Canadian International Council

Canadian International Council

July 02, 2009 11:23 ET

New Arctic Strategy Can Generate Electoral and International Benefits, Study Argues

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 2, 2009) - The federal political leader who is most effective in placing their personal stamp on an energized Canadian approach to the Arctic should reap substantial domestic political advantage, while also improving Canada's international position, states a new research paper released today by the Canadian International Council (CIC).

Towards a Canadian Arctic Strategy makes clear that whereas Norway, Russia, the United States and even the European Union have come forward with innovative strategies of their own for the entire Arctic region, Canada is still without one. This CIC policy paper therefore calls for a complete overhaul in the way Canadians think of and act in the Arctic. It urges vigorous pursuit of three objectives: (1) elevation of Arctic international relations from the official to the highest political level, (2) engagement with the United States and the Russian Federation on behalf of cooperative stewardship and (3) invigoration of regional governance, specifically the Arctic Council.

"We can no longer continue to approach Arctic international affairs principally as an extension of our domestic Northern agenda," explains Franklyn Griffiths, a CIC senior fellow and author of the paper. "If Canada were to take the lead in pan-Arctic stewardship on the national and world stages, Canadians might unexpectedly find nothing less than a 21st-century equivalent of international peacekeeping that refuels the national sense of pride and ambition."

Whether it is adaptation to climate change, the management of international shipping or the sustainable development of oil and gas resources, all the Arctic countries are in it together, Dr. Griffiths argues. In his paper, he shows how Canadians can make the most of pan-Arctic interdependence by offering new leadership for cooperation and against a future of regional conflict and self-defeating resource exploitation. He believes climate change will be our greatest Arctic challenge.

The author further argues that the Prime Minister of Canada has a unique opportunity to fuse the widespread but separate Canadian public concerns with Arctic sovereignty and Arctic climate change into a unified national commitment to Arctic stewardship. There's electoral as well as foreign policy advantage to be had here, Dr. Griffiths says. The bottom line is this: "Never mind who holds the position in the period ahead, prime responsibility for Arctic stewardship must now be seen as an essential feature of the Prime Minister's job description."

Dr. Griffiths is a Senior Fellow, Massey College, University of Toronto and the George Ignatieff Chair Emeritus of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Toronto, as well as one of eight fellows chosen by the CIC to contribute new perspectives and to spark debate and discussion in vital areas of Canadian foreign policy. The CIC program's initial areas of focus for 2008-2009 includes: China, border issues, Arctic sovereignty and security and energy.

For more information on Towards a Canadian Arctic Strategy or the CIC, please visit: www.canadianinternationalcouncil.org

The Canadian International Council (CIC) is a non-partisan, nationwide council established to strengthen Canada's role in international affairs. With 13 branches nationwide, the CIC seeks to advance research, discussion and debate on international issues by supporting a Canadian foreign policy network that crosses academic disciplines, policy areas, and economic sectors. The CIC features a privately funded fellowship program, supported by a network of issue-specific working groups. Carefully selected CIC fellows focus on important foreign policy issues, working out of universities and research institutions across the country. The CIC was founded in 2007 by Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM (Research In Motion).

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