Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on this motion, as it is a motion in which I am most interested.
Like my colleague who spoke previously, I have spent a good deal of my life at 55 degrees north in two different situations. I lived in the north of England in the British Isles, and I lived for three years in Schefferville, which, like Churchill, is about 55 degrees north in northern Quebec. It is interesting that I have lived at both of those locations, at 55 degrees north, and both of them are very different.
I also spent well over a year of my life at 80 degrees north, which is pretty far north. I do not think there would be any debate about that.
It is interesting to note that three of the great cities of the world, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm, are all very large communities and are located at 60 degrees north. Again, they are located at very different locations from Churchill, Yukon, northern Quebec and the British Isles. Those great cities are located in Scandinavia and Russia.
The member uses the argument of global warming. When we lived in Schefferville, in northern Quebec, we argued that Schefferville was in the north, not because it was warm or getting warmer, but because it was very cold. Because of the wind, the snow and the storms, it was even colder than average conditions would suggest.
If we start at Labrador and northern Quebec and move through northern Ontario, across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, into B.C. and Yukon, using average conditions, they get better. I would argue that the town of Schefferville is as far north as one could possibly get in terms of the severity of weather conditions and the lack of comfort.
What I like about the member's motion is that it is a way of raising awareness in Canada of the north and of the importance of the north. It is true that we are a great northern nation, but we lack awareness of that fact.
The other countries I have mentioned, even the British Isles, have a strong sense of the north in some parts, and yet by our standards in Canada we do not think of them as being northern at all. Here in Canada, with our very high Arctic territory, more than any other country, there is a very low awareness of that fact.
The member's motion I think is excellent and draws attention to the people and the conditions of the middle north. He is doing us all a great service by bringing forward his motion.
The government has done a remarkable amount of work with respect to the circumpolar community. It was Canada which really brought together the Arctic Council, which represented the eight polar nations and three great, different, indigenous peoples' organizations.
The Arctic Council came into being after the Soviet Union disappeared. Canada persuaded the United States, through Alaska, that it should be part of a council which would have an overview of the circumpolar community.
The Arctic Council has been very active. It was the Liberal government which appointed, for the first time, an ambassador of circumpolar affairs, Mary Simon. It is interesting to note that Mary Simon was the elected president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the great international organization of Inuit from Greenland to Siberia. It was the Inuit Circumpolar Conference which brought forward the idea of the Arctic environmental protection strategy, which is a self-explanatory strategy instrument, which has been taken over by the Arctic Council. The council now represents all circumpolar nations and is being used as the basis for the protection of the environment in the entire circumpolar north.
The Arctic Council and the ambassador for circumpolar affairs are both examples of something which the government has done to bring attention to things northern, as the hon. member is doing here very effectively.
With respect to the people at 55° north or anywhere else on the globe, I point to the establishment of the University of the Arctic by the Arctic Council. The University of the Arctic now exists in form. It is not yet offering courses. I believe its secretariat is based in northern Finland at the moment, but it will be a moving secretariat. The University of the Arctic will offer courses through the Internet which will be available all over the world, but which in fact will be particularly valuable to residents of the middle north, the near north and the high Arctic. I see the University of the Arctic as a positive outcome of the Arctic Council which was established by Canada.
Since the Arctic Council was established, I note that the government has continued with activity which has stimulated interest in the north across Canada, as the hon. member is trying to do, and stimulated interest in circumpolar affairs, in which the hon. member has mentioned he is equally interested.
I point out a 1997 review of northern interests entitled “Canada and the Circumpolar World: Meeting the Challenges of Co-operation into the Twenty-First Century”. That was followed in 1998 by the Sustainable Development in the Arctic: Lessons Learned and the Way Ahead conference which was held in Whitehorse. It involved the federal government, the territorial governments of both the Yukon and, as it was in those days, the Northwest Territories government. Now of course it would include Nunavut. Those conferences were designed to gather information about the north from the people of the north and also to stimulate interest in the north across the whole country.
The minister commissioned a consultation paper to order northern foreign policy for Canada. Through it, the ambassador for circumpolar affairs, Mary Simon, whom I just mentioned, conducted hearings not only in various northern locations, but also in southern Canada, including in my own community of Peterborough. Like the hon. member's motion, that activity stimulated interest in Canada in both our north and the circumpolar north, and it stimulated interest in what Canada is doing and what Canadians are doing in their own north.
I am pleased the hon. member is putting this motion forward. I commend him for it. I am not personally sure of the practicalities of shifting to 55° north for the reasons I have mentioned. Of the other circumpolar nations, I suspect those that have capitals and major cities at 60° might well have some concerns about bringing in latitudes as far south as the British Isles, such as Ireland, for example. However, I strongly support his motivation in raising awareness of the people of Canada's north, including my daughter who was born at 55°, and the people who live farther north in Canada.