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Sovereignty goods for the North

Stephanie McDonald
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 13, 2007

NUNAVUT - During a stop in Resolute on Aug. 10, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Nanisivik would receive a deep-water port and Resolute would be home to a new year-round Arctic military training facility.

Also included in the announcement was news that 900 new members would bolster the Rangers' numbers.

Arctic Bay resident Clare Kines said locating the port in Nanisivik makes sense economically and practically.

"If they are going to have a port for Arctic sovereignty, Nanisivik is the most logical choice for it," he said.

Port facilities already exist in the former mining site, including a tank farm for ships to refuel. Additionally, Nanisivik sits at the entrance to the Northwest Passage, a thawing portion of the Arctic Ocean that is coveted internationally as a shipping route.

The location makes sense, but the money could be more wisely spent, Kines cautioned. What is needed, he said, is money for improving the lives of Northern residents and money to attract businesses and people to Nunavut's more remote communities.

The first step, he said, would be to reduce the cost of airfare, a move that would decrease the cost of groceries, health care, and government services.

"Sovereignty is built on people's lives that live in the North," he said. "The port is going to benefit Nunavut and the presence is going to benefit Nunavut, but really, the bulk of the money being spent will benefit southern Canada."

The ships that will use the future Nanisivik deep-water port will be built in the East Coast and Quebec, he noted.

University of British Columbia political science professor Michael Byers agreed.

"The federal government's Northern policies are directed primarily at southern audiences," he said.

The future Arctic training centre to be stationed in Resolute will allow Canadian Forces to be trained in cold weather conditions. The announcement was made on Harper's visit to the High Arctic community Friday.

It's a smart move, Byers said, as these same forces are called upon to perform search and rescue and disaster response missions. The centre will be able to accommodate 100 personnel, a large influx of people in a town of approximately 250 people.

"I'm happy we got it," Resolute recreation director Kidlapik Paniloo said. "Maybe there will be fewer problems here in the community."

The Rangers, whose ranks are to be boosted by 900 members, have helped patrol the North since 1948 and will continue to play a part in training southern forces.

While their role in Arctic sovereignty is largely symbolic, the program is "an excellent way to strengthen ties between the federal government and the people of Canada's North," Byers said.

The group passes on traditional knowledge to soldiers from Canada's south, something they do extremely well, Byers added.

"Taken together, the creation of the Canadian Forces Arctic Training Centre, the expansion and modernization of the Canadian Rangers and the development of Port Nanisivik will significantly strengthen Canada's sovereignty over the Arctic," Harper said.