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Changing the Arctic Paradigm from Cold War to Cooperation: How Canada’s Indigenous Leaders Shaped the Arctic Council

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AbstractBetween 1987 and 1997, through an impressive coalition of Nordic governments, the Government of Canada, scientists, environmentalists, foundations and Indigenous groups, the world witnessed the creation of a new body, the Arctic Council, a breakthrough in co-operative Arctic governance. Impressive for the relative speed of its creation, the Council – made up of eight states, six Permanent Participants and several observers – has continued to evolve at a steady pace, and recently became the primary forum for negotiating an Arctic search and rescue treaty.Many contributed to the creation of the Arctic Council, but insofar as a Canadian contribution, one of the leading drivers of the effort was a skilled group of Indigenous leaders. Aboriginal leaders like Mary Simon, supported by foundations, became the advocates of an Arctic Council that gave unprecedented status to Indigenous representatives to sit at the same table as foreign ministers through the innovation of a Permanent Participant category. This victory for the Indigenous community in the creation of the Arctic Council was an early indication of the growing presence and sophistication of the world’s Indigenous populations. Their current importance, as highlighted by the U.N. Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, has as a precedent the invention of the Permanent Participant membership category of the Arctic Council a decade earlier.

Affiliations: 1: Munk School of Global Affairs and with Massey College, University of Toronto; 2: Emerging Arctic Security Environment Project sponsored by ArcticNet


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