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The North and the great Canadian lie

Canada is not a proud northern nation. Its Arctic is undefended, undeveloped and socially fraught.


 
Main Street of the hamlet of Sachs Harbour on Banks Island in the Northwest Territories. (Erika Larsen/Redux)

Main Street of the hamlet of Sachs Harbour on Banks Island in the Northwest Territories. (Erika Larsen/Redux)

We are not a northern nation, and we need to stop lying to ourselves that we are.

More people live in Moose Jaw than live in the Yukon. Compared to other Arctic regions, Canada has done so little to develop its northern economy that it is now rivalled by the tiny Faroe Islands. There’s still no four-season road to our Arctic shores. The only railroad is falling apart. There’s no longer a port, and it’s easier to fly to Africa than it is to Nunavut.

Canada needs to stop pretending that it cares about the North. Decades of false rhetoric has created expectations among those few who do live up North that someone “has their back.” No one does. They’re on their own and they have been for generations. We tell the world the North is ours, that we are protecting our sovereignty and our vast mineral wealth. But the truth is we aren’t, and those resources are so far from the nearest railhead they may as well be on the moon.

It is often remarked that 90 per cent of Canadians live within a short drive of the U.S. border. But that fact doesn’t properly illustrate how far we are from the North. Regina is on a more southerly latitude than Amsterdam. Montreal is south of Venice. Toronto, transposed to the Mediterranean shores, would sit near Monaco.

Of course, no one would suggest the Milanese can teach Calgarians how to manage a blizzard. But it helps illustrate the undeniable truth that while the atlas claims our nation stretches 5,000 km from Niagara to the North Pole, our true country, the land on which Canadians actually live, where we work and invest, and the land we defend, remains a thin strip of territory pushed as far south as we can get.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Miles / Rex Features ( 1319601b ) Ice Warriors Working on a documentary film in the high Arctic a few hundred kilometres from the North Pole had long been a dream of documentary maker John Miles. And he finally got the chance when he joined the Canadian Armed Forces on their annual mission to the barren tundra wasteland. Miles traveled to Cornwallis Island in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic, visiting Resolute Bay - a name given to both a nearby Arctic waterway passage and a small Inuit hamlet on the island. He visited the nearby Baffin Island, which is the largest member of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Resolute Bay was the location of many forced Inuit relocations, but it is also an area that will expand as the Canadians want to reinforce their sovereignty over the Northwest Passage - the important sea route through the Arctic Ocean. Due to global warming, for the first time in 1,000 years the Passage will be navigable in winter in the next three to ten years. This will have a dramatic impact on the Arctic as it will mean that its resources will be easier to reach. This in turn will impact on the Inuit, who will cease to be so remote. The Arctic is a strange area, devoid of trees and protective cover. As a result, wildlife such as polar bears, wolves, musk ox, arctic fox, caribou are all exposed to easy hunting. And humans are just another form of prey. Walking just a few hundred metres outside Inuit communities it is advisable to carry a gun. At night deterrents like wired detonators need to be used and the isolated airstrips are patrolled by Canadian Rangers. Canadian Rangers The Canadian Rangers are the military's eyes and ears in the North. These highly respected volunteer soldiers are a reservist military and were the first line of defense against the Russians in the cold war in the a... For more information visit http://www.rexfeatures.com/stacklink/QPVIOZEFD

The North, where the Canadian Rangers supply their own vehicals. (Photo by John Miles / Rex Features)

How many Canadians actually live up north? Approximately 118,000. That’s one-third of one per cent of the national population. To put it another way, about as many Canadians live in Australia as live in Nunavut. If the entire population of the Northwest Territories decided to attend an Edmonton Eskimos game, Commonwealth Stadium would still have 10,000 empty seats.

Not only do we not live in the North, we don’t visit either. A study commissioned by the Churchill Northern Studies Centre in 2011 found that only 14 per cent of Canadians had travelled to Canada’s North even once.

This should be no surprise. It is cheaper and easier (and usually faster) to travel almost anywhere overseas than it is to visit the Canadian Arctic. There is only one train to the North, travelling on tracks so old and so worn out, it can only manage an average speed of 28 km/h on its way to Churchill.

Seventy-four years after the completion of the U.S.-built Alaska Highway, there is still no four-season road to Canada’s northern shores (just promises there will be soon). You can’t sail either. Our only northern port, in Churchill, closed last month. Which leaves flying. But flights are few, and ridiculously expensive. Want to travel from Toronto to Iqaluit next week? $3,087. Khartoum? $1,500. Bangkok? $1,000.

The sheer difficulty of getting there helps partially explain why the Canadian North is so completely undeveloped. If you define this region as including the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, the shores of Hudson Bay, northern Quebec and Labrador, it contributes about $10 billion to the national GDP, or about one-third of one per cent.

By comparison, the Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland are each 1/30th the size of Canada’s, yet each of their northern economies are triple the size our ours. In fact, according to data collected by the Finnish economist Ilmo Mäenpää, the Canadian Arctic makes up approximately one-quarter of the circumpolar region, yet our economic production there accounts for less than two per cent of that entire region’s aggregate economy.

Unlike Russia, Greenland, Iceland and all other northern regions, there is no fishing industry (no ports for trawlers, no transportation to markets). The same lack of infrastructure means there is no resource processing like you find elsewhere in the circumpolar world. Which leaves only some mining to prop up Canada’s tiny northern economy.

There has been a great deal of talk (down south) about the mineral wealth of the Arctic. But without a means to transport ore to markets, those fabled deposits are literally worthless. Bay Street agrees. This year Canadian mining companies will spend only $250 million on mineral exploration in Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories combined. That is $100 million less than what is being spent in Ontario alone. Unfortunately, the Conference Board predicts that even the small amount of northern mining that exists will begin to decline by 2020.

Some towns have a thriving tourism industry for mostly international tourists (Canadians go to Florida). And thank goodness, because the recent Arctic Human Development Report found a third of Aboriginal Canadians sell arts and crafts to supplement their income. That’s how undeveloped our northern economy is. Soapstone souvenirs are actually an important industry.

This lack of development has created serious social problems. The unemployment rate in Nunavut is twice the national average; the violent crime rate in the Yukon is four times; the homicide rate in Nunavut is nine times. The incarceration rate in the Northwest Territories is 10 times higher than in Ontario.

The lack of health infrastructure makes it all worse. The infant mortality rate in the Canadian Arctic is twice that of Alaska’s and seven times higher than in Iceland. (It is three times the Canadian average.) Suicide rates among Inuit are four times higher than Alaskan natives and 11 times higher than southern Canadians. Life expectancy in the Yukon actually declined between 2000 and 2009.

Canada has also left its north largely undefended. Not long ago a senior Canadian general admitted that the Army had “lost the ability to operate up North.” We have only three military bases in the Arctic, and there are approximately 120 personnel stationed there year round. That’s almost enough people to fill a half a TGI Fridays. They are there, as the Canadian government describes, to provide “surveillance and control of Canadian territory and approaches.” In an area the size of the European Union, that is one soldier for every 32,000 sq. km.

The Royal Canadian Navy currently has no ice-strengthened warships (Denmark has seven), and its closest naval base is in Halifax, a week’s sail from the Northwest Passage. The Canadian Coast Guard has only eight icebreakers capable of operating in the Arctic, but only in the summer and fall and not in thick ice. For most of the year, marine traffic is monitored from Prescott, Ont., 4,000 km from Tuktoyaktuk. This week it was revealed that the Navy’s only Arctic research vessel is being decommissioned.

Usually, whenever anyone points out the total absence of Canadian Forces in the Arctic, someone mentions the Canadian Rangers. This volunteer militia is made up mostly of Indigenous Canadians living in the North. They are the backbone of our military presence, providing surveillance and conducting “sovereignty patrols.” To complete this mission they are issued a sweatshirt, a baseball cap, and a Second World War-era rifle. (This week they were promised, again, that these would all be replaced by 2019.) Rangers must supply their own snowmobiles and radios. They may be hardy, but they’re no replacement for an actual military presence.

Canada’s North is empty. We stopped trying to develop it generations ago. Earlier generations dreamed of opening up the vast expanses of our Arctic frontiers. The entire reason they pushed our borders north over Hudson Bay, beyond Baffin Island, right to the North Pole itself is because they expected future Canadians to do something with it. And we can. The minerals are there, they just need infrastructure investments to make them valuable. As climate change opens up the Northwest Passage, Canada could develop shipping and perhaps a commercial fishing industry. If Canada doesn’t take advantage of that opportunity, other nations will.

But at some point we gave up on these aspirations. We sat back down on our chesterfields, and said: “This is good enough.”

Maybe that’s true. Canada is objectively one of the wealthiest, healthiest, most successful nations on the planet. Maybe it doesn’t need the North.

But we need to stop pretending that the North is ours and that it defines us. We need to ignore the empty rhetoric of prime minister after prime minister telling us the Arctic is important while doing nothing to prove it. We need to ask ourselves, do we really want to be a northern nation?

The last government talked about geo-mapping, a few million dollars for research funds, and naval ports that were never built. This government is promising “a polar communications and weather project,” new rifles, and maybe one day some new patrol ships. But these aren’t even fig leaves. Every single other Arctic nation has been doing much more for generations. Making Canada a true northern nation will require real expenditures, hard tradeoffs, and difficult work. But, the question is, do we even want to?

Disclosure: Scott Gilmore is married to the federal minister of the environment


 

The North and the great Canadian lie

  1. Ahhh if I were 30 years younger…..but I’m afraid Canada has no pioneers

    • I guess we didn’t have any 30 years ago either … eh Em?

      • Was there a population boom back then?

        • that’s quite the non-sensical reply. Maybe it makes sense in your head.
          .
          I’ll spell it out for you …. your initial email suggests that you would be a pioneer if you were 30 years younger …. yet, there is no indication that you took any such steps when you were in fact 30 years younger. Seems a little disingenuous to call out people today for not being adventurous enough when you won’t take those same steps yourself.

          • Really? Well I made it to Norman Wells and Fort Norman while I was working….did you?

          • Wow, you tamed the frontier single handed you pioneer you
            .
            I was north of Steeles once ….

    • “Being Born”
      (A baby’s cry in Canada’s North)
      ******************************************
      At the McDonads in Terrace BC (not quite The North above the 60 that Scott Gilmore wrote about in his straight up Macleans article “The North & the Great Canadian Lie”. But it is here for me and it all relates.

      As I finish reading Scott’s article I hear a rugged northern man at a table with his buddies call out:

      “You missed out on all the fun Jeff.”
      “Oh yeah?”
      “Yeah, a baby’s cryin'”

      And anything that is ready to be born will cry out from their old pain.
      Anything that is ready to be born
      Will cry out into the unknown world ahead, because it doesn’t know much about this new life it is entering into.

      And father bear is happy and excited because he knows the child has an unwritten adventure up ahead of herself.
      And the mother bear is sad and depressed because the child has an unwritten adventure up ahead of herself.

      And this young baby is called “The North”.
      Because it’s yet to be fully born.
      It’s yet to be fully realized.

      The hot dreams that are found in the tropics have yet to cool down and densify into beautiful hard tangible reality.

      And it’s because the baby (dream) is so incredibly hot, that it needs a very cold place to cool down and solidify into tangible reality.

      To summarize and add to what the hot dream for The North looks like, here is a little glimpse of our Canadian Future as the world starts heating up:

      1. The most powerful International Trading Partnership in the future will be the Northern One. Get used to the Northern Azimuthal Projection. It’s going to be the map of our Future.

      As the world heats up from Global Warming, Shipping Ports for Canada’s North can now finally be built as environmental data can assure investors of its stable viability.

      And the Developing teenage North Economic Trading Nations of Russia, Denmark (Iceland), Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland will finally allow the their big baby (Canada) into the Northern Trade brotherhood. And Russia is taking the lead in mlitarizing it’s North because it knows what to protect. And it won’t take long for Canada’s hot economic northern dream to become a mature and fully functional real adult a”Being Born”
      (A baby’s cry in Canada’s North)
      ******************************************
      At the McDonads in Terrace BC (not quite The North above the 60 that Scott Gilmore wrote about in his straight up Macleans article “The North & the Great Canadian Lie”. But it is here for me and it all relates.

      As I finish reading Scott’s article I hear a rugged northern man at a table with his buddies call out:

      “You missed out on all the fun Jeff.”
      “Oh yeah?”
      “Yeah, a baby’s cryin'”

      And anything that is ready to be born will cry out from their old pain.
      Anything that is ready to be born
      Will cry out into the unknown world ahead, because it doesn’t know much about this new life it is entering into.

      And father bear is happy and excited because he knows the child has an unwritten adventure up ahead of herself.
      And the mother bear is sad and depressed because the child has an unwritten adventure up ahead of herself.

      And this young baby is called “The North”.
      Because it’s yet to be fully born.
      It’s yet to be fully realized.

      The hot dreams that are found in the tropics have yet to cool down and densify into beautiful hard tangible reality.

      And it’s because the baby (dream) is so incredibly hot, that it needs a very cold place to cool down and solidify into tangible reality.

      To summarize and add to what the hot dream for The North looks like, here is a little glimpse of our Canadian Future as the world starts heating up:

      1. The most powerful International Trading Partnership in the future will be the Northern One. Get used to the Northern Azimuthal Projection. It’s going to be the map of our Future.

      As the world heats up from Global Warming, Shipping Ports for Canada’s North can now finally be built as environmental data can assure investors of its stable viability.

      And the Developing teenage North Economic Trading Nations of Russia, Denmark (Iceland), Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland will finally allow the their big baby (Canada) into the Northern Trade brotherhood. And it won’t take long for Canada’s hot economic northern dream to become a mature and fully functional adult.

      It won’t be long before we see major, and I mean major investment in the North.

      It won’t be long before the Nation switches its focus on the lukewarm, watered down south and starts investing itself where it knows the gold is located. Where it know the diamonds are located. Where it knows the metals that build our skyscrapers, bridges and high tech gadgets are located.

      And it won’t be long before you will begin to see metropolis cities in our North. With a buzz full of energy, productivity, excitement and a rich native culture that runs 24-7. Full of neon lights, highways, direct flights to Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki

      There will be no more such thing as “Reserves” because decolonizlization will have already happened and all citizens of The North are Dual Citizens, both First Nation AND Canadian. And life for everyone will be awesome.

      And the white man will learn to truly fish and hunt and understand the animals and carve and lives rich life in Community rather than in separate compartmentalized individual houses. And even though the city will be full of individual houses and condo units, there will be plenty of communal dwelling places and it will be full of Spirit.

      And the white man will extract the minerals from the earth with great care and sensitivity to the earth and the First Nation Citizen won’t mind because an honourable portion of profit recycled itself into building up the Native Spirit of the North – in cultural investments in Language (also promoted to the Canadian Citizen as a tax rebate for non-First Nations Peoples who enter into the North and its economy.

      Because the wise white man sees the economic value in building up the Native Spirit of the North.

      And the First Nations deserve economic freedom. Monetary economic freedom.
      This is social justice in action.
      And it will work because humans are intelligent and rational and they know a good thing when they see it. And they will place their money in good things. And the Native Spirit is a very good thing.

      And the Purpose of Living Spirit is to be the. Conduit. The vessel that will transform the super hot infant dream into cold hard physical reality. It turns the negative into a positive.

      Without the mechanism of Spirit, the North will never be “developed” and “matured” economically, socially and culturally.

      And as the Spirit returns and builds itself up in the souls of the Northern People, Northern Pride will be seen everywhere.

      People will take great pride in their land. And the North will have a total feeling of enchantment.

      The darkness of winter will be filled with warm light 24-7 through communal living – at the office place, at the mines, at so many places. And these places that hold bedrooms, gyms, shops, hockey arenas, basketball gyms, hunting & fishing gear will not be made from poor cold hard C-Bins with white plastic walls for all of the workers, execs, managers and visitors. No, they will be richly made with well thought out communal architectural planning that is built from the warmth of softwood timber framing, soft golden lighting and stonework of beauty and if wood carving because the art of the North is truly beautiful and magnificent and the people whom are attracted to the north and its mining and resources truly want to live out a richly spirited life in physical reality just as much as in their bank accounts. The true Northern Lodges are finally ready to be built.

      And all of this can happen because humans have a lot of foresight and will later turn these mines into amazing resorts that the rest of the world will envy for its true richness and the wealthy people in the south will be tired from the south and want to truly experience the richness of the North. And the First Nations will honour and welcome this economy because it values and is built on everyone. No one is left out.

      Ever.

      And as the hot economy of the North builds itself up, it will take advantage of its special place in the world. Bullet trains that can run super fast because tracks can be supercooled in the North and the night trains in the Winter will run even faster.

      And it will be a majestic ride that rivals the Trans-Siberian Express. Because Canada’s track will be a Northern Bullet that it way ahead of its time. Skylights for passengers to enjoy The Northern Lights. Electrical Towers along the track lit up with neon lights, (all lights in the North are Neon, because the energy in the North is super-excited).

      And roads are finally delineated with curbs and street lights are all LED and there is no trash up here whatsoever because it is all ART. Street corners with beautiful landscaping, stone art and totems.

      Nahanni National Park will be a resort destination for the nature lover.

      The North will have everything.
      And shipping and flying routes connecting the International North with be Established.
      If we are true Northerners, then we have a shared identify with the rest of the Northern World. And for too long we haven’t developed this northern relationship. Because Canada’s North hasn’t yet been born.

      But I just heard a baby’s cry an hour ago.

      And it’s sound is echoing loudly in the air for all of the world to hear.

      The old dream is dead, chopped down and without a future. And Canada now has a much hotter dream.

      It’s time to start cooking.
      Bake it with fire.

      Because ports have yet to

      It won’t be long before we see major, and I mean major investment in the North.

      It won’t be long before the Nation switches its focus on the lukewarm, watered down south and starts investing itself where it knows the gold is located. Where it know the diamonds are located. Where it knows the metals that build our skyscrapers, bridges and high tech gadgets are located.

      And it won’t be long before you will begin to see metropolis cities in our North. With a buzz full of energy, productivity, excitement and a rich native culture that runs 24-7. Full of neon lights, highways, direct flights to Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki

      There will be no more such thing as “Reserves” because decolonizlization will have already happened and all citizens of The North are Dual Citizens, both First Nation AND Canadian. And life for everyone will be awesome.

      And the white man will learn to truly fish and hunt and understand the animals and carve and lives rich life in Community rather than in separate compartmentalized individual houses. And even though the city will be full of individual houses and condo units, there will be plenty of communal dwelling places and it will be full of Spirit.

      And the white man will extract the minerals from the earth with great care and sensitivity to the earth and the First Nation Citizen won’t mind because an honourable portion of profit recycled itself into building up the Native Spirit of the North – in cultural investments in Language (also promoted to the Canadian Citizen as a tax rebate for non-First Nations Peoples who enter into the North and its economy.

      Because the wise white man sees the economic value in building up the Native Spirit of the North.

      And the First Nations deserve economic freedom. Monetary economic freedom.
      This is social justice in action.
      And it will work because humans are intelligent and rational and they know a good thing when they see it. And they will place their money in good things. And the Native Spirit is a very good thing.

      And the Purpose of Living Spirit is to be the. Conduit. The vessel that will transform the super hot infant dream into cold hard physical reality. It turns the negative into a positive.

      Without the mechanism of Spirit, the North will never be “developed” and “matured” economically, socially and culturally.

      And as the Spirit returns and builds itself up in the souls of the Northern People, Northern Pride will be seen everywhere.

      People will take great pride in their land. And the North will have a total feeling of enchantment.

      The darkness of winter will be filled with warm light 24-7 through communal living – at the office place, at the mines, at so many places. And these places that hold bedrooms, gyms, shops, hockey arenas, basketball gyms, hunting & fishing gear will not be made from poor cold hard C-Bins with white plastic walls for all of the workers, execs, managers and visitors. No, they will be richly made with well thought out communal architectural planning that is built from the warmth of softwood timber framing, soft golden lighting and stonework of beauty and if wood carving because the art of the North is truly beautiful and magnificent and the people whom are attracted to the north and its mining and resources truly want to live out a richly spirited life in physical reality just as much as in their bank accounts. The true Northern Lodges are finally ready to be built.

      And all of this can happen because humans have a lot of foresight and will later turn these mines into amazing resorts that the rest of the world will envy for its true richness and the wealthy people in the south will be tired from the south and want to truly experience the richness of the North. And the First Nations will honour and welcome this economy because it values and is built on everyone. No one is left out.

      Ever.

      And as the hot economy of the North builds itself up, it will take advantage of its special place in the world. Bullet trains that can run super fast because tracks can be supercooled in the North and the night trains in the Winter will run even faster.

      And it will be a majestic ride that rivals the Trans-Siberian Express. Because Canada’s track will be a Northern Bullet that it way ahead of its time. Skylights for passengers to enjoy The Northern Lights. Electrical Towers along the track lit up with neon lights, (all lights in the North are Neon, because the energy in the North is super-excited).

      And roads are finally delineated with curbs and street lights are all LED and there is no trash up here whatsoever because it is all ART. Street corners with beautiful landscaping, stone art and totems.

      Nahanni National Park will be a resort destination for the nature lover.

      The North will have everything.
      And shipping and flying routes connecting the International North with be Established.
      If we are true Northerners, then we have a shared identify with the rest of the Northern World. And for too long we haven’t developed this northern relationship. Because Canada’s North hasn’t yet been born.

      But I just heard a baby’s cry an hour ago.

      And it’s sound is echoing loudly in the air for all of the world to hear.

      The old dream is dead, chopped down and without a future. And Canada now has a much hotter dream.

      It’s time to start cooking.
      Bake it with fire.

  2. Yet the Liberals intend to waste billions and our military fighting the UN’s and the United States’ colonial wars in Africa, just so Justin can whip out his d#$% at the UN.

  3. Successive Canadian Governments and the voting public have failed to make the North and our Borders a priority.

    Instead Governments have given massive Corporate Welfare to foreign state owned Oil Corporations from Communist China and Arabia as well as Banks and Foreign Car Corporations.

    All the while Canadians en mass have remained silent as their (our) great Country is pillaged by Corporations both Foreign and Domestic with little long lasting benefit to us the Canadian people.

    Time to put Canada and Canadians first no more Corporate Welfare.

    • Rest assured Samantha. The good things in Canadian life are coming.

  4. Foreigners and foreign money is more important to the Canadian government than actual Canadians are

    • Bit of a crude way of putting it, but that’s sort of true. You need foreign investors to make Canadian jobs and put money into the Canadian economy and government.

    • If that is true, it’s only because we aren’t fully believing in our own potential to take care of ourselves. And this attitude isn’t just for the macro level of government that we are, called Canada, it is also for the micro level of government that we are, called individual humans. Building up our own independence so we do not need to be reliant on others (foreign international investors or our own family members, friends and neighbours) to live the kind of life we truly want to live. Once we master our own personal economy then we will simultaneously master life with our national and inter-national economy.

  5. I fail to see how our North is even remotely comparable to the Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Latitude means nothing when it actually comes down to the conditions between the Arctic regions of Canada versus the Nordic countries. No disrespect to them, but the temperature of the Artic regions of the Nordic countries are approximately 10 degrees higher than in Canada at a similar latitude. While Toronto may be on the same latitude as the Mediterranean, it has a mean average temperature more like Amsterdam, and Regina has a mean average temperature a lot like Molde. If you were actually looking at a map that showed you the average temperature, you could see that the area of Canada most like the Arctic regions of the Nordic countries in terms of climate is much more developed.

    In terms of Canada’s far north, there are only one other country in the world that has similar conditions: Russia (I’m not counting Greenland because that’s more cold). Considering that Russia stands four times larger, it makes sense that their North is more developed, they’ve been there for nearly a millennium, we got here two centuries ago.

    Also, why does our Navy need icebreakers? Our Navy is there, among other missions, to defend Canadians from foreign threats. Who’s going to attack our Arctic? All we really need to do is patrol the Arctic, and the Canadian Coast Guard has done a fine job in doing such, in my opinion.

    And I do think that the our vast Arctic has defined us. Not our individual personalities and mentalities so much as our collective understanding that we, as Canadian, have access to a vast wealth of beautiful lands, and while we may or may not choose to see it in person, it is there, and it shapes who we are and what we take pride in as a country. It may not define us directly, but it does define who we see ourselves, and isn’t that good enough?

  6. Nice Article, well written. It is a shame though that nothing will be done to capitalize on the opportunity. We should expand and think proactively. What many people don’t realize, is that Russia or China or any other nuke possessing country could take over our arctic territory and there would be nothing we could do about it. They could easily create a stalemate conflict lasting over 10-20 years where our idiot politicians of the day would make concessions for peace (read poli-military strategy to know more)

    Now you numpties are probably thinking that NATO or the US would intervene, but this dynamic could change overnight and isn’t a guarantee.

  7. The Chinese government have already stated that they do not accept Canada’s sovereignty of the Northwest Passage, and huge cruise ships are already using it.
    Shame on Canada.

  8. To understand why Canada’s North is not developed, you have to ask who benefits from the lack of development? Once you understand that and that these people lobby hard against development, you see why nothing gets done. Example: Churchill is in direct competition with terminals on Thunder Bay and the West Coast and with the railways and ports that serve them. They have consistently over the years fought any and all attempts to improve Churchill. And to understand why the Russian Arctic is more developed, start with Anne Applebaum’s Gulag.

    • Ahhh I knew there’d be plot in it somewhere

  9. A thought provoking article about our north that only scratches the surface.

    I’d be interested to know what could be there, what infrastructure it would require and some estimate of cost to get us there. As already noted in the comments, despite it’s location on the map, the climate in our north is significantly different than the climate in Denmark or Norway or Sweden. And the distances to populations is vast. Canadians may vacation in Florida, but it’s the same distance to get to the far north. Once you start to look at the true cost of installing the needed infrastructure, you might find that there is a very good reason that it’s not more developed.
    .
    But a good start none the less.

  10. Well, if I’ve got my understanding of the science right, western Europe which has the meteorological warming advantage of the Gulf Stream, will be dragged down to our level of frozen discomfort as climate change in the form of ice melt off of Greenland distorts or removes the effects of the Gulf Stream as we now know it.

    That will level the playing field so that all species and human life north of sixty will suffer equally if we view the main purpose of what’s left unspoiled on our planet (and there isn’t much) as a resource to be exploited in aid of profiting the few.

  11. This is about to change massively. Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) has been researched, developed commercially and tested for safety and commercial acceptability and is currently being manufactured and sold to power producing plants for retrofittng, replacing coal fired and oil fired electricity generation plants. The power produced costs less than one tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour. You read that right. This leaves all other sources of power in the proverbial dust. ALL of them. In the next little while: days, weeks, in 2016 and latest in 2017, several reports from USA government, research institutions are to be tabled showing the exact state of the LENR research, development commercial status, what have you. Leonardo Corporation(E-CAT dot com) seems to be in the lead. Bright Light Power and Brillouin a close second. I have been following the developments in this area for a several years and it is real. Cheap power is what will take to open up Canada’s north and many other places and things that were difficult to do just because of costs, based on available power and associated costs.

  12. And even after that well deserved diatribe, Mr. Gilmour, you didn’ t even MENTION the North West Territories or the Yukon!!

    How well informed are you? You Easterners believe that the Arctic=Nunavut! WRONG. Look at the map!!

  13. Canadians….always full of excuses.

  14. While it’s always wonderful to receive some notice from the south, Mr. Gilmore has missed a few points . An all-weather highway to Tuktoyaktuk will be open in late 2017 (coincidentally, Canada’s 150th birthday) and Tuk Harbour quite often plays host to sailors who travel the NW Passage.
    It would also have been grand if he had mentioned how, despite all the gloom and doom under which he sees Northerners living, that people like Nellie Cournoyea, Mary Simon, Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Steven Kakfwi, Premier Bob McLeod, Marie Wilson, Freddie Carmichael, Jordin Tootoo… need I go on? — all managed to live and succeed for the benefit of all Canadians under such circumstances.

    • Doug, do you know anything about the north outside of the NWT? Yellowknifism is one of the biggest obstacles to northern development……

      • Most of the people that Doug mentions do not come from Yellowknife, in fact, none of them do.

    • Don’t forget that Mark Carney, former head of the Bank of Canada and now Governor of the Bank of England, was born in Fort Smith, NWT. Former Deputy Prime Minister, Eric Neilsen, was from the Yukon. Pierre Burton was born and raised in Dawson City, Yukon. For a sparsely populated area of the country, we are punching well above our weight.

  15. I wish Maclean’s would write more articles on the north instead of these occasional rants. Does Maclean’s even have a dedicated section for the north in each edition?

  16. Um, Scott Gilmore,
    Okay first, i see there are already comments on your “Latitude” comparisons that ignore any weather phenomenon (air streams and what-not).
    Second, people = money (tax); more people = more money…
    Let’s consult the “Population density” value of these countries you are comparing…
    Canada: 3.41 km2
    Norway: 15.5 km2
    Russia: 8.4 km2
    …now take grade school math, and… Ta-DA! There a starting point as to WHY! It’s not because we Canadian’s are… dumb… sorry, i honestly get that message when I read this… as though there’s no good reason for these points you address…

  17. A truly excellent article thank you. We can but hope this will start a national dialogue and importantly ACTION!

  18. I have been a lifelong Yukon resident and was born and raised in Whitehorse. My town in the Yukon is relatively mild by northern standards. We have trees, large lakes, and, believe it or not, golf courses with real grass greens and real grass fairways. Whitehorse is no different in climate than a place like Kenora, Ontario, and the terrain and forests are very similar to a place like Prince George, BC. I attended university in Southern Ontario. I would tell people I was from Whitehorse. I remember the shocked and bewildered expressions. I found many people were quite ignorant about what Whitehorse is like. The majority of Ontarians I encountered assumed that Whitehorse did not have trees, there was snow on the ground year-round, and that it was flat shield country. I think therein lies the problem. It is a total lack of education and minimizing of the Canadian North as an important region of Canada. I would tell people I was from Whitehorse, and the next sentence from an Ontarian would be “so, how is life like in Yellowknife?”. Of course, Whitehorse and Yellowknife are about 3000 kms away from each other, and have totally different terrains and climates. So, the problem is a total lack of education and highlighting of the northern territories in Canadians’ lives. This article feeds into the broad brush painting of the North as one monolithic region. If we want people to be interested in the North and visit it, then we need better education in schools about that region of our country. However, this is a very Ontario-centric country. Northern ignorance is just a different manifestation of Western alienation. Our biggest province needs to see beyond its borders and not always think it is the centre of the universe.

  19. In case you missed it,this interview offers what could be an answer to the transportation problem that lies at the root of arrested development in the Canadian Arctic:

    http://www.cbc.ca/1.3763097

  20. Claude M. Dionne
    #3, 9419, 96th. Avenue,
    Fort St. John, BC.
    VIJ 1K4.
    Cell phone number: (250)-262-1729 (voice-mail).
    Date: October 7, 2016.

    First of all, I want to say that my previous e-letter has not been published probably due to either a lack of space or my letter may have been described as overly long. I plan to catch up by defending Scott Gil- more’s article going back to Sept. 13th.. Your article was basically true on the surface, but perhaps not as much by going deeper into northern sources. Now, let me describe the vastness of the North as I have been immerged in it since 1981. Since that magical year of Canadian adventures, I have either visited/ lived in Fort Mac, AB. (heavy oil, natural gas/tar sands); Grande Prairie, AB. (basically same ressources); Fort Nelson, BC. (same); Fort St. John, BC. (same. That’s also where I live.); Whitehorse, YT. (timber and mining.); and finally, Yellowknife, NWT. (timber, mining, gas drilling). Technically, I will venture that the ‘REAL’ north kicks in near the 55th. degree in latitude (exception made of both Whitehorse and Yellow- knife that both sit north of the 60th. degree). Having grown up in the southern part of Eastern Canada, the vegetation, the wildlife, the landscape, the soil, the drier climate, etc.,. contrast widely with the east- ern neighbours. I definitely appreciate the quieter lifestyle and the vastness of its plains, hills, moun- tains, lakes, and the Pacific Ocean. No, Scott Gilmore, both BC. and the YT. do not have the tourist in- frastructure of Alaska, whether it’s good or bad for the visitors and the visited. Finally, it is accurate to say that the northern native reserves experience way greater rates of suicide and alcoholism, the cost of li- ving is higher, especially the truck/plane/train costs to both move food staples and other industrial items, not to forget the scarcest housing market. As a footnote, I was born an Easterner, later became a North- ern Westerner, and may die as one (unless I move back to pick my coffin before I croak!). The south doesn’t have the adventurous spirit of former northern discoverers/gold searchers such as Robert Service during the Gold Rush of 1898, and many more characters like him. Here is a short list of both living and deceased northern figures: journalist/author Pierre Berton, the Nielsen family (actor Leslie and his diplo- mat brother whose name I forgot). My motto would potentially be: “Our North Strong And Free.”. It may not be militarily well-defended from potential invaders like Russia, but it is truly home to us (100,000 + individuals). That’s secure enough for us.

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