Honourable Senators, the Speech from the Throne given in this Chamber last week proclaimed ‘We are a northern country’ and that Canada’s north is for northerners and all Canadians. It is in the spirit of these noble thoughts that I want to commend our government for recognizing the existence and importance of our north in its welcome decision to host the G7 Finance Ministers and Bank Governors meeting this year in Iqaluit, Nunavut – the first meeting held north of the 60th parallel.
This decision, taken by Canada as host country and Minister Flaherty, as host Minister, was not universally applauded. Some officials of some delegations were heard to grumble that the location on Baffin Island was too remote, that weather would be a risk, and even expressed doubt that the internet would work ‘up there’.
Well, none of these fears were founded. When the G7 visitors arrived in Iqaluit on February 5, Mother Nature smiled down on us beneficently. The temperature was a crisp minus 18 C but without a breath of wind under brilliant sunshine – perfect weather for a dog team ride on the sea ice, which some delegates were happy to take. The citizens of Iqaluit welcomed the international and Canadian visitors with their usual open arms and warmth. There were no protests or protestors, but we shared our way of life in a quiet way…the delegates sat on sealskin covered chairs in the Legislative Assembly Chamber, which is decorated with fur and a Inuit art.
We offered the visitors arctic char, caribou meat, muskox, muqtuq and seal to eat. We demonstrated Inuit culture – throat singing, games and legends and invited them to see and go inside an igloo and attend a community square dance.
I believe the meeting was a great success. Delegates reportedly were happy to be in a different place for a change. I was told by one that the discussions were particularly open and frank – perhaps inspired by the unique ambience of the Arctic in winter.
One of the delegates told me that meetings in the great 5 star hotels of the world where delegates are rushed from the airport under high security, are often much the same. But in Iqaluit, the delegates got to meet the friendly local citizens and learn from them.
At the closing community gathering, one European Minister told the community that this visit has fundamentally change his perception of the Inuit and the Arctic. This exposure is priceless.
I want to commend Minister Flaherty for his inspired idea and enthusiasm about hosting the G7 in Canada’s Arctic in winter, despite reservations and advice from some quarters about choosing more orthodox locations.
I also want to commend the Government of Nunavut and the City and people of Iqaluit for superb organization and so warmly welcoming our visitors.