A special committee of the Senate studying the Arctic has issued a “wake up call” for the Canadian government to stop ignoring the issues facing people who live in the region.
“For far too long, the Arctic and northern regions have been neglected by Canada. Crises remain unresolved and the well-being of residents, left to tackle enormous challenges on their own, has been overlooked,” said the Senate study called Northern Lights: A Wake-Up Call for the Future of Canada.
“It is essential that the Government of Canada recognize that the Arctic requires greater attention, investment and consistent support from the federal government, to complete Canada’s nation-building project. The impact of federal underinvestment hits hardest on the Arctic’s greatest asset, Indigenous youth. Opportunities for nation-building can no longer be missed.”
The 139 page report released Tuesday is the result of a special committee that travelled to Kuujjuaq, Que., Iqaluit, Baker Lake and Cambridge Bay, in Nunavut, Yellowknife and Inuvik, in the Northwest Territories, and Whitehorse, Yukon.
“Many Northern communities are facing significant challenges, struggling with housing, and coping with the dangerous impacts of climate change while their vast potential remains untapped or poorly understood by Canada’s southerners who often make the policies affecting their day-to-day lives.
“Urgent action is needed to empower Northerners facing economical underdevelopment, environmental disaster, and international pressures while supporting their scientific and cultural needs and potential.”
(A housing shortage forces some people to live in shacks by Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit. This wooden shack caught fire. Submitted photo.)
The report makes a number of recommendations including; complete a building code adapted to Arctic conditions and the effects of climate change, implement an action plan to mitigate the effects of climate change on existing and new infrastructure, including housing, take immediate measures to address the housing crisis in the Arctic by funding a complete continuum of Arctic housing; and, report on the effects of its investments on housing annually to local, Indigenous and territorial governments. Broadband telecommunications access in the Arctic is unavailable, poor and, where available, expensive and often unreliable.
“With little infrastructure in many communities in the Arctic, people struggle to access water and sanitation, housing, good schools and healthcare. As the climate warms and permafrost thaws, the urgency of the Arctic’s challenges come into plain view: traditional food supplies are threatened; homes are endangered by the rising seas and the ice becomes unsafe for travel,” the report said.
“Understanding that Arctic communities deserve better, the committee recommends that the Government of Canada: The committee agrees with witnesses that broadband access is necessary and recommends that the Government of Canada establish a broadband telecommunications action plan with dedicated funds to support fibre deployment to underserved regions in the Canadian Arctic by March 2020.”
With sea ice rapidly melting, the senate committee is also recommending the government take steps to secure Arctic sovereignty and be prepared to deal with foreign interests in the region.
“Arctic residents keenly observed other countries’ interest in the region’s natural resources and the Northwest Passage. The committee recommends that the Government of Canada ensure the Canadian Arctic security and safety and assert and protect Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic,” the report said.
“In the committee’s view, actions ensuring prosperous, sustainable and safe Arctic communities are vital to enhance Canada’s ability to project its Arctic foreign policy, including sovereignty in the region.”
Read the full report here: Northern Lights: A Wake-Up Call for the Future of Canada.