Updated defence policy could benefit North, Indigenous residents

NWT MP Michael McLeod at the podium Monday at Joint Task Force North. Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal is at left on the right in the background with NWT Premier RJ Simpson. (Photo courtesy GNWT/Facebook.)

The federal government says major new investments in Canada’s national defence will improve Arctic security and benefit northern residents.

The policy update is called Our North, Strong and Free as the federal government is concerned over threats to Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic.

That means increasing the Armed Forces presence in the territory, with commitments to consult with Indigenous people and the territorial government along the way.

NWT Premier RJ Simpson pledged the GNWT to be “a strong partner and collaborator” with the federal government and Indigenous governments to “ensure the protection of the people, communities, and lands” of the Northwest Territories.

Stated the Premier: “No single government can address security challenges in the Arctic alone, but together we can ensure the voices and priorities of the people who have made this their homeland for millennia are at the centre of determining its future.

“I look forward to discussions with the federal government and Indigenous governments across the territory about how these new investments will be delivered to support the peoples and communities of the Northwest Territories, the Arctic, and Canada.

Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, was in town to sell the new policy with NWT MP Michael McLeod and Yukon MP Brendan Hanley at an event at Joint Task Force North Monday morning.

Minister Vandal stated: “These investments will keep Canada safe, but they will also create economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples and northern communities and support good middle-class jobs.”

In Trenton, Ont., federal Defence Minister Bill Blair released the policy which promises $8 billion in new defence spending over the next five years and nearly $73 billion over the next 20 years.

Some Northern commitments include $218 million in spending over 20 years on a network of northern operational support hubs.

Those will consist of airstrips, logistical facilities and equipment, as well as stockpiles of materials.

Vandal said consultations with communities will help inform where those hubs will be located.

The policy update also promises to establish a satellite ground station in the High Arctic.