Feature Interview: What Prime Minister’s northern tours tell us about Canada’s shifting Arctic priorities

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, take a closer look at an iceberg in a Zodiac inflatable boat Sunday west of Pond Inlet on Eclipse Sound. Harper wrapped up his annual trip to Canada's North this week. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, take a closer look at an iceberg in a Zodiac inflatable boat Sunday west of Pond Inlet on Eclipse Sound. Harper wrapped up his annual trip to Canada’s North this week. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Canada’s prime minster Stephen Harper wrapped up a six-day tour to the country’s Far North earlier this week.
Joël Plouffe
Joël Plouffe

Marked with announcements, photo opportunities and speeches lauding Canada’s Arctic stature and know-how, Harper’s summer trips to the Arctic have become somewhat of an annual tradition.

  • But how much of substance comes out of these trips?
  • How much is about building Canada’s ‘Arctic brand’ both at home and abroad?
  • What do these trips tell us about the government’s shifting Arctic priorities?


To find out more, Eye on the Arctic’s Eilís Quinn spoke with Arctic expert Joël Plouffe, a research fellow at the Center for Interuniversity Research on the International Relations of Canada and Québec at the National School of Public Administration in Montreal:

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s Arctic Council leadership gets mixed reviews, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Ex-President Ahtisaari calls on Finland to join NATO with Sweden, Yle News

Greenland:  Greenland urged to work with Arctic Council, CBC News

Iceland:  Many questions, but few answers as Arctic conference gets underway in Iceland, Alaska Dispatch

Norway:   Permanent Arctic Council Secretariat opens in Tromso, strengthening Norway’s position in Arctic, Blog by Mia Bennett

Sweden: Feature Interview: Sweden wraps up Arctic Council, Radio Sweden

Russia:  Blog – Russia puts countries on edge in the Arctic, Cryopolitics

United States: New U.S. Arctic emissary gets plenty of ideas from Alaskans for Arctic Council priorities, Alaska Dispatch

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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