indirect dealing of northern issues, extra level of bureaucracy, loss of connection between northern groups and federal ministers, impacts Canada's ability to combat climate change
The Conservative government dismissed Canada’s Arctic ambassador and eliminated the position in September 2006. The position of Canada's circumpolar ambassador was created in 1994, with Inuit leader Mary Simon representing Canada at the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum promoting sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. She was replaced by Jack Iyerak, a former Liberal MP, in 2003.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) said, "The functions and responsibilities of the ambassador's position have been assumed by senior officials in the department," adding that the former director general for human rights and human security would now represent Canada abroad as its senior Arctic official.
Peter MacKay, Foreign Affairs Minister at the time, explained, "We didn't feel we were getting good value for money from that position."
Northwest Territories Premier Joe Handley and national Inuit leader Mary Simon disagreed with the government’s move, arguing that loss of the position of circumpolar ambassador may reduce Canada’s ability to address the impacts of climate change, which are particularly felt in northern communities.
"That's not sending a very strong signal to the rest of the world that this is important to Canada… The position is too important to downgrade this way," said Handley. "They should have kept that position," Simon told CanWest News Service, adding that having someone with full ambassadorial status is "extremely important" for asserting Canada's views about polar issues on the world stage. Duane Smith, President of Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada), said, "It should be concerning for all the people living in the Arctic because the level of attention that the Arctic ambassador's office provided was immediate and dealt with all the issues directly."
Currently, Canada is represented at the Arctic Council by Nunavut MP and cabinet minister (health) Leona Aglukkaq.