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Published: 2021-12-16

Canada's new ambassador visits the Arctic Centre at Umeå University

NEWS On December 13, Arcum, had the honour of hosting Jason LaTorre, Canada's newly appointed ambassador to Sweden and his colleagues Megan Lau and Corinne Petrisor, treating them to a proper Luciafika and engaging them in discussion about Arctic research. 

Text: Anngelica Kristoferqvist

The Canadian Embassy in Sweden was visiting Umeå for two days to meet different actors in the region, and first on the agenda was Arcum and members of its research network. During the morning meeting at the university, discussions were fueled by Christmas buns and gingerbread, and the Ambassador seemed happy about everybody taking some time meet on this traditionally special day.
The meeting was opened by Dieter Müller, Chairman of the Arcum Steering Group and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, who spoke about the history of Umeå University and how it became the place of learning that it is today. He talked about how the university contributes to overall development in the region, also pointing to some of our competitive strengths and specifically highlighting the prominent position that Umeå University takes in different areas of Arctic research.

As Umeå University is the first Swedish university visited by the Ambassador, general issues about funding and student mobility in the system of higher learning were also discussed. Among other things, the difference between on the one hand Polar research, with its emphasis on natural phenomena in remote areas, and on the other hand Arctic research emphasizing broader social and humanitarian issue was also broached.
Next, Erik Elmroth, Professor and Head of the Department of Computer Science, presented his research on autonomous distributed systems, cloud and edge computing. He is the founder of Umeå University's research in distributed systems, in which incidentally Canadian researchers collaborate in the field of Responsible AI. Erik also observed the trend that international researchers who come to Umeå for shorter stints of researchincreasingly start looking for ways to stay on simply because they enjoy the sub-Arctic environment so much.   

Terry Bidleman, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Chemistry, talked about his life's journey from Michigan in the US to Canada and finally to Sweden, where he has now lived and done research for a decade. He spoke about his collaboration with partners in Canada, and contributed with some of his insights into changes related to both Canadian and Nordic geography and climate in his presentation. 
Last speaker out was Professor Niklas Eklund, Director of Arcum, who spoke generally about Arcum and Arctic research at the university. From his perspective as a professor of political science, he felt obliged to talk about how the geopolitical situation in the Arctic has regressed in the past decade. "Unfortunately", he said, "this seems to coincide with Arctic policies in several European countries moving in the direction of a more Polar view, in the process excluding the promotion of living areas and peoples in the Arctic, of modernization and livelihoods and in practice beginning to mystify and exclude the four million people living and working in the global Arctic".
The last presentation prompted a discussion about the new Arctic strategies in Sweden and the EU, especially how these policies have changed over a decade and if there are any lessons to be learned from how the policy has evolved in Canada. This is a discussion Arcum hopes to be able to pursue further.
Discussions could probably have gone on much longer. A business lunch with Vice Chancellor Hans Adolfsson was also planned, however, and followed suit in the same spirit of mutual interest and friendship. The Lucia afternoon, then, was hosted by Váarduo, the Umeå Centre for Sámi research.

Terry Frank Bidleman
Professor emeritus
Anngelica Kristoferqvist
Other position, education coordinator
Dieter Müller
Professor, other position