Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, it's a pleasure to be here to talk about the northern strategy.
My understanding is that in the context of reviewing the bill there is a desire to understand a little bit more in terms of the broader context of the government's northern strategy. That is the purpose of my presentation, which you have in front of you. I'll try to go through it as quickly as possible to allow time for questions.
I apologize if I'm going a little fast. We can come back to certain points during the round of questions.
If we skip to slide 2 right away, you'll see that this is basically a summary statement about INAC's role in the north. The minister has some fundamental responsibilities under the DIAND Act, and these are significant and far-reaching in terms of the north.
The most important in terms of resources and staff, if I can say that, is to exercise a provincial type of role in water, oil and gas management, and resource management, including the overall responsibility for the regulatory system in the north.
We also have a federal type of role to play in social and economic development, including the recent announcement of the creation of an economic development agency for the north. We've been running economic development programs in the north on behalf of the federal government.
We do have a role to play in terms of overall coordination of the activities of federal departments, boards, and agencies in the territories. That gets into some of the issues around the northern strategy.
We also have a responsibility to encourage scientific research in the Canadian Arctic. I will come back a little later to our role in the field of science. Our department does not play a major role in this area, but it does nevertheless carry out some important activities.
We also have an important role to play in circumpolar international affairs, working with our colleagues from DFAIT. Of course, the Arctic Council is the privileged body that we are a member of and that we work through.
Overall, our minister has the lead for the northern strategy. Our deputy minister chairs a committee of deputy ministers that meets on a regular basis to review the progress of and future priorities for the northern strategy. We also have a governance structure below the deputy minister level, with a number of committees, to ensure that all departments and agencies are working in a coordinated way. We can get into that a little bit later on if that's of interest.
Our minister does co-sign cabinet documents related to northern issues.
On the following page you will find a brief overview of Canada's integrated northern strategy.
On this page, you'll see the quote from the Speech from the Throne and the four pillars that have been established.
First, with respect to Arctic sovereignty, our objective, of course, is to protect our sovereignty. This is becoming an important issue as more international interest in the region is generated.
The second pillar is economic and social development. Here, it's to ensure that the territories do benefit from that kind of development and that the regulatory system is there to help ensure, in a sustainable way, that development takes place for the benefit of northerners.
Under environmental protection, the big driver there is climate change, of course, and the impact it's having on the Arctic. Forty per cent of our land mass in Canada is in the territories. We need to make sure that it's protected for future generations.
Finally, under governance, there are dual objectives, but they're very closely related. One is to help shepherd the northern territorial governments to continue their progression towards province-like status and, at the same time, work to continue to negotiate and implement land claim and self-government agreements to help aboriginal governance also evolve.
Those are the four pillars. We always remind everyone that science and technology underpin all four of these pillars.
The next slides will provide some contextual information about each pillar.
I'll give you a little bit of contextual information.
Under the sovereignty pillar, there's certainly a lot of focus on disputes or on the issue of competition, maybe, with other arctic nations. But at the end of the day, those disputes, those issues, are very well managed. They come down to three categories, if we can say that.
First is the Beaufort Sea. There's a disagreement with the U.S. as to how the demarcation between Canada and the U.S. is determined. So there is what we call a wedge of disagreement in the Beaufort Sea. It's a fairly small area, but it's an important area.
The second area is Denmark. We have a small island, called Hans Island, which you've all heard of. There is a disagreement about who owns that island. Just north of Hans Island, in the Lincoln Sea, the demarcation between Canada and Denmark is another area on which we have to come to an agreement.
The last area, which is the one that probably writes the most articles and that academics really focus on is who controls or owns the Northwest Passage--the famous Northwest Passage. Of course, Canada claims sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, including full jurisdiction to enact laws and regulations to govern its use. Other countries feel the need to express disagreement, mostly motivated by their wanting to ensure that in the future they can benefit from free right of passage through the Northwest Passage.
That doesn't mean that there are not other security or safety issues in the north. We know, of course, with the increased activity and increased use in the Arctic, that there are other risks. We have cruise ships increasingly going into our waters, so there are all kinds of issues that need to be considered, such as search and rescue and shipping safety. I know that's an important consideration for this committee.
In terms of economic development, much has been said about the enormous potential that resource development represents in the North. Clearly, the current economic downturn has curbed people's enthusiasm somewhat.
The opportunities are still there. We still have to think long term. But there has been short-term pain in the territories. Some mining operations have ceased. Others have scaled back. The diamond sector is hurting right now. We have also had reduced levels of exploration and development. Some projects, which we thought were well on the way towards opening a mine at some point in the near future, have been delayed a bit. So there is a certain impact. But the long-term prospects remain positive in terms of commodity prices rebounding and demand continuing to increase.
It was interesting to note recently that the Germans have provided a $1.2 billion loan guarantee to Baffinland, the owners of a very important iron ore deposit on northern Baffin Island. It's a project that, once developed, could be worth approximately $4 billion in development costs. It would bring thousands of jobs to Nunavut. Again, the future market for steel is strong, even with the current situation.
Nevertheless, economic development does present a number of problems.
There are barriers. There are gaps we need to address. Some of them have to do with lack of adequately trained human resources. So there are skill gaps.
There are issues we need to address, particularly when it comes to aboriginal people taking full advantage of the economic opportunities. We've made some progress, but there's still much to be made.
There are also, of course, communities that are preoccupied with and worried about the pace of development and whether the decisions that will come through the regulatory system will be balanced and take into consideration the long-term impact on the environment, the wildlife, and the ability to maintain traditional lifestyles. That's certainly a consideration.
I would also add another consideration, which is infrastructure development and the gaps in the north. Again, when moving from west to east, some of those gaps become even more glaring, whether it's roads, air links, harbours, or ports. What we come to take for granted as southern Canadians is much more difficult in the north. That has an impact both on communities and people and on economic development.
I will now turn to environmental protection.
Again, this is just a reminder of the very delicate nature of the environment in the Arctic and the opportunity we have to ensure a good balance between development and conservation. So through the establishment of new protected areas--the Nahanni National Park or conservation areas; marine conservation areas, as are being planned for the Lancaster Sound area.... Climate change is having an impact not only on the environment and wildlife but also on people and their ability to be able to live as a community.
That was evidenced last year with Pangurtung, a small community on Baffin Island, where unseasonable thaws and excessive rains ended up washing out two bridges and cut the community in half, basically. That community did not have access to basic water and sewer services during the time of that crisis. We can see the impacts of climate change on the infrastructure in the north and on the lives of northerners.
We are also concerned about the presence of trans-border pollutants in the food chain, and at the top of that food chain are the northerners whose diet still relies heavily on traditional foods. Of course, those pollutants come from everywhere in the world.
Our other concern is the lack of baseline information. We don't know enough about the Arctic; hence the need for good science. Baseline information can help ensure that the regulatory system works smoothly, that we can track the impacts of development over a long period of time. Certainly that's an area that we need to continue to invest in more.
Under governance, again, we have made significant progress over the last 30 to 40 years in terms of the transfer of responsibilities from the federal government to the territorial governments. In the Yukon we actually have fully transferred the responsibility for the management of lands and resources and waters so that the federal government is no longer in that business except for some very small residual roles, things such as cleaning up contaminated sites and the minister's overall responsibilities for the acts and for appointments to boards, for example. So there are still some residual responsibilities, but the Yukon is fairly autonomous in managing its own affairs.
We still have to proceed with devolution in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. There are talks progressing at various paces between the federal government and the two other territories.
As I mentioned before, there's also aboriginal land claims settlement and self-government. We have self-government well in place in the Yukon, with 11 out of 14 first nations now self-governing. We have three first nations in the southern part of the Yukon, in the Kaska region, that do not yet have settled land claims or self-government.
In the Northwest Territories, we've also made significant progress. The Inuvialuit are covered by a land claim, as are the Gwich'in, the Sahtu, and the Tlicho, and we have negotiations that have been going for some time with the Decho and the Akaitcho as well as the South Slave Métis.
On the Nunavut side, of course, the Nunavut land claim agreement, which created the territory of Nunavut, is the biggest land claim in the history of, probably, the world. The Inuit are now the owners of significant resources through that land claim agreement. Of course, we have a government that is going to be celebrating its 10th anniversary very soon.
There's still much work to be done, including making sure we keep our eye on the ball in terms of implementation issues.
As far as science and technology are concerned, I would simply remind people that Canada has done some important work in recent years. We have established ourselves as the leader in the field of Arctic science. We invested resources in the International Polar Year,
the International Polar Year, which is concluding in the next couple of weeks.
In terms of the research phase, we still have much work to do on outreach, data management, and making sure that the results of the research translate into program or policy responses. That was the $156 million that was invested by the Canadian government. We also have made the decision to build the arctic research station, and we're making progress in that area.
In the last budget, it was also announced that $85 million would be spent over two years to improve existing scientific infrastructure in the Arctic. There is still a substantial amount of work to be done on the scientific front.
On page 7, this is a bit of a summary, under the four pillars, of the various commitments and actions that have been taken by this government. You see under each of the pillars there is a lot going on. All of these initiatives have important implementation challenges.
Right now, the biggest challenge is ensuring that we continue moving in this direction and collaborating, whether it be with the federal government, aboriginal groups, territorial governments or other partners, to successfully carry out all of these initiatives.
There are probably still gaps in the framework. There are areas where we'd like to be able to do more, and we'll continue to work on those with our colleagues from other federal departments.
I hope that gives a good overview. I think I am pretty well on time.