Canada and the circumpolar Arctic

The Arctic is central to Canada’s national identity, prosperity, security, values and interests. The Canadian Arctic covers 40% of Canada’s territory and is home to more than 200,000 inhabitants, more than half of whom are Indigenous.

Advancing Canada’s Arctic priorities involve many departments across the Government of Canada, both at home and internationally.

Canada is committed to addressing:

  • The causes and impacts of climate change;
  • Renewing the nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples;
  • Supporting sustainable Northern economic development;
  • Promoting Canada as a leader in Arctic science and research; and
  • Working with domestic and international partners to reach Canada’s goals in the region.

Global Affairs Canada and the Arctic

Global Affairs Canada is responsible for coordinating and leading the international aspects of Canada’s Arctic engagement. This work is mainly carried out by the Nordic and Polar Relations Division in Ottawa, and the Canadian International Arctic Centre (CIAC), located in Oslo, Norway, as well as by Canadian embassies around the world. Canada is an active member of the Arctic Council, the main international forum for Arctic cooperation. 

Global Affairs Canada’s main objectives in the circumpolar Arctic include:

  • Lead in implementing the International Arctic Policy contained in Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework;
  • Support the identification of targeted, innovative trade and commercial opportunities for the North, benefiting Northerners;
  • Help position Canada as a global leader in Arctic science and research; and
  • Assert Canadian positions and contribute to raising Canada's profile on Northern issues, through an active advocacy strategy involving Northern participation.

The Arctic and Northern Policy Framework

In September 2019, Canada released the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework which provides overarching direction to the Government of Canada’s priorities, activities, and investments in the Arctic to 2030 and beyond. Co-developed with Northerners, territorial and provincial governments, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis People, it replaces Canada’s 2009 Northern Strategy and 2010 Statement on Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy. To address specific international outcomes, Global Affairs Canada will implement an International Arctic Policy, that sets out priority areas for Canada’s international Arctic engagement including: to strengthen the rules-based international order; to increase engagement with Arctic and non-Arctic states; and to more clearly define Canada’s Arctic boundaries. For Arctic-related updates from Global Affairs Canada, follow us on Twitter at @CanadaArctic.

Canada’s submission to the Commission on the limits of the Continental Shelf

On May 23, 2019 Canada filed a 2,100 page submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf at United Nations. This follows a decade of scientific and legal work to determine the limits of Canada’s undersea landmass in the Arctic. This marks the first step in the process set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to obtain international recognition for the outer limits of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean.

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