Canada at “pivotal” moment when it comes to Arctic, says minister of Northern Affairs

Dan Vandal, Canada’s minister of Northern Affairs, speaks at Northern Lights, an Arctic business and culture conference, in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

Canada is at a pivotal moment when it comes to the Arctic and must ensure economic opportunities will benefit northerners and their communities, Dan Vandal, the federal minister of Northern Affairs told an Ottawa conference on Wednesday.

“We are at a pivotal time in Canada, where Canada has the opportunity, as well as the moral responsibility, to strengthen Arctic and northern communities,” Vandal said in keynote speech at Northern Lights, an Arctic business and culture conference held annually.

“We need to make the most of emerging economic opportunities while ensuring that northerners are full participants and the beneficiaries of growth.”

Vandal spent a portion of his address talking up Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework, a policy co-developed over two years with Indigenous governments, the northern territories and certain provinces and other stakeholders and released just before the 2019 federal election. Although many praised the inclusiveness of the process, some experts said the final product was short on specifics that would lead to concrete progress on northern files.

But on Wednesday, Vandal said the policy would be an important tool towards northern and economic development.

“This year, we will move from co-development to co-implementation, establishing government mechanisms and implementation plans to bring the framework’s priorities to life,” he said.

Devolution in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut

Vandal also pointed to the 2019 Nunavut devolution agreement-in-principle signed between the territory, the federal government and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, which represents Inuit in Nunavut, as an important step towards economic development in the North. Implementation will be done over five years.

“The government and the people of Nunavut will soon make all the decisions about and take greater control over the territory’s lands and the territory’s resources. That is how it should be, putting the decision making in the hands of those who live there,” Vandal said to applause from a crowd of approximately 1200 that included Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq and leaders of Inuit organizations from across Canada.

Northern Lights is taking place at Ottawa’s Shaw Centre and runs until February 8.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Circumpolar partnerships will be increasingly important for Canada’s North, Ottawa Arctic conference hears, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: The Arctic Railway – Building a future or destroying a culture? Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Novatek touts Arctic LNG projects at Norwegian conference, declines media questions, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Inuit from Alaska, Canada, Greenland & Russia condemn U.S. torpedoing of Arctic Council declaration, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Indigenous reindeer herders request emergency aid after drought, wildfires ravage Sweden, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Bill to protect ANWR passes early hurdle in Washington, CBC News

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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