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JSIS 495 H – Nadine Fabbi & Michelle Koutnik: The Right to Sea Ice: Canadian Arctic Policy and Inuit Knowledge

Task Force 2020

Task Force 2020 Ottawa group


Whit Fraser

Journalist, Arctic Regions

Faculty Adviser

Nadine Fabbi

Co-Lead, Arctic and International Relations Initiative, Managing Director Canadian Studies, Henry M . Jackson School of International Studies

Glaciologist and research assistant professor Michelle Koutnik

Michelle Koutnik

Co-Lead, Arctic and International Relations Initiative, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Earth and Sciences

Task Force

  • Johnna Bollesen
  • Kimiko (Susan) Boswell
  • Hsin Yi (Winnie) Chen
  • Caitlin Clarke
  • Gabrielle Coeuille
  • Claire Cowan
  • Bonnie Greer
  • Kendrick Lu
  • Nadene Paltep

As Inuit, our relationship with the environment is steeped with meaning. It shapes our identity, values and worldview … 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 

Where I live, the sea ice never stops. It is a living thing.
– Jayko Oweetaluktuk, Nunavik

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 that will be presented to expert evaluator, Lisa Koperqualuk, Vice President, International Affairs, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Canada.


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