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Infrastructure key to development

Just some of the beautiful artwork available for sale at the Northern Lights Arts & Cultural pavilion. © Doris Ohlmann (6)

The Arctic should be explored respectfully. Such were the sentiments raised repeatedly during the many conference sessions, meet and greets, tradeshow discussions and evening celebrations during the 2018 Northern Lights Business and Cultural Showcase in Ottawa, Ontario, from January 31 to February 3.

Many carvings were available for sale at the Northern Lights Trade show.

With 1,400 participants attending the biennial event, attendees listened to presentations about the challenges and possible solutions facing Canada’s Arctic. It was quickly apparent that many felt that Canada needs an Arctic infrastructure policy to complete the Canadian nation building process so further economic development for Arctic communities is possible. Connectivity restrictions exist because of the lack of infrastructure in the Arctic, however innovative thinking is emerging to help solve these challenges.

According to the 2015 Nunavut Visitor Exit Survey from Nunavut Tourism, 16,750 travellers visited Nunavut in 2015. $108,289,000 was spent during that time. Approximately 250 direct jobs were generated in the Nunavut tourism industry due to these visitors. If such adventure tourism and authentic Arctic experiences can grow, infrastructure must be in place to accommodate the increase. This includes input from all partners, including the need for reduced airfares to stimulate tourism, the building of new hotels and developing culturally significant experiences.

The popular Pang hats, in a wide array of colours, were on display.

Increased collaboration with the Arctic North American regions will aid in discovering solutions together. Traffic patterns and shipping corridors should help guide future development while mitigating risks and impacts on the Inuit and wildlife who reside in the Arctic regions.

An unprecedented gathering of all Arctic territorial premiers including Alaska, the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Greenland joined a panel discussion to speak about similar challenges and possible outcomes. A vision of a shared marine region is important to all the five members. Presently, the North American Arctic seaway links have no coordination and minimum investment. Each area highlighted their challenges and how progress is being made.

Trade regulations in Greenland are trade barriers because of double taxation for those who want to do business in Greenland or the Arctic. Tax treaties between Finland and Greenland have helped promote business between the two. Greenland wants to strengthen partnerships with Canada. For example, by educating future fishermen of their seafood fleets, Inuit fishermen could be the best salesmen of Inuit seafood to the world. The Royal Arctic Line will help physically link Greenland to the rest of Canada’s Arctic, which will also open trade routes.

Sealskin products, including these cute toddler kamiit, were available for sale at the Tradeshow.

In the Yukon, 11 of the 14 First Nations have signed Land Treaties, which represents half of the self-government treaties in Canada. Control of the language centre from the Yukon government supports one of the calls to action of reconciliation, that is, to allow the First Nations to control their own language.

Resource development is still the single most economic driver in the Northwest Territories. Infrastructure would help connect people across the NWT, so some places aren’t only accessible by air or boat in summer. With the warming trend in the climate, ice road opportunities are reduced. The North needs partners like the government of Canada to improve roads, energy, and infrastructure. Solutions like extending the Mackenzie Highway to Inuvik and Wrigley and connecting with the Grays Bay Road in Nunavut would help transform the economy.

Arctic-themed jewellery and tapestries were popular items.

Nunavut has Memorandums of Understanding with Greenland, the NWT and Nova Scotia. Their shared cultural ties aid in building relationships with partners west to east for new opportunities.

The Conference sessions were rounded out with an arts and cultural pavilion and evening entertainment from Labrador, Nunavut and Nunavik, which included guest speakers, musical performances, Inuit artists exhibiting designs and Inuit-themed food.

During the Gala Dinner and Closing Ceremonies, a silent and live auction was held. Proceeds went towards supporting charities and socioeconomic initiatives in Nunavut, Nunavik, and Labrador/Nunatsiavut.

This captivating duo, Twin Flames, combines two award-winning very unique singer songwriters Jaaji, an Inuk Mohawk from Nunavik, and Chelsey June, an Algonquin Cree Métis from Ottawa. They were just some of the entertainers in the Pavilion. Their most recent second studio album is called Signal Fire and includes songs in English, Inuktitut and French.

As the world looks to the Arctic for future resources, Inuit need to be respectfully included in decisions on how the public lands and resources will be used to improve the quality of life for Nuvummiut. Northerners want to make their own decisions on what legacy they want to leave the next generations.

Doris Ohlmann