Canadian International Council

Canadian International Council

July 24, 2009 15:04 ET

Prime Minister's Personal Stamp Key to Canada's Arctic Policies, New Paper Argues

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 24, 2009) - Arctic policy has become foreign policy and the success of this foreign policy depends upon Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally engaging in substantive Arctic initiatives in order to ensure Canada's northern interests are advanced at this critical time of climate change and demand for natural resources, concludes a new paper released today by the Canadian International Council (CIC).

Canadian Arctic Sovereignty and Security in a Transforming Circumpolar World argues that historically Canadian governments have recognized the importance of Arctic security and sovereignty, but did little to ensure that it would be achieved.

"It's time to end the tradition of prime ministers choosing rhetoric and photo-ops over real efforts in a vital part of Canada. Putting a personal stamp on Canada's Arctic policies is a must," says Rob Huebert, a CIC senior research fellow and author of the paper.

Dr. Huebert claims the lack of personal involvement at the highest level of decision making in the federal government is contributing to a perception that Canada has a diminished capacity to protect its sovereignty and security in the Arctic and, in turn, other nations are openly asserting their Arctic claims, often at the expense of Canada's position.

In order to enforce and ensure its sovereignty and security in the Canadian Arctic, the Government of Canada must act now to take the following steps:

(1) Foremost, Canadian Arctic policy develops when the prime minister is interested and continually engaged in the process. Canada must improve its decision-making process on Arctic affairs by creating a cabinet committee, chaired by the prime minister, which focuses solely on the Arctic. Only by ensuring that the prime minister is continuously engaged in Arctic issues will attention to the region be maintained.

(2) Canada must improve surveillance and enforcement capability. Only the ability to know who is in our Arctic region and what they are doing there will allow us to control those actors and their activities. Outside actors will be unable to operate in the Canadian Arctic undetected or unrestricted. In order to achieve this capability, the Canadian government will have to provide the financial resources necessary to acquire, build and maintain the infrastructure and equipment.

(3) Finally, Canada cannot act in isolation in the Arctic. It must cooperate better with its Arctic neighbours, particularly the United States and Russia. This is essential to develop an international Arctic framework that will serve as a guideline for rules of engagement.

Dr. Huebert concludes in his paper that Canada needs to recognize what it wants its Arctic to look like in the emerging future. The time when lip service could be paid to the north is over. The forces of transformation are creating a new era in which the world will be coming to the entire Arctic region. Canada can choose to simply react to the new changes or it can take the lead and recognize that there are both dangers and opportunities. The dangers can be mitigated by thoughtful preparation. The opportunities can best be taken advantage of by deciding what it is that Canada wants its north to look like and the level of resources that it is willing to allocate to promoting and protecting Canadian interests and values.

Dr. Huebert is a political science professor at the University of Calgary and the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies and one of eight fellows chosen by the CIC to contribute new perspectives and discussion in vital areas of Canadian foreign policy. The program's initial areas of focus for 2008-09 include the following: China, border issues, Arctic sovereignty and security and energy.

For more information on Canadian Arctic Sovereignty and Security in a Transforming Circumpolar World 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).

Contact Information