The Northern Federal Council (NFC) is a collaborative network of over 40 senior federal officials responsible for implementing Government of Canada programs and services in this part of the country. The three Northern Territories – Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories – encompass approximately 40 per cent of Canada’s total area, and are inhabited by less than 1 per cent of Canada’s population. Through its network and by providing the broader federal community awareness, insights and advice, the NFC members support one another, share information and collaborate to deliver results in the North.
The broader community of Regional Federal Councils (RFCs) has played an important role in the provinces and territories since the 1980s. Following reforms in 2014, the RFCs have been led by the deputy ministers of Regional Development Agencies, strengthening their role in connecting people and intelligence within, to and from the regions, departmental headquarters and central agencies to support the implementation of regional and government-wide initiatives.
Chaired by Janet King, President of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CanNor, the Northern Federal Council is well positioned to provide collective and coordinated northern perspectives on the four priorities areas identified for 2018-2019:
- Networks and Collaboration
- Intelligence and Knowledge Exchange Platform
- Regional Innovation and Experimentation
- Strong and Engaged Workforce in the Regions.
The NFC provides a bridge between the regional and national initiatives, priorities and activities. For example, the close working relationship developed with the Canada School of Public Service on regional learning needs and activities and providing a communication window for national policy dialogues and initiatives.
Of course, given the vast geography, the NFC faces some technical and operational challenges. Members of the NFC are located in 12 cities across both southern and northern Canada. The NFC has learned to operate as a virtual network through regular meetings on Webex – including side chats and live shared presentations – and shares information and opportunities through Government of Canada social media platforms such as GCconnex and GCpedia.
To help connect public servants on the ground, the NFC also includes Territorial Tables – fora where federal public servants in each of the three northern capitals – Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit – convene to engage, connect and collaborate on issues and opportunities of particular local interest. Some examples include the Yukon and NWT Federal Tables support of the Treaty Implementation Caucuses, the Yukon Table’s creation of a northern recruitment calendar; the NWT Table’s facilitated conversations on reconciliation; the Nunavut Table’s work with Pilimmaksaivik on Inuit employment. All three territories’ Tables also work with Shared Services Canada to improve the IT services in the North, serve as a connector to other fora and networks such as the Northern Security Working Group and the National Managers’ Community, and the list goes on.
Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” This quote is a very real reflection of the wonders that can be accomplished when people take the time to connect, share and innovate, and that is the everyday reality of the Northern Federal Council.