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National Defence sticks to sovereignty guns

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 7, 2012

The Department of National Defence says a downgrade of the scale of the Nanisivik Naval Facility does not mean the Canadian government is giving up on Arctic sovereignty.

"The additional knowledge gained since the original announcement of the project helped determine the best possible balance between the cost for Canadian taxpayers and our commitment to Arctic sovereignty," DND communication advisor Mike Graham stated in an e-mail, noting the government is increasing its commitment in the North through various other departments.

"We have established two new satellite ground stations in the Arctic, we are establishing a new Arctic training centre for the Canadian Armed Forces at Resolute Bay, there is a new army reserve company in Yellowknife and we are increasing the size of the Canadian Rangers to a total of 5,000 members," Graham stated.

The comments came after the Nunavut Impact Review Board was told in February that plans for office, accommodation and industrial space was being scaled back to one unheated storage building with minimal staffing. The facility will also store one season's worth of fuel - half that originally planned - to supply the $3-billion Arctic offshore patrol ships and other Government of Canada vessels, project manager Rodney Watson stated in a letter to NIRB dated Feb. 24.

In the April 2 edition of Nunavut News/North, Ron Elliott said the downgrade may actually be better for the nearby community of Arctic Bay, noting the facility would require the support of the hamlet for utilities, such as water and sewage.

"Any arrangements that may develop will be fair and agreeable to all parties," Graham said when asked whether the facility downgrade will put extra burdens on the hamlet or the Government of Nunavut."DND will continue to provide the Government of Nunavut and the Hamlet of Arctic Bay regular updates on the design and progress of the project."

Graham said his department has yet to determine how many people will work at the facility, but hamlet residents will be part of the plans where possible.

"From the outset of this project, there has always been consideration to involve local residents to the maximum extent possible," he said. "This intention remains unchanged. However, it is too early to provide specific detail on what opportunities will be available."

Graham said the Navy's patrol ships have a 10-week window of operation in the region around Nanisivik, roughly from the end of July to the beginning of October. A new ship, the John G. Diefenbaker, will help the Coast Guard operate in the Arctic "during more seasons, over a larger area and in more difficult ice conditions," he said.

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