Address by Minister Aglukkaq to the Eighth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council on Canada’s Arctic Council Chairmanship (2013-15)

A New Era for the Arctic Council

May 15, 2013 - Kiruna, Sweden

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Canada is delighted to take on the chairmanship of the Council at this important time in the history of the circumpolar region.

As the Arctic Council must enter a new era, it will require, from all of us, new ideas and approaches to make sure that the Council responds to these challenges, while remaining grounded in its founding principles.

We must remember that the Arctic Council was formed by Northerners, for Northerners, long before the region was of interest to the rest of the world.

This has inspired our chairmanship theme of Development for the People of the North. Very simply, we will put the interests of the people who live in the Arctic first.

Allow me to touch upon some of the initiatives that Canada will champion to support this theme.

Ministers have just signed the Agreement on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic. We should congratulate ourselves and the Swedish chairmanship on this success. We must focus on preventing oil spills in Arctic waterways. A spill there could have devastating effects on the environment and communities. A new task force will develop an action plan on oil pollution prevention and recommend how to implement it.

To help slow Arctic and global climate change, the Council will build on its work on short-lived climate pollutants. It will examine how to achieve enhanced reductions of black carbon and methane emissions. Such reductions can have substantial health benefits for Northerners.

The Council will also establish a circumpolar business forum. The forum will provide a way for business and industry to engage with the Arctic States and Permanent Participants. The aim is to build partnerships, increase cooperation and share best practices. The initial focus will be on natural resource development in the circumpolar region.

Finally, as someone with a deep attachment to my Arctic home, I understand the vital importance of traditional ways of life to indigenous peoples. This is reflected in our culture, values and spirituality. It is reflected in the important relationship indigenous people have with the land, such as our harvesting, sharing and eating of “country foods.”

Therefore, throughout Canada’s chairmanship, we will work to increase awareness of the importance of traditional ways of life of Arctic indigenous peoples to their culture, livelihoods and health.

Canada has proposed other initiatives relating to cruise ship operations, traditional knowledge, the promotion of mental wellness in northern communities and adaptation to climate change. I’m pleased that the Council has agreed to proceed with this work.

I am looking forward to hosting all of you in Canada’s North over the next two years. I can assure you from my conversations with our territorial leaders that their communities will extend a very warm welcome to all.

It is a great honour for me, an Inuk born and raised in the Arctic, to accept the role of chair of the Arctic Council. This is the first time that an Arctic Indigenous person has assumed this responsibility, and I am honoured to lead the Council into this new era.

Thank you again, Mr. Chair, for your strong guidance of the Council over the last two years and for your generous hospitality.

Qujannamiik. Thank you.