Canada pulls out of upcoming Arctic Council meeting in Russia

Canada pulls out of upcoming Arctic Council meeting in Russia

by Sue Jones
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Canada is joining its circumpolar allies in pulling out of the upcoming Arctic Council meetings, which Russia is scheduled to chair, and suspending its work with the council indefinitely.

Ministers And Permanent Participants Pose For A Group Photo At The 12Th Arctic Council Meeting

Ministers and permanent participants pose for a group photo at the end of the 12th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Iceland in 2021. Chairing the council was transferred to Russia following that meeting. On March 3, 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 7 of the council’s 8 member nations, minus Russia, said they would not attend the upcoming meeting in Russia. (Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs/Gunnar Vigfússon)

Canada is joining its circumpolar allies in pulling out of the upcoming Arctic Council meetings, which Russia is scheduled to chair.

In a joint statement by seven of the council’s eight member nations, Canada, along with Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the U.S., condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, stating it violates the Arctic Council’s core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The seven countries said they were suspending all their work with the council indefinitely.

“I think that the states, other than Russia, did what they had to do,” said Evan Bloom, a former member of the U.S. Department of State who helped establish the Arctic Council in the 1990s.

“It can’t be business as usual right now. It’s not possible to conduct normal affairs with the Russians while they’re holding the chairmanship of the Arctic Council,” he said.

After years of stability, Bloom said Russia’s war will prevent delegates from working through issues that require frequent dialogue.

The Arctic Council was created as a way for the eight countries with Arctic coastline, and the Indigenous groups in the circumpolar region, to work together on issues like climate change, shipping and resource development.

The chairmanship is rotated between the member states every two years, and Russia took over as chair last year.

“We remain convinced of the enduring value of the Arctic Council for circumpolar cooperation and reiterate our support for this institution and its work,” said the seven countries in the statement.

Territorial premiers say Russia threatens Arctic security

In a letter to B.C. Premier John Horgan in his role as the current chair of the Council of the Federation, Canada’s three territorial leaders asked that Arctic sovereignty and security be discussed at the next meeting of Canada’s premiers.

They wrote that Russia’s actions threaten both global security and, “importantly for us, Arctic security.”

“This aggression will affect collaboration and dialogue in the Arctic, which has been considered a region of peace and cooperation. Such stability is critical for communities across the circumpolar world that are pursuing healthy, vibrant growth,” the premiers wrote.

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