Canada and the Arctic region

The North is two-fifths of Canada's land mass and two-thirds of its coastline, constituting an area of 3.5 million square kilometers. 111 700 Canadians live in Canada’s North.
In 2009 the Government of Canada launched the Northern Strategy, followed by the Statement on Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy in 2010  in order to respond to the opportunities and challenges for the Arctic region. Canada is taking action to advance its interests both domestically and internationally and to help unlock the North’s true potential: exercising sovereignty; promoting economic and social development; protecting our environmental heritage; and improving and devolving Northern governance.

The Arctic Council continues to be the leading multilateral forum through which Canada advances its Arctic foreign policy and promotes Canadian Arctic interests internationally. In 2013, Canada will again take over the Chair of the Arctic Council - 16 years after its first Chair in 1996-98.

Canada will continue to encourage a greater understanding of the human dimension of the Arctic to improve the lives of Northerners. Canada recognizes and values the important role Northern governments, Arctic Indigenous organizations at the Arctic Council (Permanent Participants) and other Northerners have played, and will continue to play, in shaping Canada’s international actions.

Canada will engage with northern governments and Permanent Participants to ensure that the Arctic Council continues to respond to the region’s challenges and opportunities, thus furthering our national interests. Canada is committed to working with other Arctic States to strengthen the Arctic Council to ensure that it is equipped to address tomorrow’s challenges. 

The working groups

Canada is taking a leadership role or contributing in a significant way to much of the work underway in the Working Groups and Task Forces of the Arctic Council.

Canada co-chairs the Recommended Best Practices in the Prevention of Oil Spills in the Marine Environment” Project under the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR) Working Group . This new project was mandated under the Nuuk Declaration, which was signed by Council Ministers in May 2011.

Canada is the depositary for the Agreement on Cooperation in Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic, signed at the Ministerial Meeting in Nuuk, 12 May 2011.  The Agreement is the first legally binding instrument negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council.

Canada is the Chair of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme Working Group (AMAP). As chair, Canada has led and made significant contributions to recent Arctic Council scientific assessments including to the 2011 Mercury in the Arctic Assessment and the 2011 assessment of Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic.

The Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) was established at the Iqaluit Ministerial Meeting in 1998, and Canada hosts the SDWG Secretariat. Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy encourages a greater understanding of the human dimension of the Arctic. Canada is a co-lead on the Arctic Human Development Report II with Iceland and Denmark, and the lead country on the Assessing, Monitoring, and Promoting Arctic Indigenous Languages project currently underway.

Canada leads the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP) of the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group (CAFF) - an international network of scientists, government agencies, Indigenous organizations and conservation groups working together to harmonize and integrate efforts to monitor the Arctic's living resources. The CBMP office is currently located in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Canada has taken a leadership role in a number of Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group(PAME) projects and initiatives such as the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report and the currentArctic Ocean Review Project.

Canada is leading work as part of the Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) Expert Group on EBM principles, as well as co-leading the EBM work on lessons learned and gaps.

Indigenous peoples

A unique feature of the Arctic Council is the involvement of six international Indigenous peoples organizations as Permanent Participants. Three of these cross-border organizations represent Canadian indigenous peoples:

The Arctic Council has successfully developed a common agenda among Arctic states and Indigenous Permanent Participants, which serves as a foundation for strong and responsible governance of the region.

Canada engages with Northerners on Canada’s Arctic foreign policy. Through the Canadian Arctic Council Advisory Committee, Northern governments and Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations in Canada have the opportunity to actively participate in shaping Canadian policy on Arctic issues.

The Government of Canada supports Indigenous Permanent Participant organizations in Canada, including financially, to contribute to strengthening their capacity to fully participate in the activities of the Arctic Council. Furthermore, Canada encourages other Arctic Council states to support the participation of their Permanent Participant organizations. Canada also supports the continued unique status of Permanent Participant organizations at the Arctic Council, which was created to provide for their active participation and full consultation. As interest by non-Arctic players in the work of the Council grows, Canada will work to ensure that the central role of the Permanent Participants is not diminished or diluted.

Climate and environmental research

Canada is a leader in Arctic science and research and was a major contributor to the International Polar Year (IPY). The IPY Montreal 2012 Conference: From Knowledge to Action demonstrates the importance that Canada places on research as a basis for sound decision-making in Arctic affairs. For a view of Canadian Northern Research Facilities, please click on the interactive map found on the Canadian Polar Commissionwebsite.

The Government of Canada has announced the development of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. CHARS will be a top-notch international facility devoted to polar research.

Canadian researchers have made an important contribution to the scientific assessments undertaken as part of the Arctic Council.


Territorial Governments:

Northwest Territories



Federal Government:

Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada

Natural Resources Canada

Environment Canada

Industry Canada

Fisheries and Oceans

Heritage Canada

Health Canada

Transport Canada

Canada Ice Service

Canadian Forces

Junior Canadian Rangers

Canadian Coast Guard

Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade


Link to Canada’s Northern Strategy

Link to Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy


Senior Arctic Official

Alison LeClaire


Director General and Senior Arctic Official

125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Canada K1A 0G2


Contact for press inquiries
Media Relations Office of Canada

+ 1 613 995 1874