Government of Yukon strengthens engagement on Arctic security and defence

The Hon. Ranj Pillai, Premier of Yukon (R) addresses the media during Thursday January 4ths press conference with the Chair of the Arctic Security Advisory Council, Ken Coats. .

A secure North is essential for the strength and sovereignty of Canada as a whole. The Government of Yukon has established the Yukon Arctic Security Advisory Council to ensure that the Yukon’s distinct context and needs are considered in federal decision making about Arctic security.

The council will provide independent, expert advice to the territorial government on future risks and opportunities for the territory. Today, Premier Ranj Pillai and Chair of the Yukon Arctic Security Advisory Council Dr. Ken Coates held a media conference to discuss the council’s mandate to study risks across the Yukon security landscape, determine what assets and infrastructure require additional protection and identify opportunities for the Government of Yukon to work with the Government of Canada to enhance security across the territory.

The Government of Yukon continues to demonstrate its commitment to enhancing Arctic security. The Government of Yukon has been supportive of the North Slope Planning Process, as well as the Beaufort Offshore Agreement. Establishing a Yukon Arctic Security Advisory Council to advance the Yukon’s knowledge and vision for the future of the territory was included in Premier Pillai's mandate letter. This need to advance this work was further emphasized by the February 2023 aerial object incident that attracted international attention and a coordinated North American security response.

Establishing the Yukon Arctic Security Advisory Council continues the Government of Yukon’s sustained efforts to advance national understanding and visibility of the Yukon and the role the territory plays and can play in the national and international dialogue on Arctic security. It also will support further discussions with federal partners on investments in dual-use defence assets, in close consultation with northern governments, which will help the federal government address longstanding infrastructure challenges across the North and support economic development while meeting defence and security objectives.

The Government of Yukon continues to work closely with the Department of National Defence, Canadian Armed Forces’ Joint Task Force North, the Government of Alaska, the Council of the Federation, Western Premiers’ Conference, Northern Premiers’ Forum and the Senate of Canada on issues related to northern security and defence. 

A strong and secure North is critical to a strong and secure Canada. The Yukon is at the forefront of issues related to Arctic security, and accordingly, the Government of Yukon remains committed to working with the federal government and global partners on matters of security and defence for the benefit of Yukoners and all of Canadians. The Yukon Arctic Security Advisory Council will provide the perspectives needed to further this work. Ensuring that northern voices are at the centre of these conversations is essential.

 Premier Ranj Pillai

I am honoured to serve as the chair of the Arctic Security Advisory Council, leading a distinguished five-member panel of seasoned experts. Together, we are committed to rigorously examining the complex landscape of risks confronting the North. By advancing the understanding of the distinct challenges and opportunities in the Yukon, I hope that our work can be used to better safeguard the region's long-term security and wellbeing.

Arctic Security Advisory Council Chair Dr. Ken Coates

Quick facts 
  • The Yukon Arctic Security Advisory Council is chaired by Dr. Ken Coates. Other members include Major-General (Retired) Derek Joyce, Dr. Heather Exner-Pirot, Dr. Jennifer Spence and Dr. P. Whitney Lackenbauer. 

  • Dr. Ken Coates is a distinguished Fellow and Director of Indigenous Affairs at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and Chair of Yukon University’s Indigenous governance program. His writing focuses on areas such as Arctic sovereignty and northern treaty and land claims processes. Dr. Coates is nationally recognized in the study of northern and Indigenous issues in Canada.

  • Major-General (Retired) Derek Joyce served in the Canadian Forces for 36 years. His career included appointments in Privy Council Office as the Military Advisor to the National Security Advisor and Director of Operations in Foreign and Defence Policy. From 2019 to 2021, he served as Deputy Commander Continental United States NORAD region at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

  • Dr. Heather Exner-Pirot is a Senior Fellow and Director of Energy, Natural Resources and Environment at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Special Advisor to the Business Council of Canada and Research Advisor to the Indigenous Resource Network. She has 20 years of experience in areas including Indigenous economic development, Arctic security, energy security and Arctic governance. 

  • Dr. Jennifer Spence is an Arctic Initiative Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Her areas of expertise include international governance, institutional effectiveness, sustainable development and public policy. Dr. Spence also spent 18 years in senior roles with the Government of Canada focusing on resource management, conflict and change management, strategic planning, and leadership development.

  • Dr. P. Whitney Lackenbauer is Canada Research Chair in the Study of the Canadian North and a Professor in the School for the Study of Canada at Trent University. He specializes in Arctic security, sovereignty and governance issues. From 2014 to 2020, he served as the honorary lieutenant-colonel of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group stationed in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and was reappointed to this position from 2022 to 2025.

  • In October 2023, the Government of Yukon participated in the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework Leadership Committee meeting held in Whitehorse, where the Premier raised the critical importance of protecting Canada’s Arctic security and sovereignty in partnership with northern governments. 

  • In addition, the Government of Yukon participated in an emergency preparedness exercise, Operation NANOOK-TATIGIIT 2023, from October 23 to 27, together with partner agencies and governments. Operation NANOOK is the Canadian Armed Forces’ series of northern activities that take place each year across the North.

Media contact 

Laura Seeley
Cabinet Communications

Myra Nicks
Communications, Executive Council Office

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