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Executive Summary for April 8th

In this weekly roundup, we review and analyze the latest news and key developments in the Arctic, including rising rates of food insecurity in Nunavut and concerns over the coast guard’s ability to respond to a shipping disaster in the Canadian North.

Published on April 8, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Record Rates of Food Insecurity in Canada’s North

Food insecurity continues to be a major problem in the Canadian North, particularly in Nunavut, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Toronto.

More than 40 percent of households within Nunavut experienced some level of food insecurity in 2014 – the highest on record since the survey began in 2005. As much as 60 percent of the territory’s children live in households that are food insecure. For comparison, 12 percent of households across Canada (excluding British Columbia, Yukon, Labrador and Manitoba, which did not participate) experience some level of food insecurity.

“The rates in the North suggest a state of emergency,” Valerie Tarasuk, a nutritional sciences professor at U of T’s faculty of medicine and a lead author of the study, said in a news release. “We’ve seen no substantial decrease in rates across the country over the past couple of years, despite poverty reduction strategies in many provinces. We think it’s time for concerted policy action.”

Children who grow up in food insecure households are more likely to develop chronic conditions, such as asthma, and suffer from depression, reported CBC News.

Bon Voyage?

As Crystal Cruises, a U.S.-based luxury tourism line, prepares to send a large ship through the Canadian Arctic later this summer, there are concerns over whether the voyage will be safe.

Warmer temperatures and melting ice are providing larger vessels with increased access to the Northwest Passage. But the remote route is considered to be poorly charted and less ice does not mean no ice, researchers point out.

The Crystal Serenity will have 1,000 passengers and 600 crew on board for a 32-day trip from Seward, Alaska to New York City, with stops in Alaska, Nunavut and Greenland. The ship is not an ice-rated vessel, but the company has hired an icebreaking ship to escort it along the route.

Michael Byers, an expert in global politics and international law from the University of British Columbia, told CBC News that the Canadian Coast Guard is not prepared to respond to a disaster in the area.

The U.S. and Canadian coast guards, government agencies, local governments and Crystal Cruises will carry out a table-top exercise next week to see how well they perform under a disaster scenario that could require the rescue of hundreds of people, hundreds of kilometers from the nearest hospital.

The U.S. Department of Defense is also planning a local training drill near Nome, Alaska in August, but not until after the Crystal Serenity passes through those waters, reported KNOM Radio.

Canadian Coast Guard Gets Failing Grade

The table-top exercise in Alaska comes on the heels of a report done for Canada’s federal transport agency that says the country’s coast guard fleet is suffering.

The review found the agency was understaffed, in need of new ships and lacking political support, according to the CBC. “The Canadian Coast Guard would be better suited to a policy environment that focuses on transportation and transportation infrastructure rather than fisheries issues,” the report said.

It also criticized the national strategy in place to rebuild the aging fleet. The report said the coast guard must accelerate its renewal strategy and purchase a minimum of one polar-class and two heavy icebreakers.

A group representing shipping owners, agents and operators within Canada said in a statement that the current plan to build a single polar-class icebreaker for a “cost of over $1 billion for delivery in 2022 at the earliest, is not a viable solution,” reported the Ottawa Citizen.

Recommended Reading

Top image: More than 40 percent of households within Nunavut experienced some level of food insecurity in 2014 – the highest on record since the survey began in 2005. (Pixabay)

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