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Peter Harrison

Emeritus Professor

People Directory Affiliation Category

Dr. Peter Harrison is Professor Emeritus in the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University, and the former Stauffer-Dunning Chair and Director of the School (2009-2013).  He joined SPS as the federal “Skelton-Clark Fellow” in 2008.

Dr. Harrison is a Geographer by profession and holds a B.A. (1st cl. Hon.) from the London School of Economics and Political Science (1969); an M.A. from the University of Victoria (B.C.) (1970); and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington (Seattle) (1973).  His research, writing and public speaking have focused on the management of the Oceans, with particular reference to the Arctic Ocean and Canada’s Northern regions and peoples.

Dr. Harrison’s first career (1973- 1981) was as Assistant, then Associate (tenured), Professor in the Department of Geography and Regional Planning at the University of Ottawa.

In 1981 Dr. Harrison joined the Public Service of Canada in the Department of Finance.  His public service career lasted nearly 30 years.  He was appointed to Assistant/Associate/Senior Associate Deputy Minister positions in a number of Departments including: the Privy Council Office (PCO); the Department of Finance; Indian and Northern Affairs Canada; Revenue Canada; and Human Resources Development Canada.  In the PCO he was Secretary to Priorities and Planning and Expenditure Review Committees of the federal Cabinet.

Dr. Harrison also served as Deputy Minister of a number of organizations including: Natural Resources Canada; the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO); the Leadership Network; the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) (as Senior Research Fellow, Oceans); and Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada.

Key contributions to public policy by Dr. Harrison include: amendments to the Indian Act (Bill C-115) to allow first Nations to tax non-Indians on First Nations’ land; shepherding the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by Canada in 2003; the creation of the “Oceans Action Plan” (2003); the investment of $150 million in the International Polar Year; the development of the previous government’s Northern Strategy; and the early commitment to the new “Canadian High Arctic Research Station” (CHARS), and leading the public service involvement in the “Residential Schools Apology” in the House of Commons. 

He was the international co-chair (with Professor SU Jilan) of the China Council for International Co-operation on Environment and Development (CCICED) Task Force on the “Sustainable Use of China’s Ocean and Coasts” which reported in November 2010. 

He has also served as a reviewer of: a number of graduate academic programs at several Canadian Universities; research proposals to funding agencies in Canada and abroad (Norway; European Union); and research reports prepared for the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Council of Academies.

Dr. Harrison was the Chair of the “International Polar Year (IPY) Conference: From Knowledge to Action” which was held in Montreal in April 2012.  For a number of years he has been the Chair of the Governing Council of the “Ocean Tracking Network”, which is based at Dalhousie University and funded as a “Major Science Initiative (MSI)” by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) (and, previously, by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC)). 

Dr. Harrison has been collaborating with the Pew Charitable Trusts (US) on the prevention of potential unregulated commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean (CAO).  An international agreement to this effect was signed by ten jurisdictions (Canada; Russia; US; Norway; Denmark/Greenland; China; S. Korea; Japan; Iceland and the EU) in late 2018.  Dr. Harrison organized a number of roundtables of experts in Asia to promote the Agreement and its signing.  He continues to work with indigenous groups in the Arctic to ensure that an appropriate science program for the CAO is developed with their input.  In relation to this he is Vice Chair of the Board of Oceans North (a new Canadian NGO)

Dr. Harrison is a Fellow, and former Governor and Vice President, of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS). 

He was awarded the Gold Medal celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to Public Service, her Diamond Jubilee medal for his contributions to the field of Geography and to the RCGS, and the RCGS’ “Camsell Medal” for his contributions to the Society.

In December 2019, Dr. Harrison was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada (C.M.) by the Governor General of Canada: “For his dedication to Canada's stewardship of the Arctic Ocean and to the enhancement of its role in Arctic and Northern issues".

  • ocean and coastal management;
  • northern development/Arctic ocean
  • Arctic and northern policy.