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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 set out a long-term vision for the Canadian and circumpolar Arctic with the release of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework (ANPF), 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 includes an international chapter 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. Global Affairs Canada will work with international and domestic partners to implement these priorities, empower Northern communities while protecting the fragile Arctic environment, and to ensure the Arctic remains a region of peace and stability.

For Arctic-related updates from Global Affairs Canada, follow us on X (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 the United Nations. This follows a decade of scientific and legal work to determine the limits of Canada’s undersea landmass in the Arctic. This marked 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.

On December 19, 2022, Canada submitted an addendum to the Executive Summary of its 2019 Arctic Ocean submission. Within the next five years, new data collection and analyses will continue with surveys in remote areas to further support Canada’s addendum. Canada will file this information for the consideration of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is the leading multilateral forum through which Canada advances its Arctic interests internationally. It was established in Ottawa in 1996 by the Ottawa Declaration. Canada was the first chair of the Arctic Council, serving from 1996 to 1998, and served again from 2013 to 2015.

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 full membership 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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