New Arctic Region could increase resources, sovereignty

2021

The Department of Fisheries, Oceans (DFO) and the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) announced the creation of a new Arctic Region that will include the four regions of Inuit Nunangat in Inuvik Oct. 24.

The new region is a step towards reconciliation and resetting the way the federal government works with the North, said Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, at the announcement last week.

The Arctic Region announcement was made in Inuvik Oct. 24 by Duane Smith, chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Jeffrey Hutchinson, commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Neil O’Rourke, assistant commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard and Gabriel Nirlungayuk, DFO Arctic regional director general.
Samantha McKay/NNSL photo

“We are committed to fostering a new Indigenous-to-Crown relationship that recognizes importance of the Arctic, Indigenous knowledge and Northern priorities,” said Wilkinson. “We have firm commitments to foster this relationship based on mutual respect, cooperation and ever-stronger trust through time.”

Wilkinson stressed the importance of Northern leadership and centralizing Northern voices in future decision making in the Arctic Region.

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) said the creation of the Arctic Region is a significant step toward a renewed Inuit-Crown relationship, because the previous model broke up Inuit Nunangat into four pieces, leaving no central policy space to express Inuit interests in Canada.

“The new region gives a space for Inuit to take part in policy making for Inuit interests,” said Obed. “Research, co-management structures, land claim agreements, search and rescue, fisheries management and sealift resupply will be discussed and new ways will be found to work on these issues that bring Inuit interests to the forefront.”

Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) chair Duane Smith said he hopes the new region will bring more resources to the Beaufort Delta region, develop capacity within the Canadian Arctic and better protect Canadian sovereignty.

“Over the last number of years we’ve seen a drastic reduction in any federal representation here,” said Smith. “So hopefully this is just the first step of one department acknowledging its roles and responsibilities in this part of Canada.”

Implementation of the Arctic Region has begun, with the hiring of DFO Arctic regional director general Gabriel Nirlungayuk, who will be based in Rankin Inlet.

Neil O’Rourke, assistant commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, based in Yellowknife, has also been hired to support the creation of the Arctic Region.

Further implementation of the new region will be completed in phases.

Smith, Wilkinson, Obed, O’Rourke, Nirlungayuk and Jeffrey Hutchinson, commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, made the announcement together in Inuvik during the Beaufort Sea Partnership meeting, where stakeholders are developing an Integrated Ocean Management Plan for the Beaufort Sea.