Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 375

Commentary Place Holding but Noteworthy: Canada & the Arctic Council Andrea Charron In 1996, Canada was the first of eight Member States to chair a newly-founded Arctic Council. From May 2013 to April 2015, Canada again resumed the chair (headed by the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Minister for the Arctic Council) and set “development for the people of the North” as the overall theme of its two years. To achieve this goal, Canada called for responsible Arctic resource development, safe Arctic shipping and sustainable circumpolar communities with subthemes under each of these three goals.1 Unique to Canada was the call to create an Arctic Economic Council (AEC)2 – a subgoal of responsible resource development. On the one hand, the focus Canada had directed on the people of the North is laudable and perfectly in keeping with the mandate of the Council. On the other hand, the creation of the AEC has been divisive. How should we evaluate this agenda? Did Canada’s Chairmanship break new ground or was it just caretaking? The Arctic Council cannot be expected to make grand pronouncements or oversee the creation of new international agreements3 every year; it is voluntarily funded and has only recently benefited from the creation of a permanent secretariat. Canada’s agenda promoted the continuation of many projects initiated under previous Chairs and oversaw the unanimous decision to not accept new Observers for a constellation of reasons including the ratio of Arctic states and Permanent Participants (the decision makers) to Observers which is 14:32 or 1 to 2. Andrea Charron is Assistant Professor of Political Studies at the University of Manitoba, and Deputy-Director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies. Parts of this article were originally printed WWF’s Ice Blog. “Canada, the Arctic Council and Rough Seas”, (24 March 2015)