Canada falling behind in western Arctic

An oil tanker in the Beaufort Sea. (iStock)
An oil tanker in the Beaufort Sea. (iStock)
 Sometimes it seems like not a week goes by without headlines trumpeting business opportunities in the North.

But here in Canada, are we missing out on the potential in our western Arctic region?

A new report thinks we are.

“There’s a long way to go both in relation to our potential and in relation to developments we see on the other side of the Arctic ocean in Russia and Scandanavia,” says John Higginbotham, an author of the report and a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, an independent Canadian think-tank.

But  a few policy adjustments could make the difference, he says.

John Higginbotham, senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, an independent Canadian think-tank, and at Carleton University. (Courtesy John Higginbotham)
John Higginbotham, senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, an independent Canadian think-tank, and at Carleton University. (Courtesy John Higginbotham)
Rich, untapped potential

The report points out that the historic voyage of the Nordic Orion through the Northwest Passage in September 2013 proved the commercial shipping possibilities through the Arctic waters of North America. And how well Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT) is positioned to take advantage of new business opportunities.

“The NWT is arguably the most promising economic region in the Canadian Arctic in terms of public and private potential, scale of resources, variety of transport routes, well-functioning territorial close cooperation with neighbours government,” it says.

But lack of infrastructure and marine  corridor investment continue to inhibit development.

“At the moment we’re far behind where we should be in respect of charting of the Arctic ocean, search-and-rescue, aids to navigation and other areas,”  Higginbotham said.

But while Higginbotham praises recent government initiatives like devolution in the Northwest Territories and the commitment to a new Arctic research centre, he say’s they fallen behind on other files including developing icebreakers and  Arctic patrol vessels.

“I hope after this recent austerity, all political parties will unite around an agenda of more active planning and cooperation with other partners in the Arctic.”

To find out more, Eye on the Arctic’s Eilís Quinn reached John Higginbotham in Ottawa:

Related stories from around the Arctic:

Canada: Arctic Council to take on business focus under Canada, The Canadian Press

Finland: The need for business cooperation in the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Analysis: Implications of Greenland’s decision to allow uranium mining, Blog by Mia Bennett

Norway:  Sustainable future for Arctic people?, from Deutsche Welle’s Iceblogger

Russia: Russia’s economic dip could pose risk for Finland says minister, Yle News

Sweden: Hundreds demonstrate against mining in Arctic Sweden, Radio Sweden

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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