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His Excellency Sturla Sigurjónsson Addresses CNS

by Tim Mark

On April 20, His Excellency Sturla Sigurjónsson, Ambassador of Iceland to Canada, addressed a large and appreciative CNS audience on “Mutual Interests in the North: Iceland in Canada and the 21st Century”.

Born and educated in Reykjavik, the Ambassador has had a varied and distinguished diplomatic career, including postings to the United States and to Brussels (NATO and the European Union). He has served as Iceland’s Ambassador to Canada for the past fourteen months.

Mr. Sigurjónsson presented a general overview of Iceland’s relations with Canada, dating back to the Vinland sagas and the evidence for Norse settlement at L’Anse -aux-Meadows at the tip of the northern peninsula of Newfoundland. The hostility of the “Skraelings” (the native inhabitants) and the following Little Ice Age amongst other reasons, meant that there was no continuous long term Norse occupation (although there is evidence for trade and exploration into medieval times). Indeed it has apparently been discovered that some Icelanders have genes from North American indigenous people.

In 1875 volcanic eruptions plus the search for a better life led to a mass emigration to North America over thirty years, much of it to Manitoba where the New Iceland colony was established. There remains a strong Icelandic community which celebrates Islendindigadagurinn (‘Icelandic Days’) every year.

During the Second World War the British Army occupied Iceland (including troops from the Royal Regiment of Canada); in July 1941 they were relieved by American soldiers. Iceland played a crucial role in the Battle of the Atlantic. It gained its independence from Denmark in 1944.

Nowadays Canada and Iceland share many political, defence and cultural ties, and work together in such forums as the United Nations, NATO, and the Arctic Council. The two countries share common interests in maritime issues, and especially over matters such as Arctic sovereignty and the exploitation of Arctic resources. There is steadily increasing trade with Canada, notably in seafood and its associated technology, such as seafood processing. Tourism is strong and is increasing rapidly.

Following a lively questions and answer period the Ambassador was presented with the unique CNS mug by the CNS President, Tim Mark and he and Mme Elín Jónsdóttir remained to socialize with the audience.

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