By Dan Vandal, minister of Northern Affairs
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit Churchill, Whitehorse, and Yellowknife for the first time since being named the Minister of Northern Affairs. I met many hard-working, dedicated people from whom I learned a lot. I listened to their stories, their concerns, their passions, and their ideas. Northerners’ goals are my goals and I came away with not only a clearer understanding, but also a greater appreciation and enormous respect for the residents who call the North home.
We were able to achieve much in the last mandate but we know there is much more work to do. Working with territorial, Indigenous, and provincial partners our government laid the foundation of a long-term vision for the north with the release of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework in September 2019. The focus of this vision, which was co-developed by collaborating with governments, Northerners and Indigenous governments and organizations, is to create more economic opportunities and a better quality of life in the Arctic and North. And together, we are working to co-implement this plan to create jobs, nurture healthy families, and protect our communities from the dangers of climate change.
This means making the most of emerging economic opportunities while ensuring that Northerners are full participants in, and beneficiaries of, growth. The goal remains to build a strong North and Arctic together. This vision is what led to the creation of a dedicated Northern Affairs Minister in the federal cabinet – something that had been recommended for some time.
The path forward begins with listening to a broad array of Northern voices, identifying the challenges of the regions, and mapping a strategy that is driven by Northerners, for Northerners. I will be an advocate for the North, in cabinet, in close collaboration with our Members of Parliament.
During my time in the Northwest Territories, Member of Parliament Michael McLeod and I met with municipal officials, the Premier and Ministers, First Nations leadership, community associations, residents, and others.
A number of issues were raised by Premier Caroline Cochrane, the leadership of the Tlicho government in Behchoko, Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya, and members of the Northwest Territories Association of Communities including climate change and its impacts on Northern communities, support for early childhood education, post-secondary education, economic development, housing, infrastructure, transitioning to clean energy, and much more.
I had the opportunity to travel outside Yellowknife, to Behchoko, with Premier Cochrane to visit with residents and hear from the Tlicho government about the urgent housing needs and other needed infrastructure in their communities.
It was a tremendous learning experience and I appreciate the open and honest discussions. In the near future, I am looking forward to visiting many other northern communities to host similar discussions across the north and the Arctic.
Our government will work toward a future in which the people of the Arctic and North are full partners in policy-making for the region, and ensure that they have access to the same services, opportunities, and standards of living as those enjoyed by people in the rest of Canada. Working in partnership, we can build a strong North and Arctic together.