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Raison d'être

The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) is the Government of Canadaʼs Regional Development Agency responsible for supporting economic development in the territories.

The Agency works in the three territories to support the conditions for a sustainable, diversified and innovative economy in collaboration with Northerners/Indigenous peoples, businesses, organizations, other federal departments and other levels of government.

Additional information can be found in the Organization's Departmental Plan.

The Minister of Northern Affairs is also the Minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

Mandate and Role

As the regional development agency for the North, CanNor has a key role in helping unlock business potential and helping develop key economic sectors, such as natural resource extraction, tourism, fisheries, renewable energy, arts and culture, community and business development, food security and Indigenous economic development.

CanNor's key interrelated business lines and services help drive territorial economic development:

As a federal department headquartered in the North, the Agency provides services through its head office in Iqaluit, with regional offices in Yellowknife and Whitehorse. Through its Ottawa liaison office, CanNor works with other departments and agencies in the federal government to promote Northern interests.

Visit the Programs and services page for more information.

Operating Context

The territories account for 40% of Canada's landmass, including a majority of its coastline, and play a crucial role in Canada's evolving identity, its resource wealth and environmental stewardship. In 2023, Statistics Canada estimates that the territories are home to approximately 130,000 people, half of whom are Indigenous. The territorial Indigenous governance landscape is composed of settled land claims, self-governing Indigenous organizations and some unsettled land claims.

Economic development and growth throughout the territories is challenging due to a sparse and widely distributed population, a significant infrastructure deficit, high energy costs, difficulty accessing capital, fluctuations within the natural resource extraction sector due to cyclical commodity pricing, and a shortage of skilled labour. These challenges inform CanNor's activities and operations, and impact how it delivers on its mandate.

The territories' natural resources will continue to be a strong foundation for economic growth and sustainability on account of the vast availability of both traditional resources and critical minerals key to supporting Canada's transition to net zero. To complement expected growth of resource development in the medium- and long-term, sustainable territorial economies will continue to require a focus on investments that contribute to economic diversification and innovation. A strong public sector contribution to territorial GDP, accounting for approximately 32% of the total GDP output from the territories, can provide stability against other sectors impacted by market fluctuations.

Canada's territories have a significant infrastructure deficit that makes it difficult to get goods to market and increases costs of doing business. A lack of affordable and reliable connectivity when compared to southern Canada challenges Northerners' access to the knowledge economy as well as businesses' ability to attract and retain skilled labour. However, this gap, while still significant in Nunavut, is closing in the Yukon and Northwest Territories following significant infrastructure initiatives improving affordability, with a projected 94.7% of NWT households and 90.3% of Yukon households having access to high-speed internet by the end of 2024. Acute housing shortages, particularly in Nunavut, also strain the pace of economic development. With nearly 70% of northern communities relying on aging diesel generators for power, the high price of energy drives up the cost of doing business in the North, also impeding economic development efforts. Continued investment by private and public sectors in large infrastructure projects is expected to help mitigate these issues over time while offering valuable employment opportunities for Northerners.

Climate change is also bringing both challenges and opportunities to the northern economy. Warming temperatures have led to permafrost degradation resulting in the deterioration of some infrastructure and has shortened the operating season and load capacity of winter roads, creating associated challenges to businesses and communities. However, melting ice conditions in the high Arctic also provides an opportunity for increased international shipping and tourism as more of the Arctic seaway becomes accessible for greater parts of the summer.

In response to these challenges and opportunities, CanNor works closely with government departments to implement national initiatives, such as targeted support for clean technology activities, the devolution of Crown lands and resources to the Government of Nunavut, the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act Action Plan (UNDA), the Inuit Nunangat Policy (INP), the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework (ANPF), and CanNor's Pan-Territorial Growth Strategy. This continued collaboration will support the Agency's efforts as it advances plans and priorities in support of northern economic development.

Our president

Jimi Onalik, President – Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor)

Paula Isaak

On November 20, 2023, Jimi Onalik became President of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

Prior to his appointment as President of CanNor, Jimi Onalik served in various capacities in the Government of Nunavut since 2017. Most recently, he was Secretary to Cabinet and Deputy Minister of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs. Prior to that, he served as Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Transportation, and Associate Deputy Minister of COVID Response for the Government of Nunavut.

Most of Jimi's career has been in the aviation and logistics sectors. He has over 15 years of leadership roles throughout the Canadian Arctic with several airlines. In 2001, Jimi founded and was sole owner of Unaalik Aviation, an airline that operated throughout the circumpolar north and in Antarctica. He later worked with Kenn Borek Air, First Air and Calm Air, leading operations and strategic partnerships in the transportation and mining sectors.

Early in Jimi's career, he worked for the Office of the Interim Commissioner, the organization tasked with the creation of the Government of Nunavut and served in the Premier's Office when the territory was created.

Jimi was born in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and grew up in Rankin Inlet. He is married and has five children.

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