Operating Context Risk Analysis

Operating context

Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) was established when the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) Act came into force on June 1, 2015. POLAR operates and maintains, and is headquartered at, the world-class Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) campus in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. POLAR is overseen by a nine member Board of Directors. POLAR’s mandate is to:

  • Advance knowledge of the Canadian Arctic to improve economic opportunities, environmental stewardship and the quality of life of its residents and all other Canadians;
  • Promote the development and dissemination of knowledge of the other circumpolar regions, including the Antarctic;
  • Strengthen Canada’s leadership on Arctic issues; and
  • Establish a world-class hub for scientific research in the Canadian Arctic.

As a small, relatively new agency that is working to build capacity in a remote, northern community, there are external and internal influences and factors that may affect the delivery of POLAR’s program and the achievement of its expected results for 2018-19 and beyond. Internally, POLAR is developing its capacity related to delivering its programs, operating and maintaining the CHARS campus and fulfilling Government of Canada monitoring and reporting requirements. In 2018-19, POLAR will continue to strengthen internal service capabilities to effectively perform these activities.

Now that the construction of the CHARS campus is complete, POLAR is also focusing on building human resource capacity in Cambridge Bay. As a government organization operating in Nunavut, preference is given to hiring individuals self-identifying as Inuit as per Article 23 of the Nunavut Agreement and Government of Canada commitments in the related Settlement Agreement with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. POLAR has developed an Inuit Employment Plan which outlines how it will work towards increasing the number of Inuit employed at the CHARS campus through capacity building and training. Removing the barriers to Inuit employment and implementing measures to better recruit and retain Nunavut Inuit are key priorities for the agency.

Additional external influences, that may impact POLAR’s ability to increase capacity in Cambridge Bay and to effectively perform research in the North, are primarily due to the remoteness of the location. Due to a current, lack of housing in Cambridge Bay, POLAR may need to delay hiring and relocating staff until additional units are available. Furthermore, the costs and logistics related to transporting equipment and supplies to the North can impact POLAR’s research activities.

Key risks

POLAR has identified the following two key risks that it faces in implementing its mandate, responsibilities and priorities in 2018–19:

  • POLAR may not be able to fully deliver on the pan-northern and polar scope of its mandate; and,
  • Research funded by POLAR in Canada’s North may not fully align with local and northern priorities.

Environmental and socio-economic conditions and associated research priorities are not uniform across Canada’s North. Research findings in one geographic region may not, therefore, apply to other regions. Environmental conditions also differ between the Arctic and Antarctic, both of which are part of POLAR’s mandate. Given limited organizational capacity and resources, there is a risk that POLAR may be unable to fully deliver on the pan-northern and polar scope of its mandate. To mitigate this risk, POLAR will maximize the reach and impact of its resources, by strengthening the coordination and collaboration with the Canadian and international polar research community. As well, POLAR will continue to compile data on the locations associated with its funded research to better understand the geographic distribution of its programming.

Research is critical in order to better understand, prepare for and adapt to significant environmental and socio-economic changes across Canada’s North. However, without the meaningful engagement of Northerners, including Indigenous peoples, there is a risk that research may not fully align with the priorities of the individuals and communities most impacted by these changes. To mitigate this risk, POLAR will promote and support the involvement of members of northern and Indigenous communities in the planning of POLAR’s funded research and the development of POLAR’s next Science and Technology Plan. POLAR will also seek advice from Indigenous groups on how to incorporate Indigenous and local knowledge in research. Furthermore, through its Inuit Employment Plan and through funded projects, initiatives related to capacity building and training opportunities for members of Indigenous and northern communities will be supported by POLAR. POLAR will also continue to work in collaboration with federal, territorial, provincial and Indigenous partners to co-develop an Arctic Policy Framework for Canada.

The above risks are presented in the table below along with details on the risk response strategy, the link to the department’s Core Responsibility and the links to Ministerial mandate letter commitments and other government-wide or departmental priorities.

Key Risks

Risks Risk response strategy Link to the department’s Core Responsibilities Link to mandate letter commitments and any government wide or departmental priorities (as applicable)

POLAR may not be able to fully deliver on the pan-northern and polar scope of its mandate.
This is an existing risk resulting from limited capacity and financial resources to conduct science and technology research and support knowledge mobilization, training and capacity building initiatives across Canada’s North.

  • Continue to strengthen coordination and collaboration with, and leverage resources within, the Canadian and international polar research community to maximize the reach and impact of its resources.
  • Continue to compile data on the locations associated with its funded research to better understand the geographic distribution of programming.

Polar Science and Knowledge

  • Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs mandate letter: “Lead a whole-of-government approach to the renewal of a nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, and government-to-government relationship with Indigenous Peoples” and “…advance work on a shared Arctic Leadership model and a new Arctic Policy for Canada, and support northern programming, governing institutions, and scientific initiatives.”
  • Minister of Science: “Support scientific research and the integration of scientific considerations in our investment and policy choices.”

Research funded by POLAR in Canada’s North may not fully align with local and northern priorities.
This is an existing risk, given limited capacity of northern and Indigenous groups to meaningfully engage in research and related issues.

  • Support the involvement of members of northern and Indigenous communities in planning of POLAR’s research and development of POLAR’s Science and Technology Plan.
  • Seek advice from these communities on incorporating Indigenous and local knowledge in POLAR’s research.
  • Support capacity building / training initiatives for members of Indigenous / northern communities.
  • Continue to work in collaboration with federal, territorial, provincial and Indigenous partners to co-develop Arctic Policy Framework for Canada.

Polar Science and Knowledge

  • Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs mandate letter: “Lead a whole-of-government approach to the renewal of a nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, and government-to-government relationship with Indigenous Peoples” and “…advance work on a shared Arctic Leadership model and a new Arctic Policy for Canada, and support northern programming, governing institutions, and scientific initiatives.”
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