The far north of Canada is a part of our heritage and our identity. But it is also undergoing a series of rapid changes. A new strategy for the north is needed to help guide the future of Canada’s Arctic.
Canada’s Norstrat policy reflects the unique interests of Canadians in the North and the Far North, and it is based on the priorities of Indigenous peoples. It is designed to address the significant implications of climate change, and to create a stronger, more sustainable region for all.
Canada has a rich heritage in the Arctic. From the time of the first Inuit hunters, to the arrival of Europeans, the North has been a part of Canadian culture. However, the legacy of colonialism has left deep social rifts. Thankfully, the Government of Canada sees a brighter future in which the people of the Arctic and North are full participants in Canadian society.
Canada’s northern strategy is a bit of a mess, as evidenced by the fact that the federal government only spends a small fraction of its infrastructure funds on the northern region. The northern infrastructure deficit stretches beyond the traditional oil and gas sectors.
It includes a lack of affordable housing, insufficient transportation infrastructure, and an underdeveloped energy sector. Fortunately, Canada is making strides to address these issues through new spending. The federal government will provide a one-time $2.2 billion boost to the infrastructure fund through the Gas Tax Fund. However, it still has a long way to go.
A key aspect of the northern strategy is building the right infrastructure. The federal government has made a number of initiatives, such as a new Inclusive Diversification and Economic Advancement in the North (IDEAN) program and a new Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB). IDEAN is designed to fund wide-ranging infrastructure projects in northern Canada, and the CIC has already hired executives to manage its investments.
Food security is one of the major challenges for Indigenous Peoples in the north. The high cost of nutritious market foods makes it impossible for a large percentage of First Nations households to achieve a healthy diet. This is especially true in remote fly-in communities.
Traditionally, northern Indigenous peoples relied on hunting and fishing to supplement their diet. But with changes in lifestyles, access to food has become a serious issue. In addition to geographic obstacles, climate change and income constraints limit greater access to diverse market foods. In fact, income-related food insecurity is four times higher among First Nations households on-reserve than among off-reserve Indigenous households in Canada.
As Canada hosted an international conference on suicide prevention last week, the country welcomed global experts who emphasized the need for a national suicide prevention strategy. Suicide rates in Canada have been fairly constant since the 1920s, although an upward trend has been observed since the 1980s.
The province of Quebec has been at the forefront of suicide prevention. The Quebec government has made efforts to increase awareness of the problem, and improve suicide prevention training. There is one toll-free phone number that is accessible from anywhere in the province, and a suicide help line.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, suicide mortality has been reported by ICD-10 codes Y87.0 and E950-E959. Researchers were able to accurately capture 83% of all deaths, and the rate is about twice as high in the rural areas of the province as in the urban ones.
The Canadian Arctic faces a host of environmental challenges, including toxic pollution. The region’s health is disproportionately affected by contaminants. Canada’s northern strategy offers an ambitious plan to address the issues. It also includes a focus on Indigenous stewardship of Arctic and northern lands, as well as a commitment to strengthening the region’s institutions.
The Arctic and northern strategy is a bold change in direction for the Government of Canada. It focuses on improving the quality of life for Arctic and northern residents and the environment. It addresses several key issues, including climate change, education, employment, health, and community infrastructure. It also includes chapters on Inuit, Metis, and First Nations.
Housing is a key component to supporting healthy communities. However, there are significant differences between regions and housing requirements. In the North, some of these differences are due to unique foundations, such as the lack of building machinery and materials, as well as lack of municipal services.
While some northern regions have made substantial progress in identifying and addressing the most pressing housing challenges, more federal support is needed. It is also important to emphasize the importance of fostering multi-disciplinary collaboration to ensure effective solutions.
The Government of Canada has taken steps to address this issue. In 2018, it commissioned national roundtables to identify and address regional housing priorities. It has also introduced new funding initiatives to address northern housing conditions.