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Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs
July 31, 2009

Government Questions Federal Commitment to Canada�s North

The Honourable John Hickey, Minister of Labrador Affairs, and the Honourable Patty Pottle, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, responded today to the Canada Northern Strategy: Our North, Our Heritage, Our Future report released by the Federal Government this week. The ministers described the strategy as little more than a compilation of previously announced commitments and policy directions.

�It is clear to me, after reading the report, the Government of Canada under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has no strategy for Canada�s North and is using this report for political posturing,� said Minister Hickey. �There is nothing new in the report; it is vague, and on top of that, I think the Federal Government needs to take a geography lesson on Canada�s North. The decision to leave out the Nunatsiavut and Nunavik regions as part of the North in their mapping shows a profound disregard for the people living there.�

�The strategy is quick to lump Labrador in with the North when given the opportunity to point to accomplishments in devolving governance and environmental protection, such as the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement and the Torngat Mountains National Park, but makes no reference to Labrador when referencing future commitments to the North and its Aboriginal people,� said Minister Pottle.

While the strategy reflects the Northern sovereignty component contained in the Canada First Defence Strategy, there is still no commitment to use 5 Wing Goose Bay as a strategic location in Canada�s sovereignty over the North. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador continues to bring forward to the Federal Government the province�s position that this military facility should be fully utilized, including the part that 5 Wing might play in the Federal Government�s northern sovereignty initiative.

As the only Atlantic province with a northern region, Newfoundland and Labrador is ideally positioned to be Canada�s Northern Gateway. Besides northern sovereignty and national defence activities, the province in an ideal staging ground for scientific expeditions to the North as well as environmental stewardship projects, commercial operations, and marine traffic monitoring. However, there is no indication in the federal northern strategy that the Government of Canada recognizes the province�s strategic location and natural advantages as a gateway to the North.

Minister Hickey questioned the strategy�s claim that the Federal Government is working with northern communities and governments to ensure search and rescue (SAR) operations are adequate and meeting emerging needs.
�On May 4, 2009, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommended that the Federal Government consider 5 Wing Goose Bay as a staging area for the coordination and support of Coast Guard operations and SAR,� said Minister Hickey. �This recommendation is not reflected in the strategy and is another glaring omission in a disappointing document.�

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Media contact:
John Tompkins
Director of Communications
Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs
709-729-1674, 728-7762

2009 07 31                         1:00 p.m.

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