With a mix of pride and sadness, CARC’s Board announces that it is bringing down the curtain on 50 years of work in the Arctic. We believe that we have fulfilled our mission as a non-governmental organization and that it is now time to step aside and applaud the Indigenous, environmental, and interdisciplinary agencies working throughout the Arctic.
In CARC’s magazine Northern Perspectives we wrote in 1973: “CARC’s main objective is to bring to the attention of Canadians. alternatives and options which exist in Canada north of 60. We consider that this is important because the efforts of government have been to sell a program rather than to allow discussion of alternative courses of action.”
Over its lifetime, CARC has dedicated itself to ensuring that there has been a better-informed national conversation on activities, events, and policies having a bearing on the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. We have commissioned original research on many topics. We have examined the social, economic, and environmental impacts of pipelines, mines, and other large-scale infrastructure projects. We have investigated alternatives to large-scale non-renewable resource development that might support the aspirations of northerners for strong local and sustainable economies. Our research has been published in books, Northern Perspectives, policy papers, and in documents related to regulatory processes. We have worked hard to ensure that our work was always publicly accessible.
CARC sponsored national-level forums and conferences to explore and elaborate on policy alternatives for Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. We commented on national policy initiatives, including the recently-released Arctic and Northern Policy Framework. CARC has consistently worked to ensure that Arctic and sub-Arctic residents’ voices were front and centre in policy conversations.
Starting with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline proposal, CARC supported the efforts of northern Indigenous peoples to reclaim their land and governance rights. These rights were often ignored by governments and industry in CARC’s early years. Now, much of the Arctic and sub-Arctic are covered by modern treaties, and self-government agreements are proliferating. Two of Canada’s three northern territories have signed devolution agreements with the federal government; Nunavut is still negotiating a devolution deal. In recent years, the governments of the northern territories have localized considerable decision-making as communities and regions have gained power and capacity. This has resulted in stronger representation of and responses to the interests of northern peoples.
It wasn’t just the diverse voices of northerners that were being ignored in national Arctic policy conversations in past decades, but also entire worldviews were being excluded. The knowledge of northern Indigenous peoples, once termed “traditional knowledge” and now more generally referred to as “Indigenous knowledge,” was often absent from policy considerations. CARC assisted in promoting the use and consideration of Indigenous knowledge in policy discussions. The CARC publication Voices from the Bay (1997) was one of the earliest mainstream attempts to share northern Indigenous knowledge more broadly.
As the organization matured, CARC realized that effective policies for Canada’s north had an international dimension as at least three big drivers of policy went far beyond Canada’s borders – climate change, contaminants, and security. The international scope of northern policy resulted in CARC’s involvement in the conversation about the creation of the Arctic Council in 1995, and participation in Canada’s Arctic Council Advisory Committee.
We believe that we leave northern policies and practices better than we found them, in part due to the efforts of a long and illustrious list of board members and staff. These efforts were underpinned by the thousands of generous donors who consistently gave the financial support necessary to pursue our goals.
Over the years our many donors were involved in:
- Creating innovative policies for conservation,
- Strengthening the knowledge base necessary for northerners to make informed decisions,
- Supporting Indigenous peoples’ reclamation of their rights to land and governance; and
- Helping to negotiate international agreements to sustain the health of the Arctic and sub-Arctic ecosystems.
Arctic and sub-Arctic regions have changed significantly over the past fifty years. While there is considerable ongoing work to be done, we believe that northerners are now far more able to make themselves heard in national conversations about the future of their homelands, and the Arctic is much more visible on the national and international agenda than it once was. To the extent that we can claim any influence in these matters, we can now say “mission (mostly) accomplished”.
CARC is winding down with a final project, a book that will chronicle the progress made on several issues championed by the organization. In it, invited authors look ahead to the future of those issues. The book will be made freely available as an online publication.