Northern Lights: A wake-up call for the future of Canada
Ottawa – Canada’s Arctic is in crisis. The urgency results from decades of neglect and disregard, climate change and lack of infrastructure. The Special Senate Committee on the Arctic released its report Northern Lights: A Wake-Up Call for the Future of Canada on Tuesday, concluding its intense year-long study and is telling Canadians that “the North IS the future of Canada.”
The report’s title reflects the deep connection northerners past and present have to the land and environment, and speaks to future opportunities of and for Canada’s North.
The six themes of the government’s Arctic Policy Framework (APF), a framework not yet released, are all addressed in the report’s four chapters: Healthy Economies, Culture and Language, Science and Indigenous knowledge, and the Arctic in the Global Context. Testimonies heard emphasized the intersection of issues, including health, the economy, housing, security, education, food, culture, language, communications, climate change, shipping and conservation. All affect the daily lives of northerners and Canada’s national security and international relations. All are critical.
The committee concluded that government policies must align with priorities of northerners, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The federal government must empower Arctic and northern governments to assume roles in delivering federal programs and services to residents, and it must devolve programs and services to local, territorial and Indigenous governments.
Decisions about the North must be made in the North, for the North and by the North.
- Canada’s Arctic is over 40% of our landmass and home to many isolated communities.
- The effects of climate change are felt even stronger in Canada’s Arctic, which is warming up at almost three times the global rate and the thawing permafrost will require housing infrastructure renewal in order to deal with the changing landscape.
- Lack of suitable infrastructure remains one of the biggest obstacles to Arctic residents, including access to clean water and sanitation, housing and education.
“The devolution of decision-making responsibilities to northerners is something that I have been fighting for my entire political career. Northerners are on the front lines of these rapid changes and, as such, are best positioned to make decisions on how to quickly and effectively respond to them. No one understands the realities of the North like those who live there.”
– Senator Dennis Patterson, Chair of the committee
“Preserving and embracing northern cultures and languages is essential. So too is empowering communities through traditional knowledge, education and training, and protecting Canada’s sovereignty and safety on land and water.”
– Senator Patricia Bovey, Deputy Chair of the committee
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