In 2013, the Canadian government’s attention will once again be focused on the Arctic. One immediate priority is the upcoming decision by members of Stephen Harper’s cabinet on how to conduct an environmental review for aproposal to develop the Izok Corridor in Nunavut. The plan – put forward by a company headquartered in Australia, but which is a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned resource giant China Minmetals – could bring billions of dollars into the region through its production of an estimated 180,000 tonnes of zinc and 50,000 tonnes of copper a year. Such production, however, is also slated to bring the development of substantial new infrastructure, including open-pit mines, roads, bridges, air-strips and ports, as well as a processing plant.
A report on deepening democracy released by the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security recognised that the enfranchisement of displaced populations, including refugees, ‘is critical for ensuring the integrity of elections and the establishment of democracy’. But this statement belies a deeper interaction, and even conflict, between the international refugee regime and democracy. What would ‘deepening democracy’ mean for the refugee regime? I suggest that strengthening democratic institutions could deepen divides between refugees and host communities. To ensure that the international refugee regime and democracy can successfully co-exist, we must think not just of deepening democracy, but of also balancing it with the rights of refugees.