Canada and the Arctic Council
The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum that works to promote the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable development in the Arctic region. The Council has successfully developed a common agenda among Arctic states and Indigenous Permanent Participants. Decisions are taken based on the consensus of members. The Council serves as a foundation for strong, responsible and cooperative governance of the region.
The Arctic Council comprises the eight Arctic States: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States.
A unique feature of the Arctic Council is the involvement of six international Indigenous peoples’ organizations as Permanent Participants:
- Aleut International Association (AIA)
- Arctic Athabaskan Council (AAC)
- Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC)
- Gwich’in Council International (GCI)
- Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON)
- Saami Council
Our history with the Arctic Council
The Arctic Council is the leading multilateral forum through which Canada advances its Arctic foreign policy and promotes Canadian Arctic interests internationally. It was established in Ottawa in 1996 with the Ottawa Declaration. Canada was the first Chair of the Arctic Council from 1996 to 1998, and again from 2013-2015. The Chair of the Council rotates among the member countries every two years.
A Canadian Senior Arctic Official leads Canadian participation in the Arctic Council.
Through the Canadian International Arctic Fund we provide funding to the Canadian Permanent Participants so that they may participate in Arctic Council activities.
The work of the Arctic Council is supervised and directed by ministers of the Arctic member states, who are supported by the Senior Arctic Officials.
Canada actively participates in the work of the Arctic Council. This work is carried out in six expert working groups:
- Arctic Contaminants Action Program Working Group (ACAP): provides information on remedial and preventive actions relating to contaminants (Environment and Climate Change Canada);
- Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme Working Group (AMAP): focuses on monitoring, assessing and preventing pollution in the Arctic (Environment and Climate Change Canada);
- Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna Working Group (CAFF): focuses on biodiversity conservation and sustainability (Environment and Climate Change Canada);
- Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Working Group (EPPR): focuses on prevention, preparedness and response to environmental emergencies (Transport Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans);
- Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group (PAME): focuses on policy and pollution prevention and control measures related to the protection of the Arctic marine environment (Transport Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans).
- Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG): focuses on the living conditions of Arctic residents (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada).
Canada is also represented on Task Forces – areas of work set out by the Arctic Council Chairmanship. These Task Forces include:
- Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation (TFAMC): Working to consider the future needs for strengthened cooperation on Arctic marine areas, as well as mechanisms to meet these needs, and to make recommendations on the nature and scope of any such mechanisms.
- Task Force on Telecommunications Infrastructure in the Arctic (TFTIA): Co-chaired by Norway and the Kingdom of Denmark, this Task Force sets out to “…develop a circumpolar infrastructure assessment as a first step in exploring ways to improve telecommunications in the Arctic”.
- Scientific Cooperation Task Force (SCTF): Co-chaired by Russia, Sweden and the United States, this Task Force is working towards an arrangement on improved scientific research cooperation among the eight Arctic States.
The United States is currently seated as the Chair of the Arctic Council. The next Ministerial meeting is set to take place in Fairbanks, Alaska, on May 11, 2017.
Finland will assume the Arctic Council Chairmanship from the United States at the Ministerial meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska in May.
The Senior Arctic Officials meet on a quarterly basis to discuss ongoing work of the Council and to follow up on the priorities set by the presiding state’s Chair.
The work of the Council is also completed in ad hoc task forces that are established to deal with specific issues. For example, the Task Force on Arctic Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response (2011-2013), led to a legally-binding Agreement on Arctic Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response by Arctic states. It was signed by Arctic state ministers in May 2013.
Similarly, the Task Force on Search and Rescue (2009-2011) led to the legally-binding agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic. It was signed by Arctic state ministers in May 2011.
Other completed task forces include:
- Task Force on Arctic Marine Oil Pollution Prevention
- Task Force on Black Carbon and Methane
- Task Force to Facilitate the Circumpolar Business Forum
- Date Modified: