Sweden, Finland pull out of Arctic360 conference in Toronto where Russian diplomats scheduled to attend

A file photo of the Toronto skyline. The Arctic360 conference takes place here in March. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

As Russia continued its second day of attacks on Ukraine, the ambassadors of Sweden and Finland have pulled out of an upcoming Arctic conference in Canada where Russian officials are also scheduled to attend. 

The third annual Arctic360 Arctic Infrastructure Investment Conference takes place in Toronto March 9-11. 

Featured speakers include a who’s who of Arctic diplomats, Indigenous leaders and CEOs.

Russian participants listed on the event website include Valerii Maksimov, senior trade commissioner of the Russian Federation in Canada, and Nikolay Korchunov, Russia’s ambassador at large for Arctic Affairs and the chair of the Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Council, the international forum that Russia now holds the two-year rotating chairmanship of. 

On Twitter Friday afternoon, the Swedish embassy in Ottawa announced that Urban Ahlin, Sweden’s ambassador to Canada, would no longer attend:

Finland’s embassy in Ottawa also said on Friday that Roy Kennet Eriksson, Finland’s ambassador to Canada, was pulling out:

The embassies’ messages were in response to a tweet by Marcus Kolga, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an independent public policy think tank in Canada, saying he was concerned about Russian messaging that might come out of the conference:

A spokesperson from the Swedish embassy in Ottawa told Eye on the Arctic that beyond confirming Ambassador Ahlin was pulling out of the event, the ambassador had no further comment on the decision.

No one from the Finnish embassy could be reached for comment before publication of this story.

‘An important moment to discuss the Arctic Council’

Arctic360 is an independent think tank focused on Alaska, Canada and Greenland.

The first session of their conference is titled “The Arctic Council at 25: Looking at the Next 25 Years,” and was devoted to the Arctic Council, the international forum made up of Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

Nikolay Korchunov, pictured back right here in a file photo, is chair of the Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials and was scheduled to give an introductory key note at the Arctic360 conference in March. Russia took over the rotating two-year Arctic Council chairmanship from Iceland in 2021. (Roscongress)

Korchunov was scheduled to give the keynote introduction and the member nations’ diplomats were scheduled to participate in the session.

Conference organizers say the keynote will no longer go ahead and are now revisiting the session.

“We are refocusing the panel in light of current events, making it more relevant,” organizers said in emailed comment.

“We believe this is an important moment to discuss the Arctic Council and the future of its membership.”

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn@cbc.ca 

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Britain offers Canadian military help to defend the Arctic, CBC News

Finland: Finnish Army exercises inter-agency readiness, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Coercive diplomacy is back, says Norwegian FM as Russia announces drills in Nordic country’s Economic Zone, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Northern Fleet stages war games to protect Arctic shipping, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Nordic military cooperation takes shape with common uniforms, The Independent Barents Observer

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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