I call this meeting to order. I see quorum, and our witnesses are ready to go.
Before I introduce our witnesses and call on Mr. Hamilton for his five minutes, I want members to take note that Thursday's meeting is cancelled due to a joint agreement among the whips. That has left us in a bit of a scramble, but members should know now rather than later that we won't be meeting on Thursday.
May the chair express an unhappiness with the decision of all the whips, because this is happening way too frequently. It's very difficult to run committees and have coherent studies if in fact in we are subject to the whims of whips. I get irritated with the solid and important work of committees constantly being deferred to other issues. It's something that only members can remedy. I encourage individual party members to talk to their whips about these issues.
Having had my rant for the morning, I will ask Mr. Hamilton to begin his five minutes for his opening statement and introduce Ms. Kutz and Mr. Randall.
With that, Mr. Hamilton, welcome back to the committee.
Thank you, Chair. It's a pleasure to be here again.
I welcome the opportunity to join you all today to discuss the evolving security environment in the Arctic, Canada's Arctic sovereignty and our Arctic foreign policy.
First of all, Canada's Arctic sovereignty is of long standing and is well established. Every day, through a wide range of activities, governments, indigenous peoples and local communities all exercise Canada's enduring sovereignty over our Arctic lands and waters.
With respect to security, since the end of the Cold War, the circumpolar Arctic has been characterized as a region of international co-operation and peace. While the Arctic region remains peaceful, it is not tension-free. We must remain alert to the impact of ongoing geopolitical conflict and the activities of our adversaries.
Russia's continued military buildup and weapons testing in the Arctic remains troubling in and of itself, but its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine demonstrates Russia's complete lack of respect for international principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, fundamental principles that underpin co-operation in the Arctic.
That's why like-minded Arctic states have responded in a strong and concerted manner, including by discontinuing their cooperation with Russia in regional forums such as the Arctic Council.
Canada continues to work closely with like-minded Indigenous and state partners to promote collaboration and continue the important work of the Arctic Council on projects that do not involve Russia.
Canada's Arctic and Northern Policy Framework and the national defence policy entitled “Strong, Secure, Engaged” describe the security challenges and risks that Canada faces in the Arctic.
The international chapter of the framework identifies priority areas for Canada's international activities in the Arctic, including strengthening the rules‑based international order in the Arctic, more clearly defining Canada's Arctic boundaries, promoting a safe, secure and well‑defended Arctic and north, and expanding Canada's international activities in the North.
I understand that colleagues from the Department of National Defence briefed the committee earlier this month. It's important for me to emphasize that investing in our domestic defence and Arctic capabilities strengthens our position internationally. As such, Global Affairs Canada is strongly supportive of efforts to improve Canada's domestic capabilities and to enhance our defence posture in the Arctic.
Of course, our partnership with the United States is of critical importance to Arctic security. Canada and the U.S. are working closely to expand co-operation on continental defence and in the Arctic, including by modernizing NORAD.
Canada's security is also anchored by our membership in NATO. Of the eight Arctic states, five are current NATO allies, and Finland and Sweden are on track to join the alliance in the near future. As Secretary General Stoltenberg has repeatedly stated, NATO will protect and defend every inch of allied territory. This includes all of Canada's territory, including, of course, our Arctic.
While geopolitical tensions are front of mind today, it is important to remember that global climate change remains a grave threat to the Arctic and to its people, including northern indigenous communities. Canada is a leader on climate issues, including on the ways in which they impact our security. Global Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence are working to establish a NATO climate and security centre of excellence in Canada. Climate change impacts on the Arctic security environment will be one of the many topics that Canada and our allies will address through this centre of excellence.
As climate change makes the Arctic more accessible, albeit unevenly, international activities and interests will continue to grow, including from some states that do not share our values.
In China's case, its interests and ambitions regarding the Arctic are both economic and geostrategic, and reflect its growing participation in broader global governance. China sees itself as a “near‑Arctic” state, a designation without international recognition, and has described the polar regions as one of the world's new strategic frontiers.
Canada's evolving strategy towards China recognizes the complexity of the relationship between the two countries and the need to address challenges, compete, collaborate, for example, on climate change, and co‑exist where appropriate.
In closing, I would like to say that Canadians have long benefited from the protection afforded by geography, particularly the geography of our northern approaches. As the Arctic will continue to gain in strategic importance in the years and decades to come, the natural protections once afforded by an ice-covered and distant Arctic will no longer be sufficient to guarantee Canada's security and sovereignty. That's why Global Affairs Canada will continue to work closely across government and with regional allies and partners to minimize and manage regional tensions, to confront threats and to respond to shared challenges.
Thank you, and we look forward to your questions.
Sure. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would just first of all qualify, of course, that military activity and co-operation are explicitly excluded from the work of the Arctic Council, which still does stand as a key organization in terms of its support for the environment, climate change and sustainable development co-operation. Members are likely aware that Canada originally paused its participation in the Arctic Council in order to determine a way forward under the Russian chair through to 2023. Canada and our like-minded partners have condemned Russia's invasion and remarked on its invasion as being contrary to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, which stand essential to the Arctic Council.
Nonetheless, the seven like-minded states under the council have reinitiated their co-operation with each other. That does exclude co-operation at this time with Russia, but again, these are in non-military areas by way of the original declaration of the Arctic Council.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'll stay with Ms. Kutz on the Arctic Council, if that's fine.
On March 3, shortly after Russia illegally invaded Ukraine, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the United States declared that they will no longer attend meetings of the Arctic Council as long as it's chaired by Russia.
On June 8, Canada and the allies declared their intent to resume co-operation on a limited number of previously approved Arctic Council projects that do not include Russian leadership or participation .
Can you outline what that looks like? What does that participation look like? When we think about the Arctic Council, how has it been impacted since the illegal invasion?
Also, we've heard at this committee that surprisingly enough, prior to the invasion Russia was reasonably “co-operative”—I'll try to stretch the imagination here and use that word—on Arctic-related matters with other members of the Arctic Council. How do you see this relationship changing and maybe impacting our priorities in the Arctic?
Thank you very much for the question.
I'll reiterate that the sequence is correct as you've outlined it.
In March of this year, like-minded states condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine. We put an immediate pause on our own participation in the council and any travel into Russia, in light of the fact that Russia is the current rotating chair of the council through to 2023.
Also, as informed by and in light of the importance of the council's work and the contributions that it makes to northern communities and to the stakeholders who are involved in it, in June of this year, after assessing all options, the like-minded states re-engaged in those project activities under the council that did not involve the Russian Federation.
Every two years at the ministerial, the Arctic Council approves an agenda of projects. Upwards of 100 projects are normally in play during a regular term. With our re-engagements in the projects, the council may work on issues of environment, sustainable development, indigenous knowledge and the whole gamut of activities. Canada has re-engaged in about 70 of those activities with partners.
Of course, we're concerned about the future of the council and its sustained health and stability. We're currently taking into consideration and working behind a smooth transition of the chair, which will next pass to Norway in the spring of 2023. We're doing what we can to maintain as much activity under the council as possible in the meantime and we're focusing on a successful and smooth transfer of the chair.
I'd be curious to hear the answer.
Mr. Randall or Mr. Hamilton, my question is more about ocean law. In your work at Global Affairs Canada, how important is it to know what's in our territorial waters? Is it important to know whether it's a commercial or scientific vessel, where it went, where it left and where it's going?
For the purposes of your work, how important is it to have an accurate, real-time picture of what's happening in our territorial waters?
Mr. Chair, perhaps I can take that question.
Certainly there's a recognition across government of the need for better and more modernized surveillance capabilities in the Canadian north. I think we are seeing now a commitment from the government for investments in those areas.
Work is ongoing, for instance, to complete the Nanisivik naval facility at Arctic Bay. That's going to support refuelling for our naval vessels in the north to increase the Canadian Armed Forces' presence and the ability to sustain their long-term presence.
The government recently announced that it will move forward with the construction of two polar icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard. That will give us a greater year-round presence in the Canadian Arctic. The pace of our military exercises and surveillance operations in the north has increased over the last year or so, and I know it's something that the government is committed to continuing.
The only point I would add to that is to make reference to the Arctic and northern policy framework, which really does have that base overarching domestic framework, and then on the part of Global Affairs there is the international framework, and on the part of National Defence the defence and security chapters.
That domestic framework, which contains a lot of the reflections and the packaging and the forward proposals with respect to infrastructure in the north that is non-military, falls under that rubric, guided by Indigenous Affairs, so I would defer those types of questions to them.
In the Arctic Council work, we work to engage and use the governance structures that we have set up to engage with northern communities, including the indigenous permanent participants, to work towards and identify the projects that make the most sense to them within the work of the Arctic Council.
I can certainly say that we see the military buildups.
With respect to Russia, their buildup is in their own Arctic on their Arctic territories. Once again, from a purely military point of view, we don't detect that land-based or sea-based buildup as a direct threat inasmuch as we don't perceive the Russians trying to initiate an attack against the Canadian north. That said, the political disposition of Putin's Russia does give us concern, and we've seen that they have very little to no regard for international law, so even though we don't see the material buildup prima facie as a particular threat aimed at Canada, we do see the politics surrounding that kind of military buildup as a matter of concern.
As for China, once again we see the threat as not military—not kinetic, as such—but we have seen nefarious Chinese activity aimed at Canada through hybrid threats, through cyber activities and predatory investment attempts, so we are monitoring those issues very carefully.
I think I'll respond first to the question of innocent passage.
As I mentioned previously, Mr. Chair, the territorial sea is beyond our 12-nautical-mile baseline, so it's not the internal waters of Canada, but it's something we have a great deal of sovereign rights over. However, there is the right of innocent passage for every state to move through the territorial sea if it's considered innocent passage. The way they define that in the convention is that the passage is innocent as long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal state.
Obviously, you can't use weapons when you're in the territorial sea. That's not considered innocent passage. You can't carry out unlawful acts or serious acts of pollution in the territorial sea. You can't carry out research or surveying activities without the permission of the coastal state. Basically you're told that you have the right of innocent passage to just pass through. That's something that all states under the Law of the Sea Convention adhere to quite strictly. Canada takes advantage of that in other places in the world.
With respect to Chinese ships, we have noticed in the last few years that they do carry on research, marine scientific research. They haven't done it in our internal waters. They have done it a few times in our territorial sea, and they have asked for permission, and we've granted it. In one case, we in fact had scientists on board.
As for some of the infrastructure, I think I'd better defer to Mr. Hamilton about that.
Mr. Hamilton, I would like to hear your point of view on critical minerals. It wasn't that long ago, a week or two at the most, that Canada took away the right of Chinese companies to extract critical minerals in the north. A few days later, we learned that the Americans are very interested in these kinds of projects, which they may want to fund with big government subsidies.
Between you and me, I would much rather have the United States operating in the north than China. That said, isn't there a risk that this could jeopardize our ability to take advantage of these minerals, in a context where supply chains are very dependent on them?
Is there a risk that the Americans will want to take over the mining resources of the north to ensure their own security in the supply chain? Are we a major player in this sector or are we letting our resources go to a much bigger player?
I'm not aware of any specific investment plans, but I know they certainly do exist.
Concerning China, first of all, we have this legislative instrument, the Investment Canada Act, which has very broad powers to deny certain kinds of investments throughout Canada, particularly in the Canadian north and with respect to critical minerals, when the security and intelligence community assesses that it would be a risk to our national security. I know that this was exercised very recently with respect to a prospective Chinese investment.
With the United States, as the member says, we are much more comfortable with their investments. Of course, the United States is bound by all the trade rules and regulations that exist between us through our bilateral and trilateral agreements, which bring Mexico on board, as well as broader global standards of international trade.
I am confident that the rules-based international order as it applies to trade and investment applies particularly well to Canada and the United States. Every prospective investment will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Mr. Chair, I want to thank our witnesses for appearing.
I want to follow up on the discussion around the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Of course, everyone in the Arctic has been making territorial claims to the seabed of the Arctic Ocean, Canada included. There's a great deal of overlap, especially from competing nations. The United States has a different view of where their territory lies in the Beaufort Sea versus Canada. We know that Russia is trying to claim everything right up to the continental shelf of North America.
I'm wondering where that process is at, Mr. Randall, as to those claims, and when final decisions will be made at the United Nations.
This is about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provision that allows coastal states to have sovereign rights beyond 200 nautical miles if you can prove that the seabed and subsoil is actually an extension of your land mass, and because the Arctic Ocean is an enclosed ocean, which was once all together and pulled apart, almost all of it is continental in nature. One of the five coastal states will have sovereign rights over some part of it.
As a result, there are also lots of overlaps. The process is a scientific one. You're proving to the commission responsible in New York that it's continental in nature. They're not deciding on boundaries; they are only deciding whether it is continental in nature or not.
The question is correct: There have been some pretty expansive submissions to the commission in New York, showing a large area of territory that they say is continental shelf, but it doesn't mean that they own it.
Because of the boundaries involving a lot of overlaps, all the coastal states will have to sit down someday and arrange among themselves where the boundaries are. All of the coastal states continue to adhere to the Ilulissat Declaration, which says that they will do that in a peaceful way and in accordance with international law.
As for how long that will take, the commission in New York is terribly backed up. They have more submissions than they ever thought they'd get when they created the convention, so right now it's taking many years, once a state files, for them to review the submission. That's something we're working on in New York to try to speed up the process, but unfortunately, right now it takes a very long time.
Knowing that the Christmas season is coming, I hope that at the end of it all we can still say that Santa Claus is a Canadian.
Mr. Hamilton, you said that you hadn't had a chance to view the Auditor General's “Report 6—Arctic Waters Surveillance”. However, there is an interesting note in here in exhibit 6.3 on page 4 that says....
Just so you know, in 2020 the navigation season in the Arctic was restricted. No pleasure craft or others were allowed to come into northern communities because of possible exposure to COVID-19, but some vessels tried to breach those restrictions.
In the exhibit, it says:
For example, during that summer, a foreign sailing vessel entered the Canadian Arctic without approval or exemption. It was identified in the vicinity of Cambridge Bay by an Inuit monitor.
Our systems of surveillance missed it completely until it was almost at shore, where somebody actually saw it, probably a Ranger.
My question to you is this: Do we know the nationality of that vessel?
First of all, thank you, Mr. Hamilton and your team, for being here today.
Earlier last month, the United States released a national strategy for the Arctic region. It focuses on four pillars: security, the environment, sustainable economic development and international governance. In response to the new strategy, the Arctic Institute's founder and senior fellow, Malte Humpert, stated:
The new U.S. national strategy for the Arctic suggests that rising geopolitical tension resulting from the war in Ukraine will spell an end to Arctic exceptionalism. The region is likely to see less international cooperation and expanded military activity, by Russia, China, the US and its NATO allies, in the coming years.
In your opinion, how has Russia's illegal invasion influenced the U.S. Arctic strategy? What implications do you see this having for Canada?
Mr. Chair, it's an excellent question.
The U.S. strategy is something that we looked at very carefully. I would suggest that from where we stand now, understanding the geopolitics of today, we would certainly agree with the sentiments that are put forward that, because of greater geopolitical competition globally, one can't help but think there will be an impact on the Arctic.
That said, all of the Arctic states, minus one, are exceptional allies and are very co-operative in nature in terms of the security of the circumpolar region. That one exception is, of course, Russia. I think it's undeniable that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has influenced the U.S. assessment, as it has influenced our own assessment.
That said, the future of the geopolitics of the Arctic is very long term. Vladimir Putin is not going to be president of Russia forever. One could imagine a day when we become co-operative with Russia again. That day is not soon, but it requires diplomacy. It requires coordination among Canada and the other Arctic allies to hold Russia to account, but also to create a space where co-operation can be reborn. That is not going to happen in the near term.
The meeting is back in order.
We have, for our next hour, Mr. Clint Davis, president and chief executive officer of Nunasi Corporation; and Mr. Les Klapatiuk from International Logistical Support Inc., from somewhere; we're not quite sure where.
Mr. Davis, you're present, so you have five minutes.
Colleagues, I'm looking at the clock and I'm mindful that we have a couple of motions at the end, so I'm going to have to cut back everybody's time. I'm not sure by how much, but be forewarned.
Mr. Davis, we're not going to cut back your time. You have five minutes, please.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. It's an honour to be here to have a conversation about a topic as important as Arctic security.
Nunasi is a Nunavut Inuit birthright corporation owned by two regional Inuit associations, QIA and Kivalliq Inuit Association, and one regional Inuit development corporation. The structure ultimately means that Nunasi is owned by all of the beneficiaries under the Nunavut Agreement.
It actually has a very interesting story. It's the oldest Inuit development corporation in the country. It was started in 1976 by the Inuit Tapiriit of Canada, now known as ITK, and it was done in a way to ensure that Inuit had an opportunity to participate economically in anticipation of the resolution of Inuit land claims. It was involved in a variety of different business activities at the time, from mining to airlines, hotels and hospitality. Today it's focused on four areas: health services, energy, infrastructure with transportation, and national defence.
Nunasi is a shareholder of Nasittuq, which is the majority Inuit-owned corporation that is currently operating and maintaining the North Warning System under a seven-year contract. That contract was actually awarded at the end of January of this year.
The second shareholder of Nasittuq is the Pan Arctic Inuit Logistics Company. This company represents the six Inuit development corporations located all the way from the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories, across Nunavik in northern Quebec, to Nunatsiavut in Labrador, where I'm from.
The third shareholder of Nasittuq is ATCO Frontec, which is a subsidiary of ATCO Ltd., with an extensive history of working in the north and partnering with the Inuit.
As many of you know, the North Warning System is a chain of radar sites and support facilities that forms part of Canada's NORAD agreement with the United States. It was established in 1985 to detect and allow for an early response to potential threats entering the North American airspace. The federal contract requires the maintenance of 47 remote sites in the Canadian Arctic, in addition to three facilities in Ontario. This is the second time that Nasittuq actually will be managing this military infrastructure. The first was from 2001 to 2014. Needless to say, we were very happy to learn that we actually secured that contract once again.
In early October of this year, Nasittuq was also awarded the eight-year contract to provide operations and maintenance services and support at CFS Alert on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut. Nasittuq was the incumbent contract-holder and has provided services at CFS Alert since 2012.
I'm here to say that Canada's plans for policy development and investment in Arctic security must include the Inuit.
First of all, according to the Inuit business leader Harry Flaherty, we are the eyes and ears of the country in the north. The Arctic region that we're talking about encompasses a massive amount of land referred to as Inuit Nunangat, or the Inuit homeland. It makes up 35% of Canada's land mass and 50% of its entire coastline. There are 53 communities within Inuit Nunangat, with a population of over 56,000 people, of which 47,000 are Inuit. Inuit have lived there for 5,000 years, and our uninterrupted presence substantiates any Canadian claim of sovereignty over the Arctic.
Second, Inuit business and development corporations have grown in financial capacity and business acumen over the last 10 years. We're very good business partners, and our experience should be drawn upon throughout the various stages of planning for domestic security.
Third, the federal priorities of reconciliation and national security can support each other when it comes to the Arctic. Inuit development corporations are ready to work with the military and other federal departments to develop plans that will meet security needs, while respecting the sovereignty, rights, and way of life of our communities. This approach recognizes the obligations under Inuit land claims agreements and supports the federal government's commitment to economic reconciliation.
Finally, the goals of Arctic security can only be reached through well-planned investments in local infrastructure. It should not be a surprise that infrastructure in Nunavut, and in fact all across Inuit Nunangat, is in some cases non-existent as compared to the communities in the south. Reliable services that many take for granted, such as clean water, reliable power and consistent Internet connectivity simply do not exist at the acceptable level that we see here in the south.
Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, which is the territorial Inuit political body, released the report entitled “Nunavut's Infrastructure Gap” in October 2020. It was the first of its kind, and it showed that Nunavut's infrastructure is commonly inadequate, in poor repair or altogether absent when compared to the Canadian baseline. This situation has to change.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I look forward to your questions.
Mr. Chair, thank you very much.
Members of Parliament, Inuvik is the most active NORAD base in Canada.
I speak to you from the same ramp and hangar from which the CC-130 tactical air-to-air refueller operated 439 times, and ILS supported the RCAF and the United States Air Force an additional 600 times over 16 years. The “green hangar”—as we're commonly called—on the Inuvik airport is the only infrastructure of its kind in Canada's western Arctic, north of the Arctic Circle and on the Arctic Ocean, yet a division of DND Real Property Operations removed us from the “here and now” and the leading edge of North American defence.
This is the same property that Innovation, Science and Economic Development on August 25 of this year stated was critical to North American defence, but DND will not lease, contract or buy it to support NORAD. It is the same property for which, on September 12 and 13 of this year, two United States military attachés visited and spoke with me about a possible purchase. This is now country to country and actively being pursued.
In testifying before the House of Commons committee, General Pelletier—I believe it was on November 1—did not mention this. I was advised that everyone in Ottawa, Washington and NORAD knows of what's transpiring, as do the British and NATO.
“Trust, but verify.” You as a committee are operating at a complete disadvantage. You have to trust what you are being told, but how do you verify? All of my statements and charts can be verified through open-source information, ILS records, invoices, photographs and notes or emails with individuals.
The gist of the matter is I cannot answer why Real Property Operations, during a time of nuclear crisis, refuses to support NORAD by providing the only available hangarage in 40% of Canada's land mass.
Real Property Operations will not support our air-to-air refueller crews, who have intercepted Russian bombers from the ILS hangar.
Real Property Operations is forcing the RCAF and NORAD to conduct snowbank operations in Arctic conditions without any security for the airplanes.
In October, 2021, a lieutenant colonel in Real Property Operations ordered his staff to develop a new contract for ILS. They refused. Why?
Real Property Operations gave away NORAD's strategic fuel supply of approximately 270,000 litres on the Inuvik FOL, the forward operating location, and had four 75,000-litre tanks destroyed. Fuel availability throughout the Arctic is and remains critical to all RCAF and NORAD operations.
On June 11, 2021, a NORAD general and a Canadian general asked me about the state of contract negotiations between Real Property Operations and myself. When I replied that there were none, there was puzzlement and betrayal. NORAD made their needs known. Real Property Operations and Canada have ignored them and our common defence.
Real Property Operations started this attempt to destroy ILS in 2015. They have persisted ever since, but at what expense to our country and harm to our relationships with our allies, including NORAD and NATO?
We appear to be at a state of overlapping, cascading failures, where a decision has ramifications several times removed. By that, I mean that Canada's termination of ILS is an infrastructure retreat that impacts NORAD, our defence, and search and rescue. Each of these has further ramifications. Unaccountable bureaucratic decisions have impacted air-to-air refuelling, search and rescue, and fuel, each with downstream effects. We can remedy this.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First of all, thank you both for being here, with Mr. Davis in the room and Mr. Klapatiuk.
My first question is posed to Mr. Klapatiuk.
From a defence perspective, I understand the infrastructure in the north is in dire condition. I certainly haven't been there, but I've been reading a tremendous amount. If we don't maintain our sovereignty, which is maintained by presence, then what do we do?
With regard to the cancellation of particular contracts, how does this undermine our national security? What's the issue? Is it ideology?
To be more specific, as you know, Canada has come to a point where critical NORAD infrastructure has to be upgraded. That's going to cost tens of billions and proceed over several decades. What kinds of opportunities do you envision for your company? What specific infrastructure projects can you see benefiting local communities, as well as National Defence?
There's a lot in that question.
Right now we have the Inuvik runways being extended. For the next five years, the new air-to-air refueller cannot land here. It's actually five to eight years. Even if it lands, the future means that there's no hangarage and there's insufficient fuel for this aircraft.
As for what I see happening, I made a proposal to NORAD directly on August 10 of last year. I indicated that they could make a lease with me or a contract, or buy me out completely so that my existing hangar would handle the CC-130 air-to-air refueller. I have sufficient property on the airport already, so we could build a hangar large enough to hold the A330 MRTT and the CC-177, just not at the same time.
We are completely adjacent to the boundary line of the Inuvik FOL. As I said, it is the busiest FOL in Canada. It's the busiest NORAD base. There are opportunities for civilian companies to partner with the Canadian Armed Forces to develop infrastructure.
As for leaving the infrastructure to the government to build, I'll use these examples. The Inuvik runway was first discussed by General St-Amand in 2007, and it's only starting now. The Nanisivik fuel depot for the naval ships was started in 2008 under the Harper government, and it may be ready next year. In Yellowknife, there's apparently a new building going in for the JTFN. It was first discussed in 2004. Now I understand the property's been purchased. I don't know if they've broken ground yet.
Twenty to 25 years hence does not make defence here and now, and that's what we have to be concerned with as well. Future construction is great, but we also have to look at what we are going to do here and now.
I hope I answered your question.
Thank you to both of our witnesses for being here to answer some of our questions today.
In previous panels, we heard about the fact that we need to demonstrate sovereignty. As it was mentioned before, the best way to do that would be having a presence and making sure that the communities that are currently there are empowered as well.
As someone who believes that we definitely need to put reconciliation forward and do our best in those efforts, I see this defence spending in the Arctic as a major opportunity to be able to do that.
I know that there are certain Inuit-owned businesses that have received contracts. Can you tell us what the benefits have been in this area? How has this helped the north and northern communities?
Also, what policies and frameworks need to be put in place, and how can they be improved in order to see more of this going forward?
Thank you for the question.
We just received the North Warning System contract recently. It was at the beginning of the year. The contract start date was in April. We've had to significantly ramp up staff, particularly at headquarters here in Ottawa, as well as ensure that we have training and development and the right support to ensure that we have a higher representation of Inuit workers and employees in those particular sites.
Some of that is happening during the transfer from the previous contract holder over to Nasittuq. That's one piece. We've held the contract for CFS Alert since 2012.
The benefits have been profound. Prior to us not winning the contract previously for the north warning system, a significant number of young Inuit business leaders started their careers working at Nasittuq and are working on different sites and so on. Some branched out to become entrepreneurs and things of that nature.
Not only is it training development and job opportunities, but two other areas specifically. In particular for procurement, right now, Inuit development corporations—of which there are only seven in the country—have investments in well over 100 businesses. Some of that is done through partnerships and so on. As other procurement opportunities come up, we are well positioned to take advantage of that.
When we do that, that net revenue flows back for the benefit of the community. It helps to achieve economic reconciliation. It has had a very positive impact on employment and, certainly, on procurement. Even with our revenue distribution to our development corporations, we use that in support of trying to develop other programs to support local communities.
I'm sorry. I got the last part: “What priority would the government have in upgrading infrastructure within the region?”
There has been a commitment on the part of the Government of Canada in the most recent budget with respect to infrastructure as a part of the indigenous community infrastructure fund. I think there is a significant amount of capital that will be flowing to the Inuit political body, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, specifically for Nunavut.
That's a good start, but when we talk about infrastructure investment, as I just highlighted, for the north, $500 million to a billion dollars is nowhere near what's required. I think my colleague here can talk more specifically about some of what's required across the Arctic.
I think we need to look at the Arctic as a fundamental part of the Canadian identity. In order to demonstrate that we want to substantiate that role of the Canadian Arctic in our national identity, we have to make the necessary investments. We're seeing these types of investments happening in other parts of the world.
Our Canadian Arctic makes up 25% of the land mass of the global Arctic, but when you look at that global economy, which is about $250 million U.S., we contribute 2% to that global economy, so I think infrastructure is absolutely critical.
In Inuvik we already have one fibre optic line, and there's a second one coming up the Dempster Highway, so in terms of communications, we're very fortunate.
As it pertains to land transport, roads are very difficult to build and will take a long time. One of the key transportation modes in the Arctic is air. One thing we have to look at, from a government perspective, is upgrading airports. Number one will be the critical airports, which are defence related. We also have to look at purchasing aircraft types, if we're talking from a defence perspective, that are going to operate off austere runways, which are gravel or ice, which is something that the new CC-295 search and rescue aircraft cannot do.
We also have a situation here in which infrastructure within communities will be built when major contracts start and we will have a secondary type of economy that will start, related to supplies or to the provision of transportation. There's a symbiotic relationship. It's not that the government has to come in and build the housing for people; it's more a matter of getting the economy rolling with defence-related infrastructure immediately and then other things starting to build.
One of the problems we do face in the Arctic, though, is that we have too many companies that come in on what we will call a drive-by or a storefront. They want to make a partnership in the Arctic so they can come in and do the business. That has negative ramifications, because companies in the Arctic sign on, and the first thing that happens once the project's gone is that there's no carry-on and there are no further economic benefits that accrue from the previous work. It's a feast-or-famine situation here. That's why we will need some of these long-term contracts for runways or for upgrading marine assets, from an immediate defence perspective.
Thank you for the question.
I'm an extremely fortunate individual. My hangar and property are situated on bedrock, which is approximately 25 feet below the surface, so I'm a very lucky individual. Some of the other areas are not that fortunate.
I think what we have to do is to look at things in the longer term or, pardon me, maybe even in the shorter term. The current situation in Europe precludes a long-term climate change type of view. My presentation here is more from the perspective of what we are going to do here and now. Canada has no capabilities in the Arctic right now, so what are we going to do over the next five years to make sure our NORAD base in Inuvik is properly supported? While it is good to talk about long-term construction and the impacts, our game right now should be looking at how we protect the country, because if we can't protect our own country, what country do we have?
Just very quickly, we invest in a company called Nunavut Construction Corp. When it does planning, it has to take into account the impact of climate change. We're trying to make our houses much more energy-efficient so that we're not wasting any energy.
Something that I think is really interesting, though, is that of 53 Inuit communities, 52 are on diesel. A huge priority we see for this government, as well as for this country and the world, is to get off diesel to move towards net zero. Ironically enough, one of the biggest pieces of military infrastructure is the North Warning System, and all of their sites are run on diesel.
We think there's a great opportunity there because in Nunavut right now, we're not able to realize the renewable-energy piece at this point. I think there's a great opportunity to see what we can do to incorporate renewable energy into some of these sites, certainly, as a part of NORAD modernization. Any learnings from that could be extended to have a positive impact on communities as well.
I think it's actually starting to happen now. I represent an indigenous business. I'm not here representing a political body, a political entity, so I don't know exactly what is happening in that regard, but we certainly had some touchpoints with the Department of National Defence.
In some instances, I think, they have a certain perception, neither positive nor negative, of the capacity of indigenous businesses or, in my case, Inuit businesses. We do this type of industry primarily in construction and so on, and they may not necessarily consider some of the other opportunities that would come out of NORAD modernization. That part of the consultation could be missed for us.
For us, I think, we're very open and innovative when it comes to how we do get involved in economic opportunities and how we ensure that is communicated effectively to the Government of Canada.
We would hope to be able to provide the leading edge of defence. The expanded NORAD capability is one thing, but we still need the fighter jets. We still need the infrastructure on the leading edge in order to handle and support all of this equipment, and right now we don't have it. This is one of the things that people fail to realize.
We can have all the radar. We can have everything we want. A good example is the satellite download sites in Inuvik. There are two. One is private and one is government, but both download information off the polar orbit satellites, so here we we are using satellites, speed-of-light equipment, and yet we still need boots on the ground in the Arctic.
It's no different on defence. We need hangarage, we need fuel and we need runways. We need everything that is needed down south and, to be very blunt, most of the air bases down south are nothing more than training bases and hangarage maintenance bases. We have no capability of hangaring the MRTT, the A330, in Inuvik, yet we will have that same capability in Trenton, but Trenton is five and a half hours from Inuvik. We have to have that infrastructure in the Arctic.
Then again, that opens up business opportunities for other people, because on the Inuvik airport, for example, we don't have any municipal water. We need to have everything hauled in and hauled out. That's a business opportunity for somebody else. We don't have many of the things that you would associate with a southern airport.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thanks to both of our witnesses.
Mr. Davis, we touched on this topic a little today, so if it sounds like I'm repeating a question, I want to try to get a bit of a focus.
We talked about the announcing the largest investment in NORAD in four decades. You talked about the North Warning System and about the issues with staffing. You talked about training and development, and you talked about aligning federal priorities on reconciliation that must include Inuit.
I'm giving you some time to outline where you see opportunities to advance economic reconciliation. Also, if you see room for improvement, whether it's in policy or in execution, I would love to hear your thoughts on that in the remaining time.
We see that that there's a tremendous opportunity around NORAD modernization. This is going to be a generational impact. Obviously we're in the early stages right now, and we're trying to position ourselves to demonstrate that we have the ability, the capacity, and the financial capacity as well, to be able to participate.
Some of the other opportunities we would see, as my colleague talked about, are greater investment in airstrips and so on. We definitely would have the ability to go in with some of our companies and partners to be able to participate, so investment in infrastructure and critical infrastructure would be important.
With regard to some of the policies and procedures or frameworks that would be a benefit for us, as I mentioned before, across the board, not necessarily on the military side but in other parts of the other departments, having a much more consistent approach in implementing indigenous procurement I think would be absolutely invaluable and have a huge impact.
Certainly my colleague can talk about that as well.
Everybody is looking for good people, right? That's the biggest challenge. The Government of Nunavut has a staffing challenge. All of the Inuit organizations have a staffing challenge.
For any major business that wants to go up, the first thing they talk about is that they need to find people in the Arctic. For Nunavut itself, we're talking about a population of 39,000 people. When you break it down to the people who are actively able to work, it does become a bit of a challenge.
The biggest thing for us is to focus on kids who are in school and to motivate and incentivize them. As my colleague talked about, this is a medium-term and also a long-term play, frankly, for the country. The biggest thing for us is to focus on the youth.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Klapatiuk, you mentioned the very long construction times. If the Department of National Defence wanted to repair the infrastructure as part of the NORAD modernization, I understand that it would take an extremely long time.
If you were the one doing it, though, can you give us an idea of how long it would take to build, as well as how efficient you would be, given the rising costs everywhere in construction?
Also, if you don't have a signed contract, you have no incentive to upgrade your facilities for NORAD. From a business perspective, it's not attractive, as I understand it.
On behalf of the committee, I want to thank both of you for your time.
I must admit, Mr. Klapatiuk, I have never had a witness come before a House of Commons committee from a hangar. You're our first. Well done.
Thank you both.
We will suspend for a second while we release the witnesses.
James, don't wander away. Both motions stand in your name. I see Mr. May's hand, but before I do that, I will say that I think we should deal with the motion on the Auditor General first.
Do we all have a clear understanding of what's on the table with the Auditor General motion?
With that, I will open it up to Mr. May, who I assume wants to speak to that particular motion.
Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We would support the motion. I don't think we need a vote on it, to be honest.
My concern, as I was trying to articulate earlier, is that this study has gone from involving four meetings to nine meetings to now potentially 10 or more meetings, and we're losing a meeting this Thursday. I'd like to seek some collaboration on potentially combining seven and eight. We have actually requested that the department appear before us three times on this study, which seems excessive considering it will be the same witnesses in many cases. I'm suggesting, given that we've lost Thursday, we combine meetings seven and eight, which would be on CAF operations in the north. We could combine the meetings on icebreaking and SAR into one.
I'm looking to the clerk to see if that is in the realm of possibility.
For the meeting on November 22, we have planned for icebreaking and search and rescue.
Then the operations in the north have been bumped from this Thursday to the following Thursday.
Basically, to answer your question with a bigger answer, we have eight meetings between now and December 15. If we finish the witnesses who are outstanding from the Arctic study, that would be five of those eight meetings.
This would leave us with three meetings. The AG could fill one of those meetings. We also have the supplementary estimates still to be tabled.
Yes, this particular chair, peculiar that he is—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
The Chair: —likes to do logistics off-line. It's much better to do it that way. Otherwise, we'll be chewing up all the rest of our three minutes.
Can we report back to you as a committee next Tuesday, unfortunately? I'd like to report on Thursday, but we don't have that opportunity, so it would be next Tuesday. Hopefully, we will have a consolidated approach. Is that good? Are we good with that? Okay.
Those in favour of the motion, please signify.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Good.
Now we have....
Hang on. He's on for a second motion.
A phone is ringing. If that's the whip's office calling, tell him to ditch the whip.
I've had conversations with my colleagues on this side, and the concern we have is this: What are we expecting to hear? We've asked the department to respond. We've had that meeting. Quite frankly, it was incredibly repetitive, with not a lot of information.
A lot of what this motion is asking us to do is to go off speculation. I agree that if there is something here, if Canadian pilots, former CAF members, are doing something illegal, we want to address that, but there has been no confirmation that I've seen on any of these reports. We're now asking for a Canadian company that isn't the company that's responsible in these articles; it's just speculated that they might be doing the same thing.
I just think we're fishing, and I'm not sure that this is a good use of our time. If there is a situation that we can identify that this committee can deal with, then we would agree.