There are as many definitions of North as there are jurisdictions in Canada. It is difficult to choose one that perfectly encompasses the existing interpretations of this vast region. For the purpose of the Northern Development Ministers Forum (NDMF), the North is defined as the three territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut) and the northern extent of seven provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, and Newfoundland and Labrador).
Given this flexible definition, it is important to underscore that there are many differences throughout this area; notably with respect to climate, remoteness, and aboriginal relations. The issues of climate change, Arctic sovereignty, northern security and economic development have made the Canadian North more prominent in recent years. While the North is commonly portrayed as a frontier for development, it is also home to approximately six per cent of Canada’s total population – over 2.1 million people.
Canada’s northern communities are more remotely located, are home to fewer and younger populations, and are composed of a proportionately greater number of Aboriginal Peoples than the southern parts of Canada.
Proportionally, the largest Aboriginal populations are found in Nunavut (85.0 per cent), the Northwest Territories (50.3 per cent), Yukon (25.1 per cent), Manitoba (15.5 per cent) and Saskatchewan (14.9 2 per cent). By total populations, Ontario is home to the largest number of Aboriginal people in Canada. Canada’s northern Aboriginal population, which makes up approximately 51 per cent of Canadians living in the North, grew by 12 per cent in the last five years and is projected to continue growing above the Canadian average. Nearly half of this population is under 25 years of age.
The Northern Development Ministers Forum (NDMF) was established in 2001 to advance the diverse and common interests of the people living in Canada’s North, while raising awareness among decision-makers and the public about the accomplishments, contributions and potential of northerners. Member jurisdictions of NDMF include the governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, Québec, Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the Government of Canada.
The NDMF’s mandate is to:
- reinforce cooperation among federal, provincial and territorial authorities in northern regions of Canada;
- identify with the appropriate federal-provincial / territorial (FPT) table and/or provide leadership on strategic actions that will advance the socio-economic development of the North;
- exchange information, increase awareness, share best practices on northern priorities; and
- recommend actions to be implemented by Ministers in accordance with their mandate and within their jurisdictions.
The Northern Development Ministers’ Forum provides federal, provincial and territorial ministers representing Canada’s North an opportunity to advance common interests and raise awareness of northern issues. The Forum is typically centred on a common “theme” and a series of priority projects as identified by recommendations made by Ministers at previous year’s Forums. Priorities identified can be addressed through various means such as: expert panels; guest speakers; or site specific visits.