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DFO, Coast Guard and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami announce the creation of the new Arctic Region

The change is to transform the way decisions about fishing, shipping, resource development and more are made across the enormous northern region defined by the traditional Inuit homelands

  • Oct 26, 2018
  • 429 words
  • 2 minutes
DFO, Coast Guard and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami announce the creation of the new Arctic Region Expand Image

The federal government is changing the way the North is managed — developed, patrolled and protected, transited and fished — by creating a new standalone “Arctic Region” and putting Inuit and other northerners at the centre of decision making. The enormous region will now be managed collaboratively by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, northern communities and Inuit leadership. While the reorganization is in its early stages, its administrative borders will largely adhere to the shape of Inuit Nunangat (the traditional Inuit homelands), an area that encompasses millions of square kilometres of Arctic Ocean and more than half of the nation’s coastline.

Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of DFO and the Canadian Coast Guard, and Natan Obed, president of the national Inuit representational organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), made the announcement in Iqaluit on Oct. 24. This is the first time government departments have been restructured in such a way that they focus on northern issues and are guided by northern communities and Indigenous groups, and the scale of the cooperatively managed area is also unprecedented in Canada.

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Minister Jonathan Wilkinson (left) and ITK president Natan Obed announce the creation of the Arctic Region at the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, in Iqaluit, earlier this week. (Photos: Department of Fisheries and Oceans)
“It was time for this to happen for a whole number of reasons,” says Wilkinson. “We increasingly recognize that the North has always been a unique place, but there are a lot of emerging issues, such as the impacts of climate change, already demanding more careful thought.” That directly relates to the increasing ability of ships to transit the Arctic, he notes (which in turn raises questions about the inevitable increase in the need for search and rescue operations, or the ability to respond appropriately to pollution incidents) and to Canada’s Arctic sovereignty. “Indigenous Peoples are integral to how we will deal with these emerging issues.”
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The CCGS Radisson in the central Canadian Arctic. Emerging issues such as the impacts of climate change are quickly changing how the coast guard and other institutions deal with ship traffic, research, resource development and more across the North, and Inuit are integral to managing the associated challenges. (Photo: Nick Walker/Can Geo)
While at this stage the agreement focuses on the jurisdictions of DFO and the Coast Guard and not other ministries, the issues covered by these institutions are of particular relevance to people in the North, the vast majority of whom are spread across more than 50 coastal communities, from Nain, Labrador to Iqaluit to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.
“We will be able to demonstrate over time that this change makes sense,” says Wilkinson, “and will allow us to build a stronger Arctic and a stronger Canada.”

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