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article imageArctic Summit meets outside Ottawa today

By Bob Gordon     Mar 29, 2010 in Politics
The Arctic Summit being held outside Ottawa today includes Canada, Russia, the United States, Norway and Denmark. However, it also excludes many of the key players involved in the region and its future.
The meeting is being held at the federal retreat in Chelsea, Que.
Iceland, a member of the international Arctic Council, has been left out of the talks, and has already voiced its annoyance over the snub. Sweden and Finland, members of the International Arctic Council, are also absent.
The European Union was recently blocked by Canada and others from gaining even "observer" status at the Arctic Council because of the continent's ban on seal products. In a diplomatic tit-for-tat the EU has expressed concern about the small reach of the Arctic Council. " British EU representative Diana Wallis expressed this dissatisfaction earlier this month during a parliamentary debate about the Arctic:
It is worrying, that we see the development of an inner core of five coastal states of the Arctic meeting outside the architecture of the Arctic Council. This could seriously undermine a very precious cooperation and it has to be treated with some seriousness.
Former Canadian parliamentarian and diplomat Lloyd Awworthy, currently president of Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation has mixed reactions to the Arctic Summit. On the one hand, he praises "the mini-summit, another indication that the Harper government is serious about the Arctic – a welcome change from the usual Canadian condition of benign neglect'
On the other hand, he expresses concern that so many of the relevant players are excluded. "Canada is turning its back on the Arctic Council – a Canadian-inspired international organization – and perplexing both the indigenous permanent representatives to the council and Sweden, Iceland and Finland, council members who were not invited to Chelsea," he writes in today's Toronto Star.
Aboriginal groups, particularly the Inuit are incensed by their exclusion. "It is inconceivable that the Government of Canada would contemplate holding a conference to discuss economic development and environmental protection in the Arctic without the active participation of Inuit, who will have to live with the consequences of any new government policies. This reeks of paternalism," Pita Aatami, an official with the Ottawa-based Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
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