Rector Antti Syväjärvi shaking hands with president Niinistö and director Johanna Ikävalko waiting her turn.
President Sauli Niinistö and the Governor General of Canada Mary Simon were greeted by Rector Antti Syväjärvi and Director of the Arctic Centre Johanna Ikävalko. Photo: Kaisa Sirén.

General Governor Simon: The Arctic needs determination and perseverance to face the impact of climate change

10.2.2023 13:40

The Governor General of Canada Mary Simon and President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö spoke to university students as part of their visit in Rovaniemi.

The event organized in Arktikum on 9, February was part of the program of the state visit of the Governor General of Canada to Finland.

President Niinistö stated that the Arctic and cooperation in the region is something that truly unites Finland and Canada. 

– We care deeply about the Arctic and the protection of its unique environment and the well-being of its peoples are very close to our hearts, Niinistö said.

He also emphasized the important role of the University of Lapland in coordinating the cooperation among Arctic universities and research institutions.

In her speech, Governor General Mary Simon encouraged global co-operation to work against climate change and to find creative, sustainable solutions in the face of instability caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

– It will take all of us working together to ensure we will remain focused on the path forward, Mary Simon said.  

Canada has recently introduced a new national strategy of climate adaptation. Since mitigation of the effects of climate change is not viable anymore, northern communities require support to adapt the new changes. As the first ever indigenous governor general, Mary Simon also stressed the importance of including the indigenous peoples in the adaptation work. 

– The indigenous people who live in the Arctic have seen the changes and have felt those impacts that are caused by climate change long before it came to the attention of the whole world, Governor General stated. 

At the end of her speech, Mary Simon referenced to two words; Finnish word sisu, “the strength of will and determination in the face of adversity” and Inuktitut word ajuinata, “perseverance in the face of obstacles and to never give up”. 

– In the spirit of both ajuinata and sisu, we must find ways to move forward, to act now when it’s the most critical. It’s important to combat the climate change at its source, treating both the symptoms and the disease – and to inspire collaboration between arctic and non-artic nations, indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, said Simon.

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General Governor Mary Simon. Photo: Kaisa Sirén.

Panelists emphasized the inclusion of all actors and perspectives

The remarks were followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Johanna Ikävalko, Director of the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland. Speakers in the panel were the President of the Sami Parliament Tuomas-Aslak Juuso, research professor Bruce Forbes from the Arctic Centre and professor Jackie Dawson from the University of Ottawa. 

Due to different background and perspectives of the panelists they brought up wide-ranging views to the question of most pressing issues that need to be considered when it comes to the impact of climate change in the Arctic.

Tuomas-Aslak Juuso emphasized the dramatic change in snow conditions which is a truly alarming issue for the state of grazing lands and that way to reindeer herding as a traditional livelihood of the Sámi people. Jackie Dawson predicted that new security challenges will come up when the loss of sea ice enables more and more shipping traffic in northers sea routes. Bruce Forbes paid attention to the forms of governance in climate change issues emphasizing that a participatory way which takes into account all point of views is the only sustainable way to go forward. 

Although the situation with climate change in the Arctic is serious, panelists were also able to find words of hope that could be passed on to children growing up in the middle of climate crisis. All speakers emphasized the need to involve younger generations.

– We need to give young people real access and real power, Dawson said.

Also, the role of education was highlighted as a mean of giving hope for the future. 

Panelistis Tuomas-Aslak Juuso, Jackie Dawson and Bruce Forbes. Photo: Kaisa Sirén.

Recording of the live stream available here (until 24.2.2023):