Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the invitation to the Canadian Circumpolar Institute at the University of Alberta to participate in this meeting. I am associate director at the institute. Very briefly, the Canadian Circumpolar Institute has a history of more than 50 years of promoting and supporting northern research at the University of Alberta. More recently, its interest has extended to the Antarctic as well.
By way of background, my academic training is in history and international relations. My research interests are focused on the science-politics interface in the polar regions.
Thank you again for the opportunity to share some views about Canada's Arctic foreign policy in the context of environmental issues. I also must thank you very much for accommodating me by phone. I would like to cover a couple of broad themes in my opening remarks. Of course, as I am the final speaker, some of the points I make will in fact reinforce points that have been made by the previous speakers.
Canada's international standing in Arctic affairs is significant. This will be highlighted when it assumes the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in May.
In addition to Canada's relations with the other Arctic states, the international dimensions of Canada's Arctic priorities need to be considered in light of Canada's relationships with non-Arctic states as well, so the first point I would like to place emphasis on would be Canada's relationship with emerging economies, such as China, South Korea, and India, in the context of sustainable development and environmental change in the Arctic.
Now, these non-Arctic states have shown interest in the Arctic for scientific reasons and also for economic reasons. As we know, they also seek observer status at the Arctic Council. China, India, and South Korea maintain research stations in Svalbard. They're also keenly interested in Arctic business and commerce opportunities, particularly in relation to extractive industries.
Furthermore, and in connection to this, the Antarctic factor cannot be overlooked in relation to these countries. As consultative parties to the Antarctic Treaty, China, India, and South Korea have long engaged in scientific research in Antarctica, and they already consider themselves to be major players in the polar regions. Canada needs to put some strategy in place to anticipate future challenges and opportunities in existing and future bilateral relations between Canada and each of these countries.
Now, there might be other discussions over trade relations between Canada and these countries, but I think this needs to be perhaps contextualized with reference to the Arctic.
One other emerging economy that is not in the same category as China or India but is closer to home, and that Canada should perhaps pay very close attention to, is Greenland. We are bordered by Greenland, and because of its connection to Denmark, this neighbour of Canada has inextricable links to the European Union states that have considerable interest in the Arctic, and they are countries with which Canada has important international relations.
Greenland is an emerging economy with a stated aim of achieving independence from Denmark. The development of oil, gas, and minerals is considered the way to become financially independent. Greenland's economic and possible political independence could have far-reaching implications for international relations between Denmark/Greenland and Canada. But such development, as well as Greenlandic emphasis on climate change research and education to equip Greenlanders with new skills in business and industry, has significance in terms of science and technology. Here, there are strong parallels between Greenland and Nunavut in Canada.
Opportunities also exist for Canada to develop strong links with Greenland in business and education. Canadian mining companies are looking to Greenland and will doubtless be more active there in the near future. In the area of education, the University of Alberta, for example, has been developing strong links with institutions in Greenland over the past several years.
An MOU between the University of Greenland, the Greenland Climate Research Centre, and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources is currently being arranged.
I should add here that with regard to the other two countries, China and India, the University of Alberta is also building very strong links with a number of institutions in these two countries.
The second broad theme that I would like to touch upon is the need for Canada to have an overarching Arctic-northern science policy and the potential of using science diplomacy as a tool for Canada's Arctic foreign policy.
Now, articulating an Arctic-northern science policy would provide context to and frame how Canada addresses Arctic environmental issues, for example. Both the northern strategy and Canada's Arctic foreign policy emphasize the importance of science for sound policy and decision-making, for furthering international engagement, for environmental stewardship, and for energy and resource development.
Within the science-politics narrative, concern over Canadian polar science capacity and infrastructure is a perennial theme. The scientific community has remarked on many occasions that Canada needs to have a focal point for its intellectual expertise in this area. The discussion has tended to centre on coordination in research and the harmonization of budgetary planning of research and logistics.
While CHARS, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, is seen to be that entity that will anchor a strong research presence in Canada's Arctic to serve Canada and the world, its broad mandate favouring multiple stakeholders could pose, one could argue, some challenges given the high expectations from stakeholders with competing and in some cases opposing values concerning the pursuit of science.
I would like to conclude by acknowledging the work of the eight Arctic states in reaching an agreement on search and rescue. As chair of the Arctic Council—when Canada takes on the chairmanship of Arctic Council—Canada could play a defining role in pushing forward with a polar code for the Arctic.
Within the context of Arctic governance and Canada's Arctic foreign policy, there may be virtue in thinking of an environmental protocol for the Arctic, drawing some inspiration from the environmental protocol that exists in Antarctica. While many dispute the notion that an Arctic treaty is possible or even necessary, it is still argued that new legal regimes and institutions of governance are needed for the Arctic region as a whole. An environmental protocol could set forth basic principles applicable to human activities in parts of the Arctic, and Canada could lead the way in discussion of this.
Thank you very much for your attention.