Printer icon Print Page

Centre for the North Blog

Finding the “Win-Win” in Major Project Agreements

  • Christopher Duschenes
| Mar 08, 2017
Christopher Duschenes
Northern and Aboriginal Policy,
Centre for the North

Lessons From Indigenous Groups and Industry Proponents

Over the past 30 years, major project agreements (MPAs) between Indigenous communities and natural resources companies have become the cornerstone of successful development projects in Canada. It is increasingly clear that without MPAs, the likelihood of major projects proceeding is significantly reduced and that partnerships between Indigenous communities and industry are now the norm, not the exception. Corporate and Indigenous community leaders emphasize the need of having MPAs to build trust, improve certainty, and establish joint economic development opportunities. MPAs can now be found from coast to coast to coast across the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples. In the mining sector alone, more than 400 agreements have been concluded between Indigenous groups and project proponents since 1995.

Given the growing importance of MPAs, The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for the North (CFN) initiated research to gain a better understanding of the context and elements that form the basis of successful agreements. On March 6, 2017, our report on this issue was released, and it can be downloaded free of charge.

The report documents critical success factors, common obstacles, and challenges that Indigenous groups and proponents need to be mindful of at different phases of major project agreement-making—from early-stage negotiations to long-term implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. For Indigenous groups, the report provides insight into how to navigate potential and expected developments. It also suggests ways that Indigenous governments and businesses can work together to leverage the opportunities presented by major projects, transforming time-limited financial benefits from exhaustible resource development into long-term legacies for their communities.

For industry proponents, the report demonstrates how a corporate focus on building and maintaining healthy relationships with Indigenous groups will enhance the likelihood that the major project will reach the operational stage. Through successful negotiation and implementation of an MPA’s terms and conditions, proponents can establish and maintain the social licence required to effectively develop their project.

The balance of power around natural resource development is shifting and Indigenous communities are increasingly becoming key players in major economic development projects across Canada. An equitable sharing of the natural resources wealth of the country is a meaningful and significant element of reconciliation. Encouraging this trend is a “win-win” for everyone.

Please distribute the report widely, and we encourage you to provide us with your feed-back. All Centre for the North reports are available free of charge.

Learn about becoming a member of the Centre for the North.

Related Webinar

Major Project Agreements and Indigenous Communities: Finding the Win-Win
The Conference Board of Canada, February 28, 2017

Fostering Reconciliation: Investing in Indigenous-Centred Early Childhood Education

  • Kiran Alwani
  • Kala Pendakur
| Sep 07, 2016
Kala Pendakur Kala Pendakur
Research Associate
Northern and Aboriginal Policy
Kiran Alwani Kiran Alwani
Student Intern
Northern and Aboriginal Policy

During The Tragically Hip’s final concert in Kingston last month, lead singer Gord Downie took a moment to reflect on the situation facing many Indigenous peoples in Canada. He emphasized the need to capitalize on the current momentum to take action. During his powerful callout to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Canadian population at large, Downie pointed to our collective lack of knowledge of issues facing the North and Indigenous people. He spoke of the urgent need for change—and there is clear evidence to support this.

Many First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals and communities across the country face significant social, financial, and institutional challenges that have kept them from achieving their potential. As of 2010, roughly two-in-five Indigenous children in Canada were living below the poverty line, and the Indigenous population at large is over-represented in government care.1 Indigenous communities, in particular, face severe structural barriers related to education that have led, in part, to their people routinely having lower scores in numeracy and literacy and being more likely than non-Aboriginals to repeat primary school, drop out of school at an early age, and be unemployed. This has led to a cycle of intergenerational poverty and inequality.

Beyond the simple fact that the conditions that many Indigenous children face are unacceptable, there is a real economic disadvantage in not investing in Indigenous kids. The Indigenous population has been growing at about three times the rate of the non-Aboriginal population. It is expected that about 300,000 Indigenous young people will enter the Canadian labour force from 2007 to 2022, and it is in all our interests to create the conditions that foster their full participation in the Canadian economy.2 Employing Indigenous people at a rate equivalent to the non-Aboriginal population alone would boost the economy of Saskatchewan by an estimated $1.8 billion by 2035.3 In the face of an aging overall population in Canada, the economic growth that we are calling for may depend on our ability to more strongly engage Indigenous people, particularly the next generation.

While there is no silver bullet, experts have noted repeatedly that high-quality, Indigenous-centred early childhood education helps young Indigenous children develop a sense of belonging and well-being, and provides them with the foundation to cope with the challenging conditions they often face. A strong and relevant foundation allows them to thrive socially, emotionally, and academically. National Aboriginal organizations, such as the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Assembly of First Nations, as well as the territorial governments, have provided recommendations to create early childhood development programming that starts from an Aboriginal context and perspective. The recurring themes among their recommendations include the creation of a model that is child-centred, family-focused, and community-driven.

Despite the recognized value of programs built along these lines, evidence shows that there has been insufficient investment in Indigenous early childhood education programming. As recently as 2009, it was estimated that fewer than one-in-five Indigenous children had access to any sort of early childhood education programs.4 Given the lack of universal access, The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for the North, guided by Indigenous, government, and private-sector leaders, will be undertaking an analysis of available early childhood education services in remote regions, their longer-term impact on Indigenous children, and possible solutions for improving program accessibility.

Indigenous groups across the country have commended Downie for lending his powerful voice to this issue and for putting a spotlight on what is one of the most difficult public policy challenges in Canada. The weight of evidence would suggest that they are correct—there is a clear need for action that will benefit everyone. What better way could there be to promote reconciliation than by providing the resources and opportunities for Indigenous youth to grow and learn in an environment that celebrates their cultures, languages, and traditions while preparing them to realize their potential within Canadian society and the economy? How governments direct their attention and resources to these issues in the coming years will have a significant impact on the future of Canada—not just for Indigenous people, but for all Canadians.

Related Webinar

Supporting Indigenous Students: Improving PSE Completion Rates for At Risk Youth
The Conference Board of Canada, September 15, 2016 at 02:00 PM EDT


1    D. Macdonald and D. Wilson, Shameful Neglect: Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2016) 11.

2    Parliament of Canada—House of Commons, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development: No Higher Priority: Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education in Canada (February 2007) 39th Parliament, 1st Session (Ottawa: Government of Canada, 2007) 5.

3    J. Brichta and M. Parkouda, Realizing the Potential: Priority Investments in Saskatchewan’s First Nations and Métis People (Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2013) ii.

4    J. Ball, Improving the Reach of Early Childhood Education for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Children (Toronto: Moving Childcare Forward Project, 2014) 13.

No More “Jurisdictional Wasteland” for Métis and Non-Status Indians

  • Kala Pendakur
| May 18, 2016
Kala Pendakur Kala Pendakur
Research Associate
Northern and Aboriginal Policy

Canada is moving through some significant changes in its relationship with Aboriginal people. And as we approach Aboriginal Awareness Week (May 24 to 27), we wanted to take a moment to place a spotlight on two recent and important decisions.

First, last month, in a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the term “Indians” includes non-status Indians and Métis. This came in response to the Daniels v. Canada case, launched in 1999, which sought three declarations1:

  • that Métis and non-status Indians are “Indians” under S.91(24) of the Constitution Act;
  • that the federal Crown owes a fiduciary duty to Métis and non-status Indians;
  • that Métis and non-status Indians have the right to be consulted and negotiated with, in good faith, by the federal government on a collective basis through representatives of their choice, respecting all their rights, interests, and needs as Aboriginal peoples.2

Previously, Métis and non-status Indians were stuck in a “jurisdictional wasteland” between the federal and provincial governments. This decision has now extended the federal government’s responsibilities to include approximately 600,000 Métis and non-status Indians in Canada.3 The possible impacts of this decision will need to be studied further; but, as a starting point, it may serve as an opening for Métis and non-status individuals and groups to pursue land claims and seek access to additional government programs and services.4 Moreover, while the case does not impact who in Canada has “status” as a registered Indian, Claire Truesdale of JFK Law Corporation did note that it could be useful in future court cases “as Canada can no longer deny that it also has responsibility for Métis and non-status Indians and may be asked to justify why those groups are excluded from the benefits of status.”5

Notably, Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella stated that, as we look further into Canada’s history with Indigenous peoples, inequities are being increasingly revealed, but that “this case represents another chapter in the pursuit of reconciliation and redress in that relationship.”6

The second major decision involves the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was adopted by the UN in 2007. Now, nearly 10 years later, Canada has officially decided to adopt the Declaration. Twenty-five years in the making, the declaration is an important instrument that asserts the collective rights of Indigenous peoples around the globe. Moreover, Canada’s Indigenous Affairs Minister, Carolyn Bennett, noted during her statement to the UN on May 10 that adoption is an important step toward reconciliation.7

UNDRIP, as it stands, is not a legally binding document, and how Canada works to implement it—as either an aspirational or a legal document—could have significant impacts on Canadian law.8 For instance, before UNDRIP was officially adopted, lawyers across Canada debated what the principle of “free, prior, and informed consent” (FPIC) would really mean. The principle, which refers to the rights of Indigenous peoples to provide or withhold their consent in decision-making processes that affect them and their lands—including in such areas as education, natural resource management, economic development, and health care—is mentioned in six articles of UNDRIP. The legal implications associated with the word “consent” in FPIC could have significant implications, as illustrated by statements from experts.9 Others pointed out that the current government has the opportunity to make it clear that FPIC can be integrated in our domestic laws in a fashion that works with our federal framework and constitution.10

These two decisions will have a significant impact on the future of Canada and its relationships with Aboriginal people from coast to coast to coast. How UNDRIP and the Daniels case will affect policy for industry and government is still to be seen. However, moving forward, all parties will need to pay close attention and take thoughtful and prudent approaches. Perhaps even more importantly, open dialogues among all parties (e.g., Indigenous individuals, government, industry) will be vital to ensuring progress.

If you would like to learn more about the possible implications of UNDRIP in Canada, watch our webinar “Understanding the Implications of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” presented by Tom Isaac, a nationally recognized authority in the area of Aboriginal law.


1     Daniels v. Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 2016 SCC 12 (Supreme Court of Canada, May 10, 2016). (accessed May 11, 2016).

2     The court declined to grant the second and third declarations, arguing that they would be restating existing laws.

3     Tim Fontaine, “Unanimous Ruling Says Ottawa Has Jurisdiction Over All Indigenous People.” CBC News, April 14, 2016.

4     Ibid.

5     Claire Truesdale, Supreme Court of Canada Releases Daniels Decision. April 14, 2016. (accessed May 12, 2016).

6     Daniels v. Canada.

7     Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Canada Becomes a Full Supporter of the United Nations Declation on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, news release, May 10, 2016. (accessed May 11, 2016).

8     Mackenzie Scrimshaw, “Unpacking UNDRIP: How Trudeau Could Take Crown/First Nations Law Into Uncharted Waters,” iPolitics, January 12, 2016. (accessed May 12, 2016).

9     Ibid.

10     Ibid.

Shipping in a Changing Northern Climate: Where Do We Go From Here?

  • Kala Pendakur
| Jan 27, 2016
Kala Pendakur Kala Pendakur
Research Associate
Northern and Aboriginal Policy

The very climatic changes that are opening up Northern waters to exploration and shipping are the same changes that are making these activities more difficult.

Marine transportation plays a critical role in the quality of life of Canada’s Northern residents. Due to the vast distances between communities, as well as their isolation from Southern Canada, the ability to transport goods via waterways to Northerners has a direct impact on the cost of living, food security, community resilience, economic growth, safety and security, and on their ability to fully participate in the economy. Moreover, numerous economic activities and opportunities, including oil and gas exploration and development, mining, tourism, and fisheries, all rely to some degree on shipping.

However, while marine shipping is more cost-effective than air shipping, it is often hampered by a lack of port infrastructure and difficult navigation conditions. And sea and ice conditions are only getting more challenging as operators face the new realities of climate change.

The eyes of the world are on climate change. Just this past year, COP21 in Paris brought world leaders together to discuss the current and future impacts of a changing climate. As temperatures continue to warm and water conditions continue to change, a fundamental question must be asked: What is the role of individuals, organizations, and policy-makers in helping marine operators ensure efficient and safe shipping in the North?

Answering this question begins with a better understanding of the climatic changes that are occurring and their impacts on marine transportation.

A quick analysis points to several important climatic impacts. Warming temperatures have caused permafrost1 degradation, which in turn has impacted coastal infrastructure and facilities. Sea-level falls have caused navigation issues due to reduced depth under a ship’s keel, while sea-level rises have contributed to more wave action, coastal erosion, and an increase in ice movements. Out on the water, changing ice conditions combined with high winds have led to ice bunching into choke points. These are just some of the changes that operators have to deal with.

Moving forward, adaptations to vessels and marine infrastructure, as well as policy adaptations, will be key.

Companies are well aware of the dangers of shipping in the Arctic, and several organizations have carried out winter-operation risk assessments and ship-specific winterization procedures to mitigate risks. In many cases, damage to vessels can be prevented by careful route planning and operational prudence. Beyond planning, operators may have to make more active changes, such as reinforcing their ships to withstand heavy ice.

Adaptations to marine facilities will depend greatly on the unique local water conditions that communities are facing. For instance, in areas with high water levels and incidence of storm surge, or areas with high coastal erosion, it may be necessary to construct sea defence structures to limit damage. In contrast, areas with falling water levels may need to dredge harbours. This is costly; dredging operations require substantial financial resources that communities and governments may not have. An estimate of the cost to dredge a channel for Tuktoyaktuk that would allow cargo service directly via ocean vessels would exceed $100 million.2

Successful marine navigation will depend on a wide range of efforts, including a coordinated approach by federal government departments. To aid safe marine transportation, governments would need to offer services such as producing navigational charts, deploying and maintaining navigational aids, providing weather and ice information, providing ice breaking services, and surveillance and monitoring of marine traffic.

Beyond federal government support, support from organizations such as the Arctic Council, which in 2009 released the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, will be useful moving forward.3

Northerners are well aware of the climate changes that are occurring in the North, and adaptation initiatives and research at the community level will be important in addressing these changes. The adaptation practices mentioned above are by no means comprehensive. The myriad of climatic changes occurring in the North will require numerous multi-faceted adaptation practices that are researched and implemented by various organizations.

We still have a lot of work to do to better understand the challenges and opportunities occurring in Northern waters. Moving forward, government can aid marine transporters by ensuring that Canadian waters are charted accurately, ice breaking services are available, and navigation aids (such as beacons) are in place as required. A robust transportation system and strategy in the North is an economic necessity. And while challenges associated with a changing climate are inconvenient, they are not insurmountable.

We touch on some of the economic opportunities and challenges that exist in Northern waters in our report Changing Tides: Economic Development in Canada’s Northern Marine Waters, and will be discussing this topic at the upcoming 2016 Northern Lights Conference.


1    Permafrost is characterized as ground that stays below 0°C for a minimum of two consecutive years.

2    Det’on Cho Stantec. Change and Challenge: Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the GNWT Department of Transportation (Yellowknife: Det’on Cho Stantec, 2013).

3    Arctic Council. Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report (Tromsø, Norway: Arctic Council, 2009).

Put Northerners' Interests at Forefront of Northern Development

  • Adam Fiser
  • Brent Dowdall
| Jun 17, 2015
Adam Fiser
Adam Fiser
Senior Research Associate
Northern and Aboriginal Policy
Brent DowDall

Senior Writer
Forecasting and Analysis Division

Many of Canada’s pressing socio-economic, political, and environmental challenges are at their most intense in the North. Blessed with natural resource endowments, the North has lots of potential for economic growth. But this does not mean that natural resource development automatically leads to sustainable Northern community development. How we prepare and plan for growth in the North will largely determine how that growth benefits Northerners for generations to come.

This reality presents one fundamental question: How can all partners in Northern development successfully plan for economic growth in a way that is sustainable and beneficial to the peoples of the North—today and in the future?

Initiating and sustaining a broad-based response to that question has been a mission of The Conference Board of Canada since 2009. The recently-published compendium report of the Centre for the North, Building a Resilient and Prosperous North, affirms that the challenges to overcome are complex and interrelated, but they are not insurmountable.

Meeting these challenges requires, broadly, an acceptance of the unique realities of the North. Not only are Northern and Southern Canada vastly different, but the provincial and territorial Northern regions themselves vary in terms of geography and climate, demographics and culture, economic resources and business potential, and governance structures and public services, to name just a few.

Like all Canadians, Northerners value a secure Canadian Arctic. But the security dimensions that matter to Northerners have less to do with issues of national sovereignty and more to do with the challenges their communities face to meet basic needs, and anticipate and adapt to adversity—be it economic, social, political, or environmental. This concern forms the backbone of strategies to create a more resilient North. Such strategies will also do much to advance Canada's Arctic sovereignty by strengthening the communities that occupy its frontier.

The Conference Board of Canada's economic forecasts show that the mining and resource development outlook in many Northern regions remains promising, if unpredictable. Several mines have opened in recent years across the territories and in the Northern regions of several provinces. Over the next five years, additional mines are expected to boost mining output sharply. At the same time, other Northern regions are struggling to respond to the closure of mines that formed the economic backbone of their communities. Without a diversified economic base and options to remobilize, many workers and businesses in these communities will be forced to leave.

Reaping the benefits of Northern economic development opportunities requires foresight and planning. They also cannot be fully realized without placing the interests of Northerners and Aboriginal peoples at the forefront. A majority of Northerners welcome resource development projects when they are implemented in a sustainable manner. Northerners recognize that major projects have positive effects on Northern economies; auxiliary industries—such as services and construction—benefit from the increased level of activity.

Moving Forward: Three Priorities

Putting Northern interests at the forefront of policy, business, and community decision-making requires a focus on the vital factors that will lead to success for Northerners. The research of the Centre for the North has found three high-priority areas to focus efforts to build a resilient and prosperous North—Aboriginal youth, infrastructure renewal, and governance. Each of these high-priority areas is a critical success factor for Canadian Northern development. Moreover, as the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board (NAEDB) highlighted in its latest Aboriginal economic progress report, a clearer focus on Aboriginal youth, infrastructure, and governance would generally benefit Canada's Aboriginal communities.

Aboriginal Youth

The health and success of Aboriginal youth are, as former Prime Minister Paul Martin recently said, a moral issue for Canada. Many Northern Aboriginal youth face intense life stressors and severe health and wellness challenges. In addition to experiencing personal hardship, Aboriginal youth often have limited access to the education and skills-development programs they need for successful employment in their Northern regions. At the same time, Northern employers, across multiple sectors, report that they struggle to attract, develop, and retain skilled workers.

Tackling the challenges that Aboriginal youth face in achieving their potential involves an enormously complex range of interdependent issues—notably housing, educational opportunities, civic engagement, and cultural preservation. Providing early childhood interventions and family services are essential first steps, but these must be part of a continuity of support that nurtures the child's growth into a healthy adolescent and responsible adult.


Infrastructure renewal is a second high-priority area. The inadequate state of regional and community infrastructure—not only roads, airports, and ports, but also telecommunications, broadband Internet, and community facilities—threatens Northern sustainability and prosperity. Building infrastructure will be costly, which calls for open and creative approaches to financing that include public, private, and non-profit stakeholders—both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. In addition to the need for financial resources, it will be important to direct financing options to the right kinds of projects. Above all, this means identifying and financing infrastructure projects and plans with strong economic, social, and environmental returns on investment.


Planning and implementing effective solutions to Northern challenges require effective governance. Increasingly, the balance of Northern governance has shifted to community, regional, and Aboriginal governments. While liberating for Northerners, the forces shaping this third high-priority area also put increasing pressure on their capacity to administer Northern public services and plan for the future. Local community champions have many of the solutions to Northern problems in health, education, disaster risk reduction, and sustainable economic development. But Northern leaders have a more fundamental problem: on any given day, there is simply too much to do and not enough people to do the work. Northern governments are still implementing decisions made 20 or more years ago—which often includes basic services—leaving little time to prepare for future growth opportunities in a timely way. Furthermore, Northern policy-making exists in a "politics of smallness"; thus program development and evaluation at provincial and federal levels need to account for the realities of Northern Canadian life.

Good governance is a critical success factor in ensuring that all the necessary stakeholders of Northern development cooperate and contribute their best to solving the complex challenges at hand. More fundamentally, the capacity of Northerners to self-govern must be given careful consideration, and they must have sufficient resources to do so.

Canada's North is a region of great beauty and promise. It is also fraught with economic, environmental, and social risks. Ensuring that communities can seize opportunities as well as survive and adapt to challenges will help them prosper and grow. This, in turn, will enable Canada to move forward as a Northern nation by solidifying its sovereignty, improving its security, and realizing its economic potential in the North.

Related Webinar

Reconciliation and Relationships: Building the Basis
of Productive Corporate-Aboriginal Relations

The Conference Board of Canada, June 24, 2015 at 03:00 PM EDT

Arctic Security—It's More Than Just Patrol Ships

  • Satyamoorthy Kabilan
  • Anja Jeffrey
| Aug 25, 2014
Anja Jeffrey

Anja Jeffrey
Northern and Aboriginal Policy
Satyamoorthy Kabilan

National Security and Strategic Foresight

As usual, the Prime Minister's annual Northern tour generates a national conversation about the future of the Canadian North. Issues, from infrastructure and resource development to science and technology and the well-being of Northerners, are brought up and debated.

Equally, the tour focuses on Canada's sovereign rights as an Arctic nation and our ability to protect the borders and provide security for the people who live in the North. These are noble goals, but they are unattainable if not fuelled by an understanding of what really matters to Northerners—a secure livelihood and participation in the local economy, coupled with respect for traditional values.

The classical definition of security involves the ability to defend and enforce borders, as well as providing physical security to people and property. From the perspective of a nation, this would probably suffice. However, much of the work that The Conference Board of Canada's Centre for the North has done in the region confirms that we need to take a much broader view of security and sovereignty.

Sustainable communities strengthen our claims to sovereignty. A key part of Northern security is actually centred on people and their well-being, and not just security in the military sense of the word. We need to develop a more holistic concept of Northern security that addresses the fundamentals of what people need and want.

Economic security is obviously crucial. An economically viable community depends on access to jobs and long-term career goals. Contrary to what is often portrayed in the media, Northern and Aboriginal communities are not against development. As a matter of fact, many Aboriginal Development Corporations—the spinoffs of the so-called land claims negotiations—are savvy business developers with a keen eye for the prosperity and economic opportunities that development can bring to a community and to the region. However, Northerners insist, and quite reasonably so, that development be done in a sustainable way that shows respect for the environment and for traditional activities, such as hunting and fishing. Ensuring that Northern communities are equipped to reap the benefits of economic activities is key to enabling people to stay in them and sustain them.

Environmental security is fundamental to the peoples in the North. Northern communities depend on pristine environments that allow them to go out on the land and harvest country foods, such as seals, whales, and a variety of birds. Or they depend on the natural creation of transport infrastructure, such as ice roads, to keep connected to health care services and bring goods into the community. Northerners are custodians of the land, and protecting the environment is of vital importance to them. Strong environmental security measures, such as rules and regulations that support communities culturally or even physically, are increasingly a necessity as the Arctic environment continues to change rapidly.

Social security—not least, the wellness of Northerners—is central to Canada's future. The North has Canada's youngest population, and it is growing. Suicide, especially among Aboriginal youth, is one of the most devastating problems we face as a nation. It's time to empower Aboriginal youth to embrace a personal vision of who they are and who they will become by giving them the tools to find purpose, build self-esteem, and assume leadership responsibilities for the health and wellness of their families, peers, and communities.

While the Arctic can be breathtaking, it is also a harsh environment in which to live. Ensuring that communities can survive economic, environmental, and social challenges will help them prosper and grow. There is an overlap here with Canada's military and traditional security interests, as the Canadian Armed Forces—and, not least, the Canadian Rangers—play a major role in providing support to the region in case of emergency.

We still have a lot to learn about what security truly means for Northeners and, as a consequence, for Canada as a whole. This is why the Conference Board's Centre for National Security and Centre for the North will be holding a meeting in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, at the end of September 2014 to discuss with Northerners what is most important to them. We will bring together leaders from communities, governments, and business to delve into these issues. We may not get all the answers from this meeting, but we aim to come away with a better understanding of what Northern security really means, and where we need to go from here.

Follow Us

Twitter: @Resiliency_CBoC; @CFN_Team
Facebook: National Security Team at The Conference Board of Canada
Google+: National Security Team at The Conference Board of Canada

Related Events/Material

Youth Wellness Adds to the Potential for Aboriginal Peoples

| Jun 20, 2014

By Anja Jeffrey, Director, Centre for the North

National Aboriginal Day on June 21 celebrates the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada. But it also presents an opportunity to promote the immense potential within Aboriginal peoples to contribute to Canada's greater prosperity and well-being.

Aboriginal youth represent a vital resource for Canada's future, especially as they come into their own as skilled professionals and community leaders.  A skilled workforce is key to economic prosperity. This is especially true in Canada’s North, where skilled labour and Aboriginal cooperation will be instrumental in unlocking our country’s immense potential for sustainable resource development.

Today, though, many young Northern Aboriginal people are without suitable paid employment. Meanwhile, employers struggle to find workers with the right skills, qualifications, and attachment to the North.

Closing this gap requires looking beyond education and training to underlying social factors that shape a young person’s readiness to learn and lead. Building on our Strengths: Aboriginal Youth Wellness in Canada’s North looked at a range of strategies that Northern Aboriginal communities are pursuing to shape future Aboriginal leaders and build their skilled workforce.

It’s true that many Aboriginal youth still face significant challenges growing up, including substance abuse, intergenerational trauma, sexual or physical violence, homelessness or unstable housing, food insecurity, and poverty. Our research indicates that a strategic focus on wellness can help Aboriginal communities alleviate the complex conditions that keep their young people from reaching their full potential.  This approach will also build resilience—the ability of a community to cope with change and to make the most of new opportunities.

Wellness and resilience-based strategies focus on balancing the factors that shape an individual’s physical, mental, spiritual and emotional dimensions. By engaging and empowering children and youth at critical stages in their personal growth, these strategies address both the individual and his or her role in society.  In doing so, they create opportunities for Aboriginal youth to be active in many facets of community development—resulting in higher educational achievement, and greater participation in community leadership. 

Northern Aboriginal communities have inherent strengths that can support youth wellness and resilience, including group norms of sharing and reciprocity, traditional perspectives that foster respect for the wisdom of Elders, and interconnectedness with land and nature.  Building on these strengths reinforces the resilience of the community as a whole.
Three case studies from our research provide practical examples of Aboriginal youth wellness strategies at work in Canada’s provincial and territorial North.

Winnipeg Aboriginal Sports Achievement Centre North

Since 2008, this Winnipeg-based program has been working with Aboriginal youth from several Northern and isolated communities in Manitoba to provide, first, a summer camp experience and more recently, after-school programs three nights a week. Older Aboriginal youth serve as leaders and trainers for younger participants. At the program’s core are peer-mentoring activities to help youth establish a sense of belonging with those who are much like them.

Makimautiksat Youth Wellness and Empowerment Camp

Launched in 2010 by the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre (Iqaluit), Makimautiksat is an evidence-based, proactive and preventative approach to youth wellness that is responsive to the local needs of Inuit youth aged 10 to 14 in the various communities across Nunavut. It provides Nunavut youth with critical life skills, knowledge, and community relationships to help foster positive mental health and wellness as they mature into adulthood.

Northwest Territories' Take a Kid Trapping program

For more than a decade, this program has introduced Aboriginal youth to the traditional harvesting practices of hunting, trapping, fishing, and outdoor survival. The program allows Aboriginal youth  to experience living on the land, and promotes traditional cultural values and skills so youth will continue to pass on cultural knowledge to future generations.

Aboriginal youth wellness programs must aim to empower young people to embrace personal visions of who they are and who they will become. Such programs are making a positive difference in preparing Aboriginal youth for the labour market and enabling them to contribute fully to their communities and to the Canadian economy.

Most youth programs depend heavily on public funding, but given the impact of wellness and resilience on education, career development and employment, the private sector has an important role to play. Integrating public and private funding with community-driven projects can make the most of the limited financial and human resources available in remote Northern communities. Promoting the potential of Aboriginal peoples to contribute to overall prosperity is good for all Canadians—and that is something worth celebrating.



Canada’s North is on the cusp of a delicate economic boom

| Nov 26, 2013

By Anja Jeffrey, Director, Centre for the North
Originally published in the Globe and Mail on November 20, 2012

When a Danish bulk carrier sailed through the Northwest Passage in September filled with B.C. coal, it was described as historic. The voyage, the first time a fully loaded cargo ship had successfully navigated the Northwest Passage, was perceived as the unofficial beginning of a dramatic increase in commercial transit in our Arctic waters.

Canada is rightly using its Arctic Council chairmanship to raise the international profile of environmental concerns in northern waters for cruise ships and commercial shipping. This desire for international co-operation around stringent regulation makes sense, considering the risks associated with shipping in the north.

Canada’s northern marine waters have yet to be the site of a serious incident or significant crisis.

The risks, though, are not confined to foreign ships or to Canada’s Arctic sovereignty. Northern communities will also bear the risks—and opportunities—associated with marine traffic in Canada’s North. An increasing number of domestic vessels will be plying Arctic waters—to supply growing northern communities, to support new resource projects, to expand fishing activities and to cater to increasing numbers of tourists.

The Conference Board of Canada’s Territorial Outlook suggests that after tepid 0.5-per-cent growth in 2013, the country’s three northern territories will grow significantly faster than most other regions of Canada over the next few years. Real gross domestic product in the territories is expected to rise by 3.2 per cent in 2014, 4.2 per cent in 2015 and 3.5 per cent in 2016.

Mining will be the most important economic driver, with new mines slated to open before the end of the decade in all three territories. Mining will also bring new shipping traffic to the north. Despite being scaled down, Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s Mary River project would, on its own, add significantly to Arctic shipments during both construction and production phases of development. The Conference Board estimates that mining output in Nunavut will grow 7.3 per cent in 2015 and 5.2 per cent in 2016.

Safely making the most of the economic potential of Arctic waters will require much more than just bolstering the regulatory regimes being discussed internationally. A new Conference Board report, Changing Tides: Economic Development in Canada’s Northern Marine Waters, calls on governments and businesses to pool their resources wherever possible.

For instance, critical gaps in data can be filled through sharing knowledge and expertise—on marine environments, the local and regional effects of climate change, accuracy of navigation charts, spill and emergency response capacity, and potential impacts on local communities and northern lifestyles. There is a particular weakness in local data, yet economic development is heavily affected by local conditions. Working with northern communities to acquire and document traditional ecological knowledge must be emphasized.

Pooling resources between the public and private sectors could also seek to achieve multiple objectives when investing in new infrastructure. A new port facility for a mining project, for instance, also could support search-and-rescue capability and local activities such as fishing.

Reducing the risks of developing our Arctic waters will require a new culture of safety that goes beyond rules and regulations. This includes innovative approaches and partnerships to improve emergency response and search-and-rescue capacity. The Arctic Council SAR agreement, which went into force last January, is a step in the right direction.

Commercial transit of the Northwest Passage is just the most visible sign of a changing tide now beginning to sweep across our Arctic waters. There are risks, to be sure. But if these risks are handled well, northerners will gain jobs and greater control over their future, and all Canadians will share in the economic benefits.



Connecting the North is good for Canada

| Nov 06, 2013

By Anja Jeffrey, Director, Centre for the North

Industry Canada’s decision to promote a fourth option for national wireless coverage comes at a crucial time for Canadians longing for cheaper service and more choice. This decision, however, will have little immediate impact on Canadians living in northern and remote communities, who should be first in line for reliable and affordable telecommunications so the North can seize its full economic development potential.

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper has emphasized during his Arctic tour, the development of northern communities will have a real impact on the future of the south, indeed for all of Canada. Economic development opportunities, such as in mining, oil and gas, will add much needed dollars to the national coffers. A critical part of economic and social development in the North is connecting it—sustainably—to other parts of the North, to southern Canada, and to the rest of the world.

Canada’s northern residents have a growing appetite for Internet applications. Just ask the increasing number of youth trying to gain course credits and professional certificates online. Or ask industry, whether it is a small business operating in a competitive environment or a major resource company. For many, bandwidth constraints and growing traffic volumes make using the Internet an exercise in frustration.

In Canada’s North, more competition will not necessarily fix the problem. Even under the best of circumstances, the distances, the climate and the scarce populations in northern regions make it difficult for free enterprise to deliver the reliable and affordable telecom services that people today need and want.

The North needs bigger pipes for all the data it is creating and consuming. Historically, government policies helped build the pipes—the backbone and backhaul networks that support northern telecom services and facilities. These pipes were and are shared. They support the needs of residents, public services, industrial development and even military operations.

Before the 21st century, the pipes to Canada’s inhabited Arctic and remotest aboriginal regions served narrow interests and were too small to support high-speed Internet access. Crucial federal programs, such as the National Satellite Initiative and Broadband Canada, helped local champions temporarily cover the high costs of accessing relatively bigger pipes over satellite, which opened up the creative potential of Canada's remotest northern communities.

In the first decade of the 21st century, communities in remote northern regions such as Nunavut, Nunavik and Nishnawbe Aski used their new-found connectivity to demonstrate the possibilities of telemedicine, e-learning and new media production. By 2016, however, the program funds needed to achieve affordable bandwidth for Nunavut and Nunavik and for isolated communities in northern British Columbia and Manitoba will be depleted—leaving the regions and communities once again vulnerable to economic forces beyond their control.

An average Canadian consumer in the provincial North pays $137 per month for a basic cell phone plan (200 to 250 local minutes), a home phone and high-speed Internet access (1.5 MBps). Provincial partnerships with northern carriers have helped extend bigger pipes to more northern communities, and kept the northern provincial average closer to average southern rates (e.g., $131 per month, according to a 2013 CRTC study). By contrast, Nunavummiut pay $171 per month for a similar basket of services.

Without federal contributions through programs such as the National Satellite Initiative and Broadband Canada, the lowest cost high-speed Internet package (1.5 MBps) for Nunavut residents could easily rise to 2 and a half times current prices (e.g., to $200 versus $80). The sharp contrast in consumer fees reflects the challenges of building bigger pipes in Canada's remotest northern regions.

The federal government has shown that it is willing to shake up communications policy in southern Canada. It's time for the next bold and forward-looking move—one that will, by all definitions, truly connect the North.



Building Telecom Capacity in the North: Latest Initiatives

| Sep 19, 2013

By Adam Fiser, Senior Research Associate

In late July 2013 we released our report on Northern Connectivity.  It was an exciting research project, particularly because Northern stakeholders are passionately determined to find new solutions to persistent problems.  We learned about community-owned fibre projects in N.W.T. and the Little North, about satellite-based cell phone services, and ongoing efforts to modernize and rethink the business of telecommunications in Northern communities.  As things evolve—rapidly, we’re keeping our eyes on the changing landscape and hoping to use our online presence to help the conversation along.

Yesterday—September 18, Nunatsiaq News reported on the efforts of Nunavik’s Kativik Regional Government (KRG) to chart a course for the predominantly Inuit region’s telecommunications future (See links below).  KRG has released a pre-feasibility study for building a high capacity broadband network in Nunavik, as part of its goal of increasing the region’s capacity 30-fold by 2021.

Nunavik’s internet options are currently satellite-based.  KRG’s Tamaani internet service is currently fed through Telesat’s ANIK F3 C-band satellite, which cannot meet the region’s growing needs.  Other consumer options include Ka-band satellite services such as Xplornet.

There is considerable debate around the potential of satellite services to scale and adequately meet the growing needs of remote northern consumers.  Proponents of High Throughput Satellites (HTS) are convinced that service providers such as Xplornet—and carriers such as Telesat—can innovate solutions that meet growing demands for rich media content and bandwidth hungry applications.  In its pre-feasibility study KRG appears determined to replace its satellite-based infrastructure with a possible undersea fibre-optic and microwave network solution that would link to the Arctic Fibre submarine cable system, a proposed 15,600 km network intended to connect Tokyo and London through the southern portion of the North West Passage. If you follow Nunatsiaq News—even semi-regularly—you’ll know that residents of Nunavut, like Nunavik, are hoping to benefit from Arctic Fibre as well.

Here are some links to follow up on:

News items




Photo of the Northern lights

Contact Us

Stefan Fournier
Associate Director, Northern and Aboriginal Policy

Beverley Hinterhoeller
Events and Marketing Coordinator, Public Policy