Transnational Task Force on the Arctic

2020 Arctic Task Force

Winter Quarter 2020 Transnational Task Force                        JSIS 495H: Arctic Sea Ice and International Policy

(5 cr,Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30-4:20 p.m., Fisheries Building, Room 109)

As Inuit, our relationship with the environment is steeped with meaning. It shapes our identity, values and world view … Keeping our homeland cold is critical to us as a people. The international community understands now, more than ever, just how key keeping Inuit Nunangat cold is to avoiding irreversible changes to the Earth’s entire climate system.-Natan Obed, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami[1]

Where I live, the sea ice never stops. It is a living thing.-Jayko Oweetaluktuk, Nunavik[2]

Ice is critical to life. Ice is the largest storehouse for freshwater on earth. But, the Arctic is warming at nearly twice the global average and we are losing ice at an alarming rate. Ice sheets are losing mass, glaciers are retreating, permafrost is melting, and sea ice is thinning and is less extensive. To date, there is no international policy for sea ice. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (defining the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to use of the oceans) dedicates one article (Article 234) to the protection of “ice-covered areas” and this is open to interpretation. How might we think about the development of policies to protect ice? In this course we will look at the impact of climate change on Arctic sea ice and engage in a simulated exercise to draft an Arctic sea ice policy for Canada, where sea ice plays a role in how we understand the Northwest Passage and is an integral part of Inuit life and culture. In this course students will be introduced to how ice is understood in Western science and culture and the role of ice in the lives of Inuit. Students will also be encouraged to think creatively—to think about ice as alive, as having memory, as constituting territory, and as a human right—and to explore ice through science, culture, history, law, and art. The class will travel to Ottawa the last week of January to visit with scientists, scholars, representatives from the Inuit organizations, and federal government departments. The Task Force will create policy recommendations on challenging issues related to Arctic sea ice and international policy.

[1] Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, National Inuit Climate Change Strategy (Ottawa, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, 2019), 2.

[2] Inuit Circumpolar Council, Canada, The Sea Ice Never Stops: Circumpolar Inuit Reflections on Sea Ice Use and Shipping in Inuit Nunaat (Ottawa, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Canada, 2014), i.

Task Force Documents: 

Ottawa Program
Task Force Report
Task Force Photo Album

Expert Evaluator:

Whit Fraser’s entire working life has been associated with Canada’s Arctic: as a CBC broadcaster, chairman of the Canadian Polar Commission, executive director with the National Inuit organization, and more recently as author of True North Rising.

His combined experience, beginning in 1967, allowed him to travel to every community across Canada’s three Northern Territories, as well as throughout Northern Quebec, Labrador, Alaska and Greenland. He lived in Iqaluit and Yellowknife from 1967 to 78 when he joined CBC National News and in Kuujjuaq Northern Quebec from 2008—2015. Read more here

Task Force Instructors:

Nadine Fabbi

Nadine C. Fabbi is Managing Director of the Canadian Studies Center and Arctic and International Relations in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington; and Lead for the Arctic International Policy Institute Arctic Fellows initiative in the Jackson School. Her doctorate is in Educational Leadership and Policy in the Faculty of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests include how we understand the Arctic as a unique region in the field of area studies and international studies and what this means in higher education; how Arctic Indigenous internationalism is influencing international relations and regimes such as the Arctic Council; and how policy and spatial activism in Arctic foreign and domestic policies are reshaping how we think about international relations and social justice. Read more here

Michelle Koutnik is a glaciologist whose research interests include the dynamics of glacier change, the evolution of glaciers and ice sheets over time, and the history of climate and ice on Mars. As part of the UW Department of Earth and Space Sciences’ glaciology group, Michelle explores the how glaciers and ice sheets evolve in response to climate change. She has collected data at multiple field locations, including Greenland and Antarctica, and uses that data to better understand and model the processes that affect ice flow. Previously, Michelle was a research associate and graduate research assistant at the UW and a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Copenhagen. Read more here

Professional Editor and Writing Consultant:

Joanne Muzak is an experienced editor, writing consultant, and project manager. Based in Montreal, Canada, Joanne works with diverse clients from around the world on all kinds of writing projects, at every stage in the process. Recent clients include Arctic and Inuit researchers, Indigenous artists and activists, Canadian academic presses, a Norwegian anthropologist, a Russian memoirist, and local non-profit organizations. She has worked with Dr. Nadine Fabbi, and her colleagues and students at the University of Washington, on the Arctic and International Relations Series since its launch in 2015. In June 2018, she joined Dr. Fabbi, Executive Director of the Aleut International Association Liza Mack, and members of the Korea Maritime Institute in Unalaska, Aleutian Islands, for a workshop that explored the Unangan people’s role in this remote but globally significant region. Joanne holds a PhD in  English and Cultural Studies from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She was Canada’s first postdoctoral fellowship in community service-learning, also at the University of Alberta, where she designed and taught interdisciplinary, experiential university courses. Read more here

Graduate Assistants:

Elizabeth Wessells
I am a second-year PhD student in the archaeology program in the Department of Anthropology here at UW. My main interests are decolonizing methodologies in museums, collaborative research projects driven by communities, and Indigenous systems of knowledge guiding policy decisions. The assertion of Inuit sovereignty in Canada over the past few decades has transformed the character of archaeological research and resource management in the Arctic. My own research focuses on national parks and collaborative resource management between Inuit and federal governments. This work is inspired by my professional experience with the U.S. National Park Service, and I hope to bring the insights of my research back to National Park Service decision makers after completing my graduate studies.

Ellen Ahlness
I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science. My research looks at Indigenous–state relations and Arctic environmental politics. My current work looks at the use of sovereignty rhetoric among Indigenous nations in the Arctic CouncilThe Arctic region is undergoing tremendous changes. To understand the consequences of these changes on states and Indigenous peoples, it is important for scholars to familiarize themselves with its key players. My background in Scandinavian studies and international relations has led to my current connection with the Canadian Studies Center to develop a strong and comprehensive foundation for understanding circumpolar events, as well as North American and Indigenous interests in the Arctic.

Task Force Students:

Johnna Bollesen: Task Force Report Editor
Climate change has had a devastating impact on the Arctic region and its diverse wildlife population. Caribou have been forced to migrate to new locations in search of food, shrinking sea ice has stolen the source of refuge for narwhals and Beluga whales, and polar bears have lost a vast majority of their hunting grounds. I am excited to engage in meaningful discussions with the Inuit community in order to promote new legislation that will better protect the Arctic region and its animal kingdom.

Kimiko Boswell: Dinner Speaker
With a background in ethnic identities, information technology, and risk management, I am interested in how nation-states involve different indigenous and ethnic groups in policies which affect them. Additionally, I am interested in how governments can partner with its citizens to mitigate risks posed to communities by climate change.



Winnie Chen: Ottawa Photographer/Videographer
Opening up the Arctic is challenging and there are several aspects we should consider. I am interested in the various opportunities that will brought by opening up the Arctic. As there are abundant resources in the region, I choose to focus on mining and would like to research into the impacts the industry has brought to the Arctic.


Caitlin Clarke: Ottawa Editor
I have always been passionate about the intersection of climate change and human rights. This interest paired with my connection to Canada through my Mother’s side of the family sparked my interest in the growing challenges of melting sea ice in the Canadian Arctic region. I look forward to learning more about this issue as well as engaging with Indigenous councils to find the best ways to mitigate the environmental and human rights impact of melting sea ice in the Arctic region.


Gabrielle Coeuille: Task Force Report Coordinator
I have always felt a strong emotional connection to snow. As I’ve grown to focus my educational interests in international waste management and environmental policy, the arctic has shown itself to be incredibly relevant and important to me. I have a strong desire to protect its beauty for future generations.



Claire Cowan: Task Force Report Editor
Climate change is one of the biggest concerns on a global scale today. In working with Inuit populations and researching arctic sea ice, I look forward to learning about how melting will significantly impact northern lifestyles and how this information can be used to develop global policies regarding the climate.



Bonnie Greer: Ottawa Photographer/Videographer
I wanted to do this program because I plan on going into climate change activism after graduation. One of my main goals within working on this topic is that I want to ensure indigenous voices are heard and valued within the Climate change movement. The Arctic is an important player within international Climate Change Policy and I am very excited to work on this program to ensure the voices of the Inuit tribe are represented. 


Kendrick Lu: Task Force Report Coordinator
Human rights and environmental justice are inextricably intertwined, and the relationship between Inuit and sea ice clearly demonstrates that.  Indigenous groups are most often the ones who have the best understanding of this crucial relationship, yet are not consulted or involved when the time comes. I believe that Indigenous groups offer a valuable but neglected perspective on issues of human rights and environmental justice, and need to have the tools to share that perspective.

Nadene Paltep: Ottawa Editor
As an international studies major, I have an interest in human rights law and advocacy. With climate change and sea level rise becoming a major threat in the region, I believe that it is important to discuss and settle sovereignty rights between Indigenous communities and Canada.  With this study abroad and opportunity to conduct a research proposal, I hope to widen my knowledge on Indigenous rights, specifically Inuit rights that pertain to land claims agreement, and I hope to use this knowledge to find ways to improve Inuit quality of life in the Arctic region.