By Charles Birchall
The Canadian and circumpolar Arctic is undergoing unparalleled economic, cultural and environmental transformation as a result of global climate change coupled with widespread natural resource exploration and development. Canada’s assertion of full sovereignty over the Northwest Passage and the efforts of Arctic Ocean rim nations to extend their interests and continental shelves in the Arctic Ocean exemplify the growing political and economic importance of the region.
The Government of Canada has begun again to address the national and foreign policy implications of the Arctic’s emergence as a politically and economically important region. However, thus far the initiatives have yet to reflect a comprehensive view or vision. A framework for coordination and inclusive decision-making is required to broaden and deepen the knowledge and perspectives that inform our Northern policies.
Canada’s political; policy, research and fiscal commitment to the region must now reflect the actual economic and environmental importance of the Arctic both domestically and internationally. We cannot move forward with an incremental, reactive and short-term approach to northern issues and policy. Big picture, strategic thinking is urgently needed to establish long-term public policy objectives, programs, goals and values, replacing those developed in the 1980s and 1990s. This can only be achieved through coordinated interagency and intergovernmental action. The challenge for northerners and Canada is to build a northern strategy that reflects the growing domestic and international importance of the Arctic.