Reaching the Summit: Connecting Manitoba’s Arctic to the world

Part 2 in a two-part series.

A summit at the University of Winnipeg in November will allow people to come together and collaborate on ideas and opportunities in the Arctic region.

From Nov. 8 to Nov. 10, 2010, The University of Winnipeg will host The Arctic Gateway Summit – Northern Directions.

The focuses of the summit, which is open to members of public and private sectors, as well as members of northern communities, will be sustainable communities, international trade and economic opportunities for northern indigenous people.

“There’s going to be a major presentation of a sustainable community study (that) the Institute of Urban Studies has been working on up in Churchill for the past year-and-a-half,” said Lloyd Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg.

“This will be a public declaration and we will have discussions about how the gateway needs to incorporate a sustainability focus, not just a focus on infrastructure.”

The summit is a joint effort between Axworthy and the university as well as Premier Greg Selinger and the Government of Manitoba.

Axworthy hopes the summit will not only bring forward strategies, but put in place a series of actions to respond to climate change in a comprehensive way.

Part of the point of the summit is to make private or individual research public. Axworthy believes the public needs to have a better understanding of the issue, as this is one of the most important public policy decisions that has to be made for the future of not only the North, but Canada as a whole.

“I think if we do the planning right and make the right public policy decisions, I think Manitoba – especially through the port of Churchill and railway links – can really be the primary transport link with Asia and Europe,” said Axworthy.

The summit will also focus on investments and strategies that need to be made in order for the arctic gateway model to succeed.

“The biggest obstacle to creating an arctic gateway is building new infrastructure and modernizing old infrastructure to respond to new trade patterns and emerging opportunities,” said Riva Harrison, CentrePort Canada’s executive director of marketing and communications.

“When you are dealing with northern and more remote communities, the infrastructure needs can be even greater due to the faraway location and historical level of investment.”

Harrison said that Manitoba’s relationship with Nunavut is very important in terms of trade and healthcare. Churchill ships goods to many small communities in Nunavut, and Manitoba provides critical healthcare to residents close to Nunavut.

“Manitoba is a natural staging point for economic activity and growth in the North, but that won’t simply continue to happen because of our geographical location. We have to make sure that we continue to work effectively with Nunavut to take full advantage of the opportunities that exist,” said Harrison.

One major problem within Manitoba that needs attention is the winter roads system because climate change is creating shorter winter seasons and melting the ice faster than ever.

“Failure of winter roads is a reality,” said Eric Robinson, Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs.

Robinson believes Manitoba should be focusing on reaching out to smaller communities in a more permanent way along with the focus on Nunavut.

He added that the summit will be a great opportunity for the people who actually live in the area to share their ideas and concerns with members of the public as well as the government.

“Climate change is a big issue and there are no better people than the people who live in the North to talk about it,” he said.

Some portions of the summit will be open to students of the University of Winnipeg. For more information visit To read Part 1 in this two-part series, visit

Published in Volume 65, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 23, 2010)

Related Reads