Photo by Robbie Palmer on Unsplash
Photo by Robbie Palmer on Unsplash

Time witness reports: An Interview with Robert Kadas, Senior Advisor for Global Affairs Canada

Robert Kadas has been a part of the Arctic Council from its earliest days. Working in the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs with a focus on western and northern Canada, Robert’s engagement with Council issues started shortly after it launched in 1996. Today, he advises Canada’s Senior Arctic Official (SAO) at Global Affairs Canada. Robert shared with us his perspective on the Council over the years.
Robert Kadas at a Senior Arctic Officials' meeting in Yakutsk in 2005. (Photo: Harald Finkler)

How has the Council changed over the years?

In the early days, the SAO meetings were held in small rooms. The first Ministerial was held in a church hall – it was even open to the public! People could come in and have coffee and watch the proceedings. By 2009 it was held in a large hotel banquet hall in Tromsø where it was cheek to jowl.

A big change is the level of interest in the Council, and not just in the Arctic. In early discussions of observers, everyone was welcome. Today, it’s become as much a logistical question as political. The Arctic Council has remained nimble and able to respond to issues of the day - like COVID-19.

What’s unique about the Council?

The role of Indigenous Peoples, the community element. It’s still the first and only forum that has non-state actors at the table, a definite innovation. The fact that Permanent Participants are still at the table contributing to discussions and decision has led to the Council’s longevity. Otherwise, would the Council still have the same agenda, or would it have slipped into a stodgy governmental forum?

What does the Arctic Council mean for you?

It’s been twenty-some years of my professional life. I’ve had the opportunity to visit amazing places, especially places in the Canadian Arctic that most Canadians will never get to visit. And it’s exposed me to the fact that there are different Arctics.

Where do you see the Council in the next 25 years?

Finding a way to show the world that we look at Arctic issues differently. Maybe a Ministerial declaration signed by Permanent Participants, or becoming a body with legal personality that has Permanent Participants at the table. The Council is a different way of doing business.