Change and Economic Development in Arctic Canada (CEDAC)


Examining What Successful Economic Development means in the Eyes of Inuit Living in Arctic Canada

Primary Researchers: Kathryn Lupton

The circumpolar Arctic is predicted to garner investments ranging from $100bn to 225bn over the next decade as climate change improves international shipping routes and accessibility to natural resources (Mikkola & Käpylä 2013). The Canadian Arctic is central to this economic boom and its vast stores of untouched natural resources and increased access to the Northwest Passage provide enormous opportunities for national prosperity, pride and wealth. Yet for those living there, the Arctic is home, and it is experienced quite differently. There are immense social, economic, and environmental challenges facing the remote and predominantly Inuit communities dispersed across the region. In the eyes of these residents, developing the capacity to meet the coming challenges is as pressing as the nation’s need for economic growth. There is an urgent need to understand what will enable the nation to keep pace with circumpolar economic development initiatives while safeguarding the sustainability and well being of local economies and culture.

In addition to the moral duty of a nation to ensure the sustainability and well being of its communities, the land-claim agreements that have been settled between the Government of Canada and Inuit organizations produce an important foundation for local development. They create frameworks for the devolution of power and local control, which are crucial ingredients for improving the outcomes of citizens and in facilitating internally driven and sustained economies (Peterson 1995). However, the upcoming development rush will most certainly challenge the capacity of local organizations, governance bodies, and political structures currently in place. 


This proposed research utilizes a new approach to examining community development in the Canadian Arctic that has substantial potential to co-generate innovative knowledge and policy for much desired socio-economic progress in the region. The project was developed directly with Inuit and regional partners in the territory of Nunavut through a series of workshops and formal and informal conversations over the past two years. Essential authorities and community groups in the region, including Nunavut Tungavik Inc. and hamlet councils of four communities, have provided formal support for the research and a pilot case study has already been completed.

The overarching aims of the research are to:

1) Identify approaches relevant in the geographic and socio-cultural contexts of Arctic Canada that can contribute to desirable, successful, and sustained development under conditions of rapid environmental and economic change, and
2) Identify and evaluate adaptation strategies that support residents in managing the new challenges in their homeland.


This work is part of a larger SSHRC funded project led by Jackie Dawson, with additional partners including Margaret Johnston from Lakehead University and Miriam Jorgensen and Stephen Cornell from the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona, and Angela Cameron from the uOttawa Faculty of Law and Brenda Macdougall from Canadian Studies at uOttawa.