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Canada starts Operation Nanook 09, a military exercise to confirm sovereignty over its arctic territory

"Operation NANOOK 09 is one of three major sovereignty operations conducted every year by the Government of Canada in Canada's North," a communiqué by the Canadian National Defence said. "This operation will see the Canadian Forces demonstrate a visible presence in the eastern Arctic with sea, land and air forces operating in the Baffin Island region. The operation will run from August 6 to 28, 2009, and will include sovereignty patrolling, a military exercise, and a whole-of-government exercise," it added.

"Showing our Government’s commitment to protecting and demonstrating control over the air, land and sea within our jurisdiction," Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay

The Arctic has become one of Canada's top priorities since a new Northern Strategy has been defined. It focuses on exercising Canada’s sovereignty, protecting Canada's environmental heritage, promoting economic and social development, and improving and devolving governance. Given the growing importance of the Arctic in strategic terms, the Canadian Forces maintain a presence in the Arctic, with their Joint Task Force North, the Canadian Forces Station Alert, the 440 Transport Squadron, the Canadian Rangers, and regular patrols and operations like Operation NANOOK.

This consists of "a joint operation that will be conducted with the participation of personnel, ships and aircraft from the Army, Navy and Air Force, working under the command of Joint Task Force (North) (JTFN)," explained the communiqué. "As one of six regional commands reporting to Canada Command in Ottawa, JTFN is responsible for the conduct of all routine and contingency operations in Canada's North. JTFN is headquartered in Yellowknife, NT, and commanded by Brigadier-General David Millar," it said.

To meet emerging challenges and potential threats, Canada has progressively increased its presence and has strengthened the capabilities of its forces in the North. It is running a number of projects that include the acquisition of "Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships; the establishment of a docking and refuelling facility in Nanisivik; the stand-up of an Arctic Training Centre in Resolute Bay; and the expansion and modernization of the Canadian Rangers Program,"

The operation that began two days ago builds "on the success achieved in other recent Eastern Arctic sovereignty operations including Operation NANOOK 08 and 07, Operation LANCASTER (1) in 2006, and Operation HUDSON SENTINEL in 2005 (2)," National Defence said. These Eastern Arctic sovereignty operations are completed by the Operation NUNAKPUT (3) annually conducted by Canadian Forces in the Western Arctic, and by Operation NUNALIVUT (4) in the High-Arctic. read in extenso 'The Canadian Forces in the North'

The joint operation is three-tiered. Firstly it focuses on sovereignty patrolling with maritime surveillance patrols that extend through the Hudson and Davis Straits, and aerial reconnaissance missions conducted over much of Canada’s Arctic territory and northern land and air approaches. The main objective is "to ensure the monitoring of Canada’s territory and aerial and maritime approaches, including in the Arctic, in order to detect threats to safety and security,"

Secondly, the operation focuses on a military exercise involving sea, land and air forces, the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada. It includes diving operations and an anti-submarine warfare component for control at sea. On the ground, the Arctic-survival-skilled Canadian Rangers will act as guides, experts on the land, and provide predator control. And thirdly, an integrated whole of government exercise takes place in order to improve inter-departmental coordination and to enable the departments and agencies of multiple levels of government (municipal, territorial and federal) to work together.

To sum up, Canada wants to demonstrate it is fully capable of controlling its northern territory that begins at the 60th parallel and includes the entire Arctic Archipelago, which reaches as far north as the Lincoln Sea in the east. “The presence in our North of the Canadian Forces and other departments shows our Government’s commitment to protecting and demonstrating control over the air, land and sea within our jurisdiction, and responding to emergencies in support of the territorial government,” said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway.

"Around fifteen other government department and agencies would be participating in Operation NANOOK 09" a source told ISRIA. "The purpose is to develop and refine the inter-agency relationships that underpin the whole-of-government approach to Arctic sovereignty. This is a process that started in 2007 and that helped Canada better coordinate its military and political means to confirm arctic sovereignty" said the source. Canada enhanced its capabilities in line with renewed commitment to maintaining a presence in the region. Global warming combined with the increasing demand for shorter trade routes, fossil fuels, and minerals made the Arctic an interest of strategic significance, not only for Canada but for all the countries in the area.

Eight nations have interests in the Arctic region (Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States) and the competition among them seems to heighten as much as the interest in the search for new energy resources accelerates. Everything that happens in the Arctic can potentially impact Canada's national security since it represents 40 per cent of Canada’s landmass and more than 19,000 islands in the Arctic Archipelago with an estimated population of 108,000 inhabitants.

(1) Operation LANCASTER was conducted along the eastern and northern coasts of Baffin Island in August 2006 and included representation from several other government departments including the Canadian Ice Service, RCMP, Parks Canada Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Canadian Coast Guard.

(2) Operation HUDSON SENTINEL was a joint sovereignty operation involving the deployment of navy, army and air force personnel and resources and took place in Hudson Bay in August 2005.

(3) The NUNAKPUT operations are conducted in the Western Arctic and are integrated JTFN operations that take place each summer in cooperation with the Canadian Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The aim of the operation is to exercise sovereignty and practice interoperability, focusing on the Beaufort Sea region including Herschel Island.

(4) The Operation NUNALIVUT series are enhanced Ranger sovereignty patrols. The operation employs the unique capabilities of the Canadian Rangers to support JTFN operations in the extreme environment of the High Arctic, as Ranger snowmobile patrols provide a presence and demonstrate a response capability in the most remote areas of the North.

Photo credit: 14 Aug 2007, HMCS FREDERICTON, HMCS CORNER BROOK appears out of the fog near Baffin Island during OP Nanook 07. MCpl Blake Rodgers, Formation Imaging Services Halifax, Nova Scotia

last updated on 8 August 2009

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