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Canada and the Circumpolar Regions

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:

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:

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.

12th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting

The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs, participated in the Arctic Council’s 12th Ministerial Meeting on May 20, 2021. Minister Garneau also represented Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada on behalf of the Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs.

Founded in Canada 25 years ago, the Arctic Council remains the pre-eminent forum for cooperation on Arctic issues among Arctic states and Indigenous peoples. At the ministerial meeting, Minister Garneau, announced the establishment of a permanent secretariat for the Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group at Laval University’s Institut Nordique du Québec [Quebec northern institute] in the city of Québec and signed the Ministerial Declaration with his 7 ministerial counterparts.

Reykjavík declaration 2021

Canada and the Antarctic

On October 22, 2021, Canada submitted its application for Consultative Party status in the Antarctic Treaty System. Canada recognizes the Antarctic Treaty System as the key multilateral mechanism for decisions on the regulation and management of Antarctica, and is committed to pursuing peaceful and environmentally responsible solutions to ongoing and emerging global issues. As an international leader on polar issues and with strong connections to research, tourism, governance and history in the region, it is time for Canada to take a more formal role as a steward of the Antarctic. Canada has long participated in the annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings as a Non-Consultative Party and has been an active participant in discussions on Antarctic governance. With this application, Canada is seeking voting rights alongside 29 other Consultative Party states.

Learn more about the Antarctic Treaty System and Canada's long-standing contribution to Antarctic research. (Polar Knowledge Canada)

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