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Center hosts Arctic Sovereignty Symposium in Washington, DC

September 30, 2010

Above: Presenters and participants at the symposium on Canada-US Arctic issues at the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States headquarters in Washington, DC.

In the last edition of Newsweek in 2009, editor Jon Meacham interviewed two of the most prominent secretaries of state in recent history—Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton. In the interview, Clinton listed current foreign policy priorities and focused on the emerging issues in the Arctic:

An area that we’re beginning to pay attention to… is the Arctic. With the melting of the ice, with sea lanes opening that were never there before… with Russia saying that they are going to have an expedition next year to plant their flag on the North Pole. With Canada saying, “No, you’d better not.” This is an area that we have to pay real attention to.

Five experts provided insights into Canada’s interests in the Arctic, including geographer, Phil Steinberg, Florida State University; political scientists, Rob Huebert, University of Calgary, and Stéphane Roussel, Université du Québec, Montréal; and Ottawa-based consultants to Nunavut and Nunavik (Canada’s two largest Inuit regions), Terry Fenge, and Donat Savoie.The Canadian Studies Center has been responding to this emerging national need for the past couple of years, including, most recently, a symposium held in DC that focused on Canada-US relations concerning the Arctic. In mid-June the Center collaborated with the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States (ACSUS), Western Washington University, and Trent University to host a one-day event targeted for staff from the Department of State and Congressional Research Service: Northern Sovereignty and Political Geography in North America.

Huebert, Associate Director for Military and Strategic Studies, focused on the very real possibility of an arms race developing over Arctic interests. He provided a list of military developments in each of the Arctic nations, illustrating national interests and concerns. Savoie, representing the Makivik Corporation, addressed both human security issues (housing, education, health) and the emerging and effective role of the Inuit in future Canada-US negotiations regarding the Arctic:

Inuit are increasingly engaged and vocal on these matters regarding sovereignty and related issues. Inuit inclusion as active partners is central to all national and international deliberations on Arctic sovereignty and related questions.

Over the last couple of years, the Canadian Studies Center has responded to emerging national concerns in the Arctic via a number of activities—promoting FLAS fellowships in Inuktitut, providing public lectures on Arctic energy and international perspectives on sovereignty, facilitating roundtables on Inuit land claims and political mobilization, developing a Task Force on Arctic sovereignty, and facilitating trade relations between Seattle and Canada’s Arctic.

Conference Program The symposium was chaired by Douglas Nord, President, ACSUS and Director, Center for International Studies, Western Washington University; Nadine Fabbi, Associate Director, Canadian Studies Center, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington; and Heather Nicol, Department of Geography, Trent University. Participants included 20 representatives from the US Department of State, the Congressional Research Service, the US Arctic Research Commission, and scholars from Georgetown University and University of Rhode Island.

“Canada’s Sovereignty in the Arctic: An Inuit Perspective,” by Jean-François Arteau, Legal Counsel and Executive Assistant to the President of the Makivik Corporation, presented by Donat Savoie, Inuit, Arctic and Circumpolar Affairs; and Nadine Fabbi, UW Canadian Studies Center, discussant

“Historical, Political and Legal Dimensions of Canadian Claims to Sovereignty in the North,” Philip Steinberg, Department of Geography, Florida State University; and Heather Nicol, Trent University, discussant

“Canada-U.S. Relations in the Arctic,” Stéphane Roussel, Research Chair on Canadian Foreign Policy and Defense, University of Québec at Montreal; and  Douglas Nord, discussant

“Protecting and Promoting Canadian Arctic Sovereignty and Security,” Rob Huebert, Center for Military and Strategic Studies, University of Calgary; and Joël Plouffe, University of Québec at Montréal, discussant

“The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment Process and the 2005 Inuit Human Rights Petition,” Terry Fenge, Consultant on Aboriginal, Environmental and Circumpolar Affairs, Ottawa; and Udlu Hanson, Senior Policy Advisor Nunavut Tunngavik, discussant

This symposium was funded, in part, by a Conference Grant from the Government of Canada and the Center’s Title VI Grant, International Programs Service, US Department of Education.