Canada last chaired the Arctic Council, during its inaugural meeting in 1998, when the forum pledged to encourage co-operation on sustainable development and environmental protection.

Canada will begin a two-year term at a time when Far North is constantly being exposed to rapid warming and increasing threats, including rise in shipping, oil drilling and other environmental hazards.

During the meeting, the council members are also likely to sign a binding accord on oil spill prevention and deal with the issue of observer status for non-Arctic states, such as China.

On Monday, groups representing aboriginals from the Arctic Council released a statement in Kiruna, Sweden, which said, "It is time that we join forces and demand that the oil companies and the Arctic states change their path and start to listen to the voices of the indigenous peoples residing in these lands."

The statement has 42 signatories, including major aboriginal groups from Russia, the US and Canada, as well as aboriginal heads from Scandinavia.

In the statement, the groups have demanded halt to all offshore drilling in Arctic waters and said the methods to clean up unavoidable spills have not been developed yet.