Circumpolar and Aboriginal Affairs



Circumpolar and Aboriginal Affairs

Chair: Whitney Lackenbauer


Deputy Chair: Peter Kikkert


This research group focuses on sharing innovative research and encouraging lively debate amongst academics and practitioners on circumpolar relations, security issues in the Arctic, and indigenous internationalism. 


Our academic work and publications are aimed at popular and specialized audiences, as well as our presentations to security practitioners, parliamentarians and other decision-makers seek to engage, respond to, and shape academic and stakeholder opinion on Arctic sovereignty, security, and safety issues in their many facets.


Although most of the current debate over Arctic sovereignty and security anticipates the future, history continues to inform perceptions of Canada’s legal position, relationships, and priorities. Our research into foreign and defence policy, relationships, and practices in the Cold War Arctic is engaged research because we connect it to contemporary issues without abandoning the primacy of historical context or forsaking the ideal of seeking to understand the past “on its own terms.” In our view, the challenge is to learn from history and inform better policies that balance domestic and international interests, justify appropriate and sustainable roles for state and sub-state actors, and reflect the priorities of Canadians.


Much of our work on contemporary Arctic affairs focuses on sovereignty, security, safety, and governance issues.


Research pursuant to an ArcticNet phase III grant (2011-15) led by Lackenbauer and Dr. Rob Huebert (University of Calgary) indicated that rapid political, economic, social and ecological changes in the Arctic are fundamentally transforming regional security. Given the Arctic’s particular history and its growing relevance to the security interests of both circumpolar and non-polar states, the issue of ‘security’ in the Arctic is a contested and evolving concept. Our team of historians, political scientists, international lawyers, and geographers adopted mixed qualitative methodologies to test social scientific hypotheses regarding the probability and potential forms of cooperation and conflict between and within Arctic states (particularly Canada) through trend analysis, historical and contemporary case studies, and dialogues with policymakers and community stakeholders.


Given the complexity and pace of Arctic change, the Department of National Defence’s Arctic Integrating Concept notes that “new interpretive frameworks are essential in order to respond effectively to changes occurring in the region. Until these frameworks have been established, it may be difficult to understand what is happening in the Arctic, and provide options on how best to respond to crisis or emerging threats to Canadian security or sovereignty” (2010: 6). The CAA research group seeks to contribute to the development of innovative frameworks, both practical and theoretical, that are consistent with Canada’s Northern Strategy and national interests. Accordingly, our results should continue to have important implications for academics, policy-makers, and Northern community members who benefit from more robust security and safety activities that capitalize on opportunities and address risks and threats in a culturally - and environmentally-appropriate manner.


Our current projects include:






If you are interested in joining the CAA Network, please email your contact information to Dr. Peter Kikkert ( or Dr. Whitney Lackenbauer (  We invite participation from all sectors, including Aboriginal organizations, government, the defence sector, and academia.