Address by Minister Aglukkaq at Northern Lights 2014

January 29, 2014 - Ottawa, Ontario

Check Against Delivery

It is a real pleasure to be here at Northern Lights 2014—to see so many familiar faces and so many people from the North. I am also pleased to welcome international delegations from Greenland, Finland, Russia and the United States.

The biennial Northern Lights trade show and conference is a tremendous opportunity to showcase the business and cultural attractions of the North. Each new Northern Lights show is bigger and better. In the words of its organizers:

“Northern Lights strives to strengthen partnerships between Canada’s northern and southern key business and government stakeholders, and is the ideal platform to learn about the many opportunities emerging in our prosperous and thriving northern regions.”

As it happens, the goals of this conference are very much in line with the Government of Canada’s Northern Strategy and our leadership at the Arctic Council.

Our government put the Northern Strategy in place in 2007 because it wanted to formally acknowledge the essential role of the North in both our past and our future. The strategy is built around promoting social and economic development, protecting our environmental heritage, improving and devolving Northern governance and exercising our Arctic sovereignty.

It will not surprise any of you here that, as a Northerner, I am very passionate about our Northern Strategy.

I am also very passionate about the Arctic Council.

In August of 2012, I was honoured to be appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as Canada’s minister for the Arctic Council. The council is the leading body for international cooperation on Arctic issues. It brings governments and Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations together at the same table. Canada assumed its two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council in May 2013.

I take great pride in serving Canada in any capacity, but there are two reasons why being minister for the Arctic Council is important to me.

First, the naming of a dedicated minister for the Council has never been done before in Canada. It reflects the importance our government attaches to the North, to the Council and to our chairmanship.

Second, the appointment to this role of someone born and raised in the Arctic reflects the importance our government places on the unique knowledge and experience that people from the North can bring to the table.

Throughout my consultations with Northerners since my appointment, I have heard a clear message: the well-being and prosperity of people living in the North must be at the forefront of the Arctic Council’s priorities.

And so, during Canada’s chairmanship, the Arctic Council’s overarching theme is Development for the People of the North. Very simply, we will put the interests of those who live in the Arctic first.

With the support of our Arctic Council partners, we are focusing on responsible resource development, safe Arctic shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities.

We must make sure that the scientific assessments and projects supporting these themes are directly relevant to, and for the benefit of, Northerners.

Aboriginal traditional knowledge (what Inuit call Qaujimajatuqangit) is known and respected by the vast majority of the people who live among polar bears and should be incorporated into scientific research and policy making. This is helping us to reach more fully informed management decisions. We need to combine the critical information and insights of the people who have lived in the North for generations with what we have learned through our scientific research.

This is why, during Canada’s chairmanship, the Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group is creating recommendations to better incorporate traditional and local knowledge into the Council’s work.

I said earlier that the Council is supporting the well-being of people living in the North. This includes enhancing the ability of residents to deal with the many changes affecting the Arctic by promoting mental wellness.

There are many approaches to promoting mental wellness across the circumpolar region—some more successful than others. Through the mental wellness initiative, Arctic states and Permanent Participants will learn from one another to determine which approaches work best and will provide recommendations on how to transfer successful practices to other communities.

Canada is also determined to see Northern communities benefit from the economic boom unfolding in the region. Canada believes strongly that economic development is very much at the heart of a positive transformation of the North.

However, this development must be done in a responsible and environmentally sustainable manner so that the land, water and animals that many Northern people still depend on are not negatively affected.

We believe the Council must play a strong role in making sure this goal is achieved.

Businesses—such as those represented here at Northern Lights—are playing an important role in building a sustainable and vibrant future for the North.

And the Arctic Council is working to enhance this role. Last May, Arctic Council ministers established a task force, co-led by Canada, Finland Iceland and Russia, to move quickly to create an Arctic Economic Council.

The task force has been meeting regularly over the past seven months to pave the way for this independent body, and I am very pleased with the progress it has made. We envision the Arctic Economic Council to be a way for Arctic businesses to engage more directly with the Arctic Council states and Indigenous Permanent Participants.

A panel discussion involving some members of the task force will be held later today here at the conference. I’ve heard enthusiastic support for this body from businesses across the circumpolar North, so I invite you to attend to learn about the very concrete ways in which an Arctic Economic Council can foster business development.

It will inform and strengthen the Arctic Council by enhancing economic cooperation across the circumpolar region and by sharing best practices.

It will facilitate and foster business opportunities, but it will do so with sustainable development of the Arctic in mind. And it will contribute to a stable, predictable and transparent business climate.

The Arctic Economic Council will support high standards of business operations in the Arctic. It will advance efforts to protect the environment. It will also facilitate the economic development of Indigenous peoples and of small and medium-sized enterprises in the Arctic. And it will seek to maximize the benefits for the communities, lives and culture of Arctic Indigenous peoples.

In other words, it will be the conduit between the Arctic Council and the circumpolar world of business.

As you know, I am also minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. The work of CanNor, as it’s known, is very much aligned with Canada’s Arctic Council priorities and our Northern Strategy.

CanNor has accomplished much since its creation in 2009 through its mandate to contribute to a diversified, sustainable and dynamic economy across Canada’s three territories. Just like at Northern Lights, success at CanNor rests on its networks and partnerships. Whether advancing pan-territorial initiatives such as the Northern Adult Basic Education Program, which tackled a specific labour market challenge, or looking at how to close the connectivity gap in the North, CanNor works closely with Northern governments, communities and people to help build sustainable, long-term development.

It is a hub for Northern economic development, working with others to come up with new and innovative ideas to create jobs and growth in the North. Infrastructure remains a challenge across the North and is an obstacle to realizing its full potential. We are looking at how to link the infrastructure for major resource development projects with broader community needs.

We are examining how to attract capital to the North to support large-scale development, while ensuring that investment mechanisms are in place to support local businesses and job creation.

The North is an emerging economy on a global scale and will be a key driver of the Canadian economy in the years ahead. Of course, actions speak louder than words, and results speak louder than actions.

CanNor funding programs are maximized year after year to help develop mining, tourism, fisheries, cultural industries, and community and business development. Our core programs are becoming more streamlined and are more focused than ever on seizing opportunities.

For example, we are about to launch our new Aboriginal Economic Development program, which combines four programs into one, with the simple goal of positioning Inuit, First Nations and Métis businesses for success. Our program investments are also about partnerships. Each year the Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development program is able to generate almost two dollars from partners for each federal dollar invested. With so much to do and funds so limited, we cannot afford to miss any opportunity to pool our capacity to achieve shared goals of economic development.

CanNor’s Northern Projects Management Office is advancing responsible resource development. It provides guidance to industry and communities on Northern regulatory systems and processes. It coordinates all federal efforts related to the regulatory review of major Northern projects. And it tracks the progress of projects to bring transparency, timeliness and effectiveness to the regulatory system.

The Office brings communities and companies together to talk about the opportunities that major projects can generate, but it does so with everyone’s eyes wide open. Its Community Readiness Initiative is ramping up right now to help make sure that resource development supports the well-being of Northerners and that the benefits from the projects are felt by the people of the North.

Some 33 major resource development projects are close to getting under way across the three territories. Capital investment in these projects could reach more than $27 billion and result in more than 10,000 direct jobs. The North is open for business, and CanNor is there to help.

All of us here today know that the North is front and centre on Canada’s agenda. Our government’s commitment to the North and Northerners, and to growing a sustainable future in the region, is clear and unwavering.

Join us in that commitment.

Thank you. Qujanamiik.