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Canadian Polar Commission preparing larger role in Arctic

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

The Canadian Polar Commission wants to take on a new and more public role in northern affairs.

The organization is responsible for promoting the development and dissemination of polar knowledge.

The commission was created in 1991 to promote polar science and scientific research. Today, the scientific community is focusing more and more on climate change, and the Arctic is where they want be.

"People weren't looking quite as hard at the Arctic as they are now. Really in the last five or six years the Arctic has exploded in terms of global interest, national interest. That makes our commission more relevant," said Bernard Funston, the chair of the commission.

Ten people from various walks of life sit on the Polar Commission's board of directors. In Iqaluit, the capital city of Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut, they met recently with many local people and organizations such as Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the territory's Inuit land claims organization, and the territorial government.

The commission wants to ensure people understand its role and how it can help.

"We see ourselves as kind of a conduit of information, we keep an eye on the network, if you want to put it that way. We figure out who's doing what, where, when, why and how they are getting it done," said Funston.

Right now, there is no board member from Nunavut, but there are Inuit representatives — Nellie Cournoyea from Canada's Northwest Territories is the co-chair and Barrie Ford from Nunavik, the predominantly Inuit region of Northern Quebec, is a board member.

The commission says it wants to make sure indigenous knowledge, along with scientific research, is gathered and shared.

"By having different board members that have spent a significant time and actually live in the North — to be there in the room and there to make sure there is a northern viewpoint — I think that is pretty important," said Ford.

The commission sees its role as an important connection between partners in the North, especially with mining projects on the go and the possibility of increased shipping traffic as the Arctic sea ice melts.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.