The minister looking over the country’s northern economic development will serve as the Canadian chair of the Arctic Council, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Thursday.

During a stop on his annual Northern Tour, Harper named Leona Aglukkaq, the Conservative MP for Nunavut and federal Health Minister, to the eight-state council.

Aglukkaq already serves as the head of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, which was created to strengthen the economy in Canada’s North.

“The North is an integral part of our heritage and holds tremendous promise for our country’s future,” Harper said in a press release. “I therefore welcome Canada’s upcoming chairmanship of the Arctic Council where countries will be working together to advance their respective northern interests.”

In her new role, Aglukkaq will be responsible for developing and delivering the Arctic Council program, which co-ordinates on issues including environmental protection and development.

Canada will take over as chair of the group from Sweden beginning next year.

The Arctic Council, made up of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the U.S., was established in 1996 with the signing of the Ottawa Declaration by the eight Arctic states. In recent years, countries including China and the European Union, have expressed an interest in being granted official observer status on the council.

Both countries are high on Canada’s list of trading partners.

Harper also announced on Thursday support for the construction and operation of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS).

“This new station will undertake science and technology (S&T) research that will support the responsible development of Canada’s North, inform environmental stewardship, and enhance the quality of life of Northerners and all Canadians,” said Harper.

Located in the remote Nunavut community of Cambridge Bay, CHARS will be a year-round multi-disciplinary facility that focuses on innovative research into environmental and resource development issues in the Arctic.

With files from The Canadian Press