The Honourable George J. Furey, Q.C.
Speaker of the Senate
In 1903, a lonely ship anchored at the icy port of Gjøa Haven in the Canadian arctic. The ship was that of the great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his crew, on a quest to be the first to navigate the Northwest Passage. Determined to succeed but unaccustomed to the frigid, unforgiving conditions of the High Arctic, the explorers’ fate hung in the balance.
Fortunately, upon disembarking, Amundsen’s explorers were greeted by the indigenous Inuit people who, despite no common language, taught the Norwegians how to live comfortably in the Canadian Arctic.
The explorers remained with the Netsilik Inuit for two years, forging a relationship of collaboration and respect: each group providing the other with new skills, knowledge, and resources. This relationship, thoroughly documented by Amundsen in his diaries, guaranteed the explorers’ survival and facilitated the success of the polar expedition.
Amundsen’s diaries survive today as an early symbol of the warm history of friendship and collaboration between Canada and Norway.
To mark the occasion of 75 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and Norway, the Royal Norwegian Embassy presented the Parliament of Canada with a special edition of Amundsen’s diaries from his time in the Canadian arctic, containing around 300 photos, many of which had never been published before.
On June 1, 2017 in a ceremony held in the Library of Parliament, Speaker of the Senate George J. Furey, alongside Speaker of the House of Commons Geoff Regan, accepted the gift from Anne Kari Hansen Ovind, Norway’s ambassador to Canada, and Geir O. Kløver, director of Oslo’s Fram Museum of Polar Exploration.
“From the Norse sailors who explored Newfoundland and Labrador a thousand years ago, to current collaborations in many areas, Canada and Norway’s histories are closely intertwined,” said Speaker Furey, summarizing the relationship between the two northern nations.
“Bound together by common values, by common geography, and by common challenges, our two nations have much to offer each other.”
In his remarks, Speaker Furey reminded listeners of the importance of Canada and Norway’s present partnership in managing arctic affairs, promoting security and human rights, and spurring entrepreneurship, research, and education.
Norwegian Ambassador Anne Kari Hansen Ovind spoke of the gift as a symbol of the knowledge-sharing, which is “essential, both to understand the past, but also to prepare ourselves for the future.”
Speaker Furey agreed, noting that the traditional knowledge Amundsen gleaned from the Netsilik Inuit would enable him to become the first explorer to reach the South Pole.
“There is perhaps no better personification of the value of mutual cooperation than the great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen,” Speaker Furey said.
The special edition of Amundsen’s diaries will be kept by the Library of Parliament in recognition of the long-standing spirit of collaboration and friendship between Canada and Norway.
Speaker Furey speaks about the Canada-Norway relationship at the ceremony in the Library of Parliament.
Ambassador Ovind describes the relationship between explorer Roald Amundsen and the Inuit as one characterized by mutual respect.
From left to right: The Honorable George J. Furey - Speaker of the Senate, Ms. Sonia L’Heureaux - Parliamentary Librarian, The Honorable Geoff Regan - Speaker of the House of Commons, Her Excellency Anne Kari Hansen Ovind - Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway, & Geir O. Kløver - Director of the Fram Museum.