In April the Arctic Council chair will pass from Canada to the U.S. This is at a time when the economic stakes in the Arctic are rising and many countries around the world want to lay their various claims.
Canada, under Brian Mulroney, had the foresight in 1989 to propose the Arctic Council as a way of dealing peacefully with these competing claims. Indigenous people were given permanent status on the council with a voice equivalent to the states represented.
Ironically, from the perspective of safe Arctic resource extraction and the voice of indigenous peoples in Arctic affairs, the changing chair is a positive development. Rather than further Canada’s earlier initiative in setting up the council, the current Canadian government has sought to reduce the role of indigenous peoples and promote any resource extraction.
been done by championing the establishment of a second largely independent council, an Arctic Economic Council, made up of mainly corporate interests. The U.S., on the other hand, has expressed stronger support for indigenous voices at the table and alternative models of development in the Arctic.
All of this now seems far removed from the daily lives of Yukoners. But with the Canadian Arctic being part of the “last frontier,” we all have a stake in what happens there. We must pay more attention to what our governments, both federal and territorial, are doing … and for whom.