Bob van Dijken

The Director for Circumpolar Relations of the Council of Yukon First Nations reflects on his experiences with the NCP.

Transcript: Bob van Dijken

I’m Bob van Dijken. I’m acting director of Circumpolar Relations for the Council of Yukon First Nations from Whitehorse, Yukon.

The role is fairly broad. It’s working with programs like the Northern Contaminants Program, for example, looking at Canada’s upcoming chair of the Arctic Council and how the Yukon and Yukon First Nations will fit into that, some work on climate change, and a variety of regional and national and international issues.

The Northern Contaminants Program has now been around for 20 years, and it’s, we believe, a model for what should happen. Its long-term presence does establish credibility in the communities. A lot of programs come and go in three to five years. The really good thing about the Northern Contaminants Program with that 20 years is that it has established that track record. It continues to evolve to look at issues that are important and continues to be a strong presence in those communities.

I think that long-term data set, that ability to have a program that has been there in the past, has established a track record, and continues to do work is very valuable. A lot of these issues don’t show up overnight, and you need to track. In the Yukon we’re in the enviable position, it seems, of not having a lot of concerns about contaminants at the present time. So I think in some venues the natural inclination would be if it’s not an issue, let’s stop looking at it.

You see news stories – for example, mercury is one. The health bureau in the Yukon removed that advisory last year because levels have gone down, probably largely as a result of work by the Northern Contaminants Program which got translated into an international treaty on persistent organic pollutants.

You know, in the science community those, what I guess in comparative terms are fairly long-term data sets now of 20 years, the value is recognised all around the world. It’s critical to be there, to be reactive, to learn that this isn’t an issue anymore but these are the up and coming issues. But we need an overall program that’s light on its feet, able to deal with those issues that come along.


Bob van Dijken is the Director of Circumpolar Relations for the Council of Yukon First Nations. He is a former Northern Coordinator under Canada's International Polar Year program, and is passionate about finding ways of communicating science to different audiences. He represents Yukon First Nations on the NCP Management Committee.