September 28, 2016

Honourable Senators, on September 20, 1996, inspired by a Canadian-led initiative to form an intergovernmental Arctic governance body, the Ottawa Declaration formally established the Arctic Council, “a high-level intergovernmental forum to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues; in particular, issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.” Canada served as the first Chair from 1998 – 2000 and then again from 2013 – 2015, this time under the leadership of Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council. As an Inuk who was born and raised in the Arctic and grew up in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, Minister Aglukkaq travelled across the Arctic to consult directly with Northerners in their communities to establish the chairmanship theme, ‘Development for the People of the North’. For the first time, the Arctic Council was putting the human element of the Arctic at the forefront of its mandate. At the conclusion of Canada’s chairmanship, Minister Aglukkaq stated, “Over the past two years, Canada has put Northerners first and championed a number of initiatives that will directly benefit Northern families.” These initiatives included the integration of Indigenous traditional knowledge into the Council’s work; the creation of the Arctic Economic Council in an effort to promote Arctic-to-Arctic business opportunities; the push to reducing black carbon methane emissions; a new action plan to enhance oil pollution prevention; and the sharing of best practices to improve mental wellness and resiliency. Colleagues, many of you may also remember from my previous speeches on S-208 how the Arctic Council served as a major vehicle for allowing products of the Inuit seal hunt to be marketed in Europe when Canada leveraged the European Union’s application for Observer Status to the Council to get the EU to agree to “take into account the extent to which observers respect the values, interests, culture and traditions of Arctic indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants; [and] have demonstrated a political willingness as well as financial ability to contribute to the work of the Permanent Participants and other Arctic indigenous peoples,” effectively removing its ban on the import of seal products from indigenous hunters to the European market. Another signature accomplishment of the Arctic Council occurred in Nuuk, Greenland on May 12, 2011 when the “Agreement on Cooperation in Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic” was signed.

The Agreement states that parties will:

  • Promote the establishment, operation and maintenance of an adequate and effective search and rescue capability within its area;
  • Facilitate better exchange of information;
  • Agree to request and provide support; and
  • Shorten communication lines

This recently proved an essential agreement, protecting the lives of 7 Nunavut fishermen whose ship, the Saputi, struck ice and took on water on February 22, 2016. The Canadian Forces’ Joint Rescue Coordination Centre sent two Hercules aircraft to deliver additional pumps and the Danish naval patrol ship, the Knud Rasmussen, escorted the ship through rough waters to Nuuk, Greenland where they stayed until they could be safely flown home.

I would like to ask the Honourable Senators to join me in congratulating the Arctic Council on the occasion of their twentieth anniversary and wish them continued success in all their endeavour’s.

Thank you.

Statement – Arctic Council 20th Anniversary