Canada’s territorial premiers met in Nuuk, Greenland, for the Arctic Circle Forum in late August.
Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane, Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok and Yukon political leader Sandy Silver produced a joint statement highlighting their common vision for the future of the Arctic.
The three elected officials came to the conclusion that “Arctic sovereignty and security are enhanced by strengthening the resiliency of our people and our communities.”
Although Canada is known “for its affordability, access to education and health, political stability, individual freedom and environmental protection” according to the National Bank of Canada, it’s often not a reality that Northern cities and communities get to experience.
Water and housing crises along with food insecurity are still common challenges for Northerners.
“The resources aren’t there as much as they should be, especially for food stability” said Pierre Wolfe, a hunter and resident of Iqaluit.
The premiers’ joint statement said needed infrastructure improvements in the North would offer multiple benefits.
“Investments in critical infrastructure to ensure sustainable energy sources, reliable transportation and telecommunications can serve a dual purpose of fulfilling defence and community needs,” they stated.
They also discussed which public services would be more beneficial for Northerners.
“Investments that promote better health care, education and economic opportunities (along with access to) adequate housing is linked to all aspects of wellbeing and to the resiliency of our communities,” they jointly agreed.
Inuksuk High School student Cassiar Cousins identified challenges at the local level that are posing barriers.
“I feel there are lots of opportunities for students in town, just not enough motivation. I feel the lack of mentorship and home problems are the main reasons why the youth programs aren’t being used,” he said.
On the subject of Northern resources, the territorial leaders’ joint statement centres around minerals. The Northern regions are under increasing worldwide attention for mining exploration because of their high quantities of fossil fuels but also minerals such as coal, iron ore, zinc, lead, nickel, precious metals, diamonds and gemstones.
“We discussed how critical minerals from Northern Canada and the Arctic will play an important role in building a more sustainable future,” the premiers stated.
The politicians concluded their meeting on a positive note for the future: “We have much to learn from our global partners and allies, and we look forward to more opportunities for dialogue.”