Canada, which used to be a leader in the Arctic, is now letting it slip away. It seems like the liberals are at it again. And by “at it,” I mean banning things left, right, and centre. First, it was straws, then it was plastic bags and now it’s oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. What’s next? A ban on ice cream trucks?
Let’s talk about what has happened since the liberals came to power and imposed bans on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. It’s no secret that the other seven nations located near the Arctic keep on revising their Arctic strategy owing to its strategic importance. Meanwhile, Canada has been left behind.
The truth is that Canada’s Arctic policy is weak and ineffective. The country has failed to adequately plan for the future, and the Arctic is slipping away from it now.
While countries like Washington and Denmark, among others, are ramping up their game in Canada’s backyard, Canada continues to sulk in the corner. Now, it’s widely understood that the Arctic region is home to abundant natural gas and oil resources and is developing into a key geopolitical battleground. The number of nations seeking to increase their influence in the region is growing. It won’t be long before the region becomes the next geopolitical hotspot, and it won’t be long before Canada’s own allies expand their tentacles there while Canada continues to watch.
Even in a most recent move, the country deliberately missed a chance to gain that lost clout back.
A report by the Eye on the Arctic discusses how Canada was poised to revoke the suspension of oil and gas work in 2023, but what exactly ensued? The government now says the order has been extended.
The Canadian government declared a prohibition on giving new offshore oil and gas licences in Canadian Arctic waters in 2016. The federal government made that decision unilaterally and issued an indefinite moratorium.
In reaction, the then-premier, Bob McLeod, issued a “red alert,” accusing the federal government of being “patronising” and “colonial” and ignoring local government.
The federal government expanded those limitations in 2019, prohibiting any type of oil and gas work in Canadian Arctic waters. The Act states that the restrictions would be lifted on December 31, 2022, but Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) stated in an email that it is committed to extending the 2019 prohibition order for the duration of the 2016 moratorium.
Ottawa and Arctic: The past
An email from a federal spokeswoman later stated that the injunction was extended in mid-December.
Jackie Jacobson, MLA for Nunakput in the Northwest Territories, said he wants the embargo repealed in order to create jobs for his community.
“We need employment,” he said. “Right now people are really suffering in regards to work.”
The residents of the northern territories have been facing a challenge: a considerable loss of work prospects, which has left many struggling to make ends meet.
Jacobson grew up in Tuktoyaktuk and remembers the oil boom of the ’80s. “I seen how people were able to work, make a choice, get what they wanted.”
The last major project that brought work to the region, he said, was the four-year Tuk-Inuvik highway project that ended in 2017.
“Now it’s like, we’re just destitute,” Jacobson said.
“We have to be more proactive in pushing the federal government.”
Apart from ignoring this issue, the federals are also ignoring their losing clout in the region.
You see, Washington has recently revised its Arctic strategy, which calls for a bigger military presence in the far north.
Read More: Canada may lose the Arctics to its own allies in the coming 10 years
Moreover, one of Denmark’s top foreign and security policy priorities is the Arctic. The most recent diplomatic and security policy strategy of the government includes certain noteworthy Arctic elements. Denmark has increased its military budget with a so-called ‘Arctic capacity package’ of approximately US$ 235 million with the aim to enforcing its sovereignty and enhancing surveillance in the Arctic.
Ottawa and Arctic: A sad story
We know Ottawa’s might in the Arctic is waning owing to its fragile strategies. Meanwhile, in Ottawa, defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre still says, if we put it in his words, “We don’t see a clear and present threat to our sovereignty; not today, not this week, not next week, not next year.”
The Arctic is a crucial region for the world economy, and since it is a crucial part of Canada’s identity and culture, it must ensure that it is proactive in its efforts and not left behind.
Canada must step up its game and must invest more in the region. The country must create incentives for businesses to invest in the region. Apart from all this, Canada also needs to ensure that the rights of Indigenous Canadians are respected. Owing to its inactivity, Canada might lose the Arctic forever.
Concerning Russian and foreign threats, it is critical to recognise that the Arctic region is a complex and multifaceted geopolitical context.
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