Premier Caroline Cochrane says Monday’s meeting between the three territorial leaders and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was “productive.”
Cochrane said the virtual meeting, held at the territories’ request, “gave me confidence that the Prime Minister understands there needs to be more attention given to the North, which includes more investment.”
Cochrane was joined by colleagues Sandy Silver of Yukon and PJ Akeeagok of Nunavut in the meeting, called following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to address the question of Canadian Arctic sovereignty.
Trudeau’s office, in a summary of the call, said the premiers had “outlined their concerns about the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine and the risks it can pose to Arctic sovereignty.”
In a statement that borrowed from wording Cochrane has used in recent weeks, Trudeau’s office said the premiers had “outlined the importance of building healthy communities and strong infrastructure in asserting sovereignty in the North.”
In return, the statement continued, Trudeau and defence minister Anita Anand had “underscored that the Government of Canada remains deeply committed to supporting the health, security, and prosperity of the Arctic while defending Canadian sovereignty and upholding regional security.”
Cochrane said the Prime Minister had “committed to working closely” on Arctic sovereignty with the territories and Indigenous governments.
Beyond that, Cochrane said, the meeting also addressed “the need for broadband and other needs like infrastructure and energy.”
“As the Arctic takes a more predominant role on the international stage, we want to ensure that the needs of northerners remain a priority for Canada,” she said. “It also means that the aspirations of northerners be given appropriate attention and that we eliminate the gaps between northern and southern Canadians.”
Trudeau’s office said he had “committed to staying in close contact” with the territories.
The three territories jointly requested Monday’s meeting with Trudeau a month ago following Russia’s first advance into Ukraine.
Russia has long held a variety of interests in the Arctic and climate change has made the waters around northern Canada increasingly navigable.
Yellowknife is home to Joint Task Force North, a Canadian Armed Forces branch that holds partial responsibility for the enforcement of Canada’s Arctic sovereignty. Annual exercises, such as Operation Nanook, are held to demonstrate and refine Canadian military prowess in the far north of the country, though they often focus on search-and-rescue capabilities.
“Across the three territories we all have concerns,” Cochrane told MLAs in the NWT legislature at the start of March.