Military exercise in Canada’s Arctic targets human-smuggling ‘ecotourists’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with Gen. Walk Natynczyk, chief of the defence staff, as Defence Minister Peter MacKay looks on, after arriving in Churchill, Man. Thursday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will observe a military training operation in Hudson Bay today and the scenario involves Canadian Forces intercepting an ecotourism boat carrying illegal migrants who are attempting to enter Canada.

The huge simulation exercise will involve 650 land, sea, air and special forces members and is part of Operation Nanook 12’s month-long training exercise.

The annual operation in the North gives the Canadian Forces a chance to practice their skills in responding to emergency and security situations.

This year’s Nanook operation began Aug. 1, and with 1,250 personnel involved in total, it’s the biggest one yet. The cost for the entire operation is $16.5 million.

Harper will be aboard the HMCS St. John’s to observe Operation Nanook 12 along with Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Gen. Walt Natynczyk, chief of defence staff.

This operation has been taking place in the Eastern Arctic, in the Hudson Strait, and in Hudson Bay near Churchill, Man., where Harper will watch today’s exercises.

Another scenario is taking place in the Western Arctic in and around Inuvik and Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories. That practice situation will involve land and air forces.

Exercises anticipate threats

“Both scenarios will underline the domestic role played by the Canadian Forces in safeguarding the nation, deterring threats to our security, and responding to emergencies in the High North,” the department of national defence said in a news release when Nanook 12 began earlier in the month.

The Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, local officials and officials from Public Safety are all involved in the operation.

The scenario Harper will watch unfold mirrors the situations experienced in British Columbia in recent years where boats full of Tamil migrants arrived. The Conservative government has promised to crack down on human smuggling and has made several reforms to the refugee system.

Friday is the final day of the prime minister’s trip to the North. He is expected to deliver remarks after the military exercise is finished at the Port of Churchill.

Related Links:

Canada’s search for lost Arctic ship as much about politics as history, CBC News

Canadian Prime Minister commits $188M for new Arctic research centre, CBC News

Canadian PM announces more resource revenue for Yukon, CBC News

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