News Release 11-53
True Northern Security Needs To Help Communities Meet Basic Needs
Ottawa, November 15 —Security in Canada’s North must be expanded beyond the narrow definition of Arctic sovereignty, to include a concept of “community security”, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report from its Centre for the North.
“The current discourse on security in the North, while colourful, is incomplete,” said Gilles Rhéaume, Vice-President, Public Policy. “Northerners tend to see the issue of security through a different lens than other Canadians. For Northern Canadians, the most immediate security concerns are found at the community level, specifically, in the ability of a community to meet the basic needs of its citizens.”
“Northerners worry more about the factors that threaten the sustainability of their communities than about ships that may or may not attempt to navigate the Northwest Passage or the outcome of disputes over continental shelves.”
The report, Security in Canada’s North—Looking Beyond Arctic Sovereignty, puts forward a comprehensive assessment of security, based on three elements:
- Arctic security refers to the protection of Canada’s sovereignty and of its Arctic territory, people, and environment from remote threats and undesired
influences. Climate change effects are increasing the interest in the region among Arctic and non-Arctic countries alike. Given the diversity of opinion among major economic and military powers, it is in Canada’s interest to promote the current international legal means of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is also in Canada’s interest to pursue binding and coordinated Arctic shipping regulations; cooperate with other Arctic countries to improve enforcement of shipping and environmental regulations; and use diplomacy to assert its Arctic interests. Canada should also fulfill its promise of greater cooperation it made to indigenous peoples in the Arctic and across the North.
- Northern security extends well beyond issues related to Canadian sovereignty. It includes protection and resilience of people, infrastructure and the environment against a wide range of threats—including natural hazards, climate change, industrial accidents, organized crime, terrorism and infectious disease outbreaks. Although economic activity in the region is increasing, there remains a lack of knowledge about the threats and vulnerabilities within the greater North.
- Community security is the least understood of these concepts, but it is most relevant to Northerners. In the North, the community – rather than the individual, state or nation – is the primary unit of security. Community security focuses on addressing inhabitants’ basic needs (including food, water, shelter, education, health, community governance and public safety), and developing the resiliency to respond to threats.
“The concept of community security is not yet well entrenched or defined,” said Rhéaume. “We hope that our research serves as a catalyst for a broader and more North-centric conversation about security and safety.”
This publication is the first of three foundational reports from the Centre for the North. The two other foundational research projects are Thriving Communities and Mapping Economic Potential.
The Centre for the North is a Conference Board of Canada program of research and dialogue. Its main purpose is to work with Aboriginal leaders, businesses, governments, communities, educational institutions, and other organizations to provide insights into how sustainable prosperity can be achieved in the North. Over its five-year mandate, the Centre for the North will help to establish and implement strategies, policies and practices to transform that vision into reality.
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