, we say “not in our back yard,” but we use somebody else’s back yard. That’s my view.

Senator Coyle: When we were in the Yukon in September, one of the things we learned in terms of resource development — not oil and gas, but more on the mining side of things — was that there’s actually more investment, job opportunity, in the remediation of the former mines than there are jobs, et cetera, in new mining in your territory. Do you see that as being an area of opportunity — the remediation, post-mining?

Ms. Dickson: I do see that as a good opportunity for community members to take specialized training so that they could benefit in those areas as well. I know that the college does provide some courses. I’m not exactly sure how extensive that is, but I do see it as an opportunity as well.

Senator Coyle: Thank you.

Back to the circumpolar connection, you mentioned that the connections are very helpful and important, and you mentioned that the sharing of best practices in a variety of areas is how you see some of the benefit. Could you describe some examples of that, how that works, how the sharing of best practices has worked for you and for others, and also some of the substance of what those best practices are that you’ve benefited from?

Ms. Dickson: Okay. I’ll give you an example. When we first started, we developed a report called the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment Report, which was led by Dr. Robert Carel from the United States. He was very dynamic in bringing together all the scientists from the circumpolar and a lot of Indigenous communities. We shared stories and best practices, and we got communities together to talk about hunting and herding. Our community members were just learning about climate change and global warming, the words, although they’ve experienced it. It’s not documented, but I think together with this report we were able to influence our own governments, along with our partners in the territorial and federal government themselves, to create programs and services for global warming and climate change issues. Health Canada has a program, and INAC started a program way back when. That was the first real benefit that we saw.

On a more localized level, when we went to Scandinavia, we saw in the Sami communities all the beautiful work that they’ve done, the different things that they’ve done and the industries that they’ve done with their berries. Their berries at the time were a billion dollar a year industry. We looked at their forestry practices.

Senator Coyle: Some of their economic things.

Ms. Dickson: We looked at their handicrafts, and everything they use is local. We tried to bring these messages back to our communities. I’ve brought handicrafts back, the information back and shared it with as many communities as I can to show that this is doable. They’ve taken their old traditional ways, their houses that they’ve built partly underground, like our people used to do here in the permafrost, and they made it into a restaurant. They take such great pride in their local resources, and that always stuck with me.

Senator Coyle: Thank you for that. You’re providing us with very valuable information.

One of our jobs at this committee is to feed into the development of the Arctic Policy Framework, which I know you have been involved in a co-development process of the Arctic Policy Framework. Could you describe for us that involvement in the stages that have led to where we are today with the Arctic Policy Framework and what you see as the priorities for that?

Ms. Dickson: We’re actually very lucky because we were involved right in the early stages. I had the opportunity to get the information out to our communities. Our focus was really on the circumpolar section of it, but we were able to help at least give the information out on a wider scale and then we focused on our section. We were involved in every step — when they had the first draft and when they were giving us the pillars. For us, it was a very good process. We were able to bring forth all of our concerns. We were able to discuss all of the pillars. It was a very good model that we appreciated. We had input from all the territories that we have membership in. I think that was a good way for our section to move forward in the development of the Arctic policy.

I don’t actually have the papers in front of me for the Arctic policy, but I think that a key area is education, the sharing of science and traditional knowledge on a wide scale and trying to understand it a lot better, because we’re never going to come to an agreement on whether we call it traditional knowledge, local knowledge, Inuit knowledge. I think it’s going to be what every community or individual sees or identifies with.

I’ll give you one example. I was raised by my grandfather, and we were in an isolated community and he was also raising my cousin as well. There were two of us. When he was teaching him to hunt, he told him to go out with all the hunters that you feel comfortable with and go out to different parts of their territory where they go hunting and, if you see something that you like, one of their practices that you like, you take that and make it your own. Then when you’re done, when you feel comfortable, that is your own hunting style, your own hunting practice. So he’s taking everybody’s traditional knowledge of this area, and then you make it your own.

Senator Coyle: Wonderful. Thank you very much.

Senator Anderson: Thank you very much for the information so far.

I have a question. You talked about the importance of education for children and how they are behind academically. I’m from the Northwest Territories. I’m wondering if the Yukon has the same inclusive schooling or social passing policy.

Ms. Dickson: I’m not really familiar with what you mean by “passing policy.”

Senator Anderson: Where they pass them by age, regardless as to whether or not —

Ms. Dickson: Yes.

Senator Anderson:  — they meet the academic standards, they’re moved on.

Ms. Dickson: Yes, absolutely.

Senator Anderson: I’m wondering if it’s the same as in the Northwest Territories, where you can go up to grade 10, and then people will drop out because they can’t meet the academic standards in grade 10, 11 and 12 that are required nationally.

Ms. Dickson: That’s absolutely correct. I know some students that can barely read, and they’ve been passed up through the grades.

I was a little bit lucky because I loved to read as a child, but when I got to university I really struggled. It took me probably four times as long to write a ten-page paper, and it took me many tries. I was extremely lucky that I liked to read. Coupled with that was the culture shock. Even moving from my community to Whitehorse was a huge shock for me. Then moving to Victoria was a little bit tougher. I don’t know what the answer is, but we need something to bring our students’ academics up at the younger level and try to put programs in place that give them the resiliency to move out of their community when they have to. I don’t know the answer.

Senator Anderson: Thank you for that.

I also have another question. You identified issues in the Yukon that are common across all three territories, so the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. I’m wondering if you know of any territorial or local programs, initiatives, services or partnerships that show any promise to addressing any of the issues that you’ve identified, such as suicide, academics, health and well-being.

Ms. Dickson: At the Arctic Council level, I know there’s been a lot of sharing of knowledge. We just had a workshop. There were two workshops and they were led by the Inuit Circumpolar Council. We took some youth from our communities and we had a couple of workshops. One was in Ottawa and there was another one that took place in Finland. The youth got together and shared through storytelling and they made videos. We had some adults with them and some councillors. When they finished that program, I think some of them made lifelong friendships. They didn’t feel so isolated or alone. I think any program that brings people together to share is so important, and it’s much safer for people to share outside of their community than just being inside the community.

The Chair: Ms. Dickson, at this point we are looking at the place of the Arctic in the global context, the international context, and so I think we’re very privileged to have someone with your experience with the Arctic Council over many years. I get the impression that the Arctic Athabaskan Council has found it to be meaningful to participate, as you’ve described.

I hesitate to ask these questions because there always could be more support, but I’m wondering if you would comment on whether you’re receiving adequate support from Canada for your participation in these circumpolar events and meetings. I know that it requires travel to remote parts of the Arctic at times for events and meetings. Are you being adequately supported for that work?

Ms. Dickson: We could always use more, that’s never an issue, but we’re grateful for the Government of Canada’s support. They’ve increased the support substantially over the years. When we first started, we had no support, so that’s a big step. I know other countries have way less support, so we’re aware of that. They provide us with what’s available, and we try to make the best use of that. So the short answer is we could use a lot more, but we’re grateful for what we do receive.

The Chair: That’s generous of you. Thank you.

The Arctic Council is a creation of Canada, and it’s seen in some quarters as a model for international cooperation that maybe should be duplicated in areas other than the Arctic. Having been a participant for so many years, do you have any comments on the growing interests of non-Arctic states, or near-Arctic states, as they call themselves, in becoming observers at the Arctic Council? I know the Indigenous permanent participants won that place at the table. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. And now we’re seeing a real broad range of interests from non-Arctic states in becoming observers. Is that a good thing? Would you have any comments on that?

Ms. Dickson: I do. I think it’s a good thing. The more near-Arctic states or observers that we allow to participate, as long as they participate constructively, I think it’s a good thing. We are able to raise issues and get the information out to a broader audience. We’re able to share best practices. We’re able to share our concerns and maybe come to some global solutions together. So I think personally it’s a very good thing to be as inclusive as possible.

The Chair: I have one final question. You talked about the benefits of sharing best practices with Indigenous residents of the Arctic and how useful that was. We know there are huge geographical barriers. Only a few of us have been privileged to travel throughout the circumpolar world, and I’ve been privileged to be one of those people. In fact, many Canadians can’t even make it to their own Arctic, as you know. Have you thought about ways in which Indigenous communities in the Arctic can get together more easily or more often? It’s about mobility within the Arctic region. Should that be addressed in some way?

Ms. Dickson: Absolutely. I think it’s very important that the communities themselves are able to make exchanges. We did that back a few years ago, where we had a project between hunters and herders. We brought some herders into Whitehorse and then we had a big gathering in Inuvik. We brought together the Gwich’in, Athabaskan, the herders from North Arctic, and we brought elders as well as youth. They were able to share their different techniques, why they want to hunt, why do you want to herd, what are the pros and cons. It was an eye-opening experience for the communities. There was also a reindeer farm in Inuvik, so we took some people out there and made some connections, and I thought that was very enriching.

The Chair: That’s most interesting. I found myself wondering, seeing the Sami success with all aspects of reindeer management, and you pointed out how they made Indigenous economies. We saw canned meat there that I had never seen before. I found myself wondering, with the crises we’re having in herd declines in North America, whether maybe we should get very adventuresome and innovative and look at herding as an alternative, as a way of sustaining the herds, preserving the herds. Did those kinds of discussions occur in the workshops you described?

Ms. Dickson: We did discuss the possibilities, and one of my main reasons to get the hunters and herders together was because all around the circumpolar Arctic, except for this part of the North and the Arctic, everyone else herds. And we had caribou fences in our area, and that was the first introduction to herding. If we didn’t have contact, we would have been herding at some point, I believe. So in order to bring these concepts to our communities, I thought I would bring the reindeer herders over and try to keep that discussion going over the years or try to bring them over when we can so that these ideas come out of the communities themselves, because some of the herds are at very critical stages. We need to look at adaptation methods, and this is a possible adaptation method for the near future, I think.

The Chair: That’s most encouraging.

I would like to, on behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your input into our study and making yourself available to us this afternoon. Good day.

(The committee adjourned.)

Back to top