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Forward Operating Location Nanisivik Halifax’s Gateway to Canada’s Arctic

Sylvain Lescoutre
Sylvain Lescoutre
Abstract :

In an effort to strengthen territorial claims in the Arctic, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on 10 August 2007 that Canada would build a deep-sea military port in Nanisivik, Nunavut.  The port will enable the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to extend its operational range in the Arctic by enabling re-supply, refuel, and transfer of goods and personnel inside the eastern entrance of the Northwest Passage. Shortly thereafter, the federal government released the Canada First Defence Strategy (2008), and Canada’s Northern Strategy (2009), and committed to procuring Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) for the RCN to operate in northern waters.

The establishment of military sites in the Arctic is not new:

  • Canadian Forces Station Alert, located on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, has been collecting signal intelligence since the late-1950s; 
  • In 1970, Canada established a permanent military command in Yellowknife, which  continues to operate as the Joint Task Force North Headquarters; and
  • The Distant Early Warning - (DEW) Line was an integrated chain of radar and communication centres from western Alaska across the Canadian Arctic to Greenland  that Canada operated in cooperation with the United States under the NORAD Agreement from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s;.It has since been upgraded to the North Warning System. 

However, the designated deep-sea port in Nanisivik will be the RCN’s first permanent, albeit seasonal, Arctic naval facility. Its selection is noteworthy for Halifax as a potential future mounting base to Canada’s Arctic.

Nanisivik is located on the banks of the Strathcona Sound in Baffin Island, in the territory of Nunavut. The closest inhabited settlement, Arctic Bay, with a population of slightly over 800, is located 20 kilometres west of Nanisivik. The town of Nanisivik came to the forefront of the news when, in June 1974, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development signed an agreement with private industry to develop a lead-zinc mine. It was a pilot project to test the feasibility of conducting year-round mining in the Arctic, and it initially anticipated a twelve year production run. 

In fact, the mine began production in October 1976, and continued successfully for 26 years until 2002, when low zinc prices made it no longer profitable. The project employed, on average, 200 people, and, in addition to the construction of a deep-sea port, a town was purpose-built to support the operation of the mine. Since the mine closed, most of the facilities have been demolished, and Nanisivik’s population was reduced to zero.

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Forward Operating Location Nanisivik Halifax’s Gateway to Canada’s Arctic

Date Deposited : 08 Apr 2015 11:06

Last Modified : 08 Apr 2015 11:06

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Volume 13, Number 1, - 2013

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