Canada and the 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.

The Arctic Council is the pre-eminent intergovernmental forum for circumpolar cooperation.

The Arctic Council comprises eight Arctic states and six international Indigenous peoples organizations as Permanent Participants.

Canada continually strives to ensure it can effectively advance its national and international Arctic interests.

Overview of the Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is the pre-eminent intergovernmental forum for circumpolar cooperation. It is committed to the inhabitants of the Arctic, including Indigenous peoples and their communities, who make unique contributions and bring unique knowledge to the council because of their special relationship with the Arctic. The council works to promote sustainable development, including economic and social development, and cultural well-being. The council is equally committed to the protection of the Arctic environment, including the health of Arctic ecosystems, maintenance of biodiversity in the Arctic region and conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

The council has developed a common agenda for action and serves as a foundation for a strong, responsible and cooperative rules-based international order in the Arctic region.

The work of the Arctic Council is supervised and directed by the ministers of foreign affairs of the eight Arctic member states and is supported by the senior Arctic officials.

Arctic Council members

The Arctic Council comprises the eight Arctic states: Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark (which includes the autonomous constituent countries of Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

The involvement of six international Indigenous peoples’ organizations as Permanent Participants is a unique feature of the Arctic Council. They sit at the table in their own right. Three of the six organizations have Canadian constituents.

Canada’s work in the Arctic Council

Canada continually strives to ensure it can effectively advance its national and international Arctic interests. These interests include maintaining meaningful circumpolar cooperation with neighbours; ensuring Northern voices, including those of Arctic Indigenous communities, are included in the international conversation; contributing to and taking advantage of the high-quality science and policy expertise the council generates; and leveraging public investment by working collaboratively with partners, which in turn supports domestic Arctic policy development.

Since the council’s creation, Canada has led its agenda in many areas, including by championing the human dimension of the Arctic and providing high-quality physical and social science data, while ensuring that issues important to Northern peoples and communities are well represented.

Canada, through a number of federal departments and agencies, actively participates in the technical and scientific work of the Arctic Council, where as many as a hundred unique projects are ongoing. This work is carried out in the following six expert working groups:

  • The Arctic Contaminants Action Program works to prevent adverse effects from, reduce and ultimately eliminate pollution of the Arctic environment
  • The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme provides reliable and sufficient information on the status of and threats to the Arctic environment and provides scientific advice to support Arctic governments in taking remedial and preventive actions relating to contaminants
  • Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna works to address the conservation of Arctic biodiversity and to communicate its findings to the governments and residents of the Arctic, helping to promote practices that ensure the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources
  • Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response is mandated to contribute to the prevention of, preparedness for and response to environmental and other emergencies, accidents, as well as to conduct search and rescue efforts
  • Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment addresses policy and non-emergency pollution prevention and control measures related to the protection of the Arctic marine environment from both land- and sea-based activities
  • The Sustainable Development Working Group proposes and adopts steps to be taken by the Arctic states to advance sustainable development in the Arctic, including opportunities to protect and enhance the environment and the economies, culture and health of Indigenous peoples and Arctic communities, as well as to improve the environmental, economic and social conditions of Arctic communities as a whole
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