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Global issue 20

Arena Sovereignty promoting their long-standing sea ice use and way of life, making recommendations to avoid the detrimental impacts of increased shipping in the region.” Proposed alternatives for the mutual advancement of Arctic sovereignty, allowing a traditional way of life not only to be protected, but to prosper as well, have been brought to the foreground of political debate. Expansion of the Northern Rangers programme, a volunteer group made up of mostly indigenous people as part of the Canadian Forces Reserves, is one such proposed move and aims to incorporate the population while patrolling borders and enhancing stewardship. Although the Canadian government has promised inclusion and co-operation in moving forward, along with Harper’s pledge of investment in “social and economic development, as well as in environmental protection”, there has been little evidence of progress on the ground. Frank Kuin, a correspondent for the Netherlands-based news outlet NRC Handelsblad living in Quebec says: “Harper made it a priority when he became Prime Minister in 2006 to make Canada more assertive in the Arctic, which is obviously becoming more accessible due to global warming and the melting of the Arctic sea ice. Since he was elected, he has made annual trips to the Arctic.” Although a lack of available funding has altered Harper’s original proposal for new icebreakers, a budget of C$3.1 billion will buy four smaller, much lighter patrol vessels that have been widely criticised in the media as being merely ‘slush breakers’. With the vast expanse of coastline and insufficient capabilities for patrolling the borders at all, other propositions should be encouraged and The Cree village of Whapmagoostui and the Inuit village of Kuujjuarapik at the mouth of the Great Whale River in Nunavik, northern Quebec genuinely considered. Having a strong aboriginal presence in the north strengthens the claim to Canadian ownership and concurrently acknowledges the importance of the Inuit and the role they have played in the land claims through history. “In exercising our sovereignty... we are not only fulfilling our duty to the people who called this northern frontier home, and to the generations that will follow; we are also being faithful to all who came before us,” says Stephen Harper. Okalik Eegeesiak, Canadian chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, adds: “Inuit will still be in the Arctic when the last barrel of oil and the final piece of ore is extracted from our land.” Finding a mutually beneficial solution can mean improving job and educational prospects, minimising environmental impact and bringing economic development for all Canadians. Canada’s Arctic region through time Aboriginal communities fear that militarisation of the Arctic region will threaten traditional ways of life in Canada’s most northern towns and villages 2005 Stephen Harper is elected Prime Minister and outlines his Northern Strategy 1500 CE European explorers begin to arrive and establish a fur trade with northerners 2500 BCE Earliest inhabitants arrive in the Arctic and spread east across what is now Canada Early 1900s Exploration of the Arctic sees Canada’s northern territories defined and its borders extended to the North Pole 1999 Nunavut is officially created as an autonomous territory of Canada more than 30 years after Inuit land-claims talks began. The territory has a legislative assembly of individual members rather than parties 2008 Canadian government officially apologises for its policy of forcing aboriginal children to attend residential schools, the last of which was closed in 2006 2007 Russia plants a flag at the North Pole, heightening tensions with Canada 2014 Harper’s annual tour of the north is widely criticised, costing taxpayers nearly C$800,000 for a six-day stay www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 59 © Ansgar Walk CC BY-SA 2.5


Global issue 20
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