FEATURE INTERVIEW: Cleaning up Canada’s Arctic radar sites

The Distant Early Warning Line system, known as the DEW Line, was a Cold War-era radar site that operated across northern Canada from 1958 to 1992.

Since then, a major project has been underway to clean up the over 40 radar sites, getting rid of everything from garbage to contaminated soil.

Recently, cleanup was completed on the Cape Dyer DEW Line site on Baffin Island in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut.

The project took nine years to complete.

Logistical challenges

Harry Flaherty is the president of Qikitaaluk Logistics, the Inuit-owned company involved in the cleanup.

He said his first view of the Cape Dyer site was a disturbing one.

“It’s very unpleasant to see one of these sites,” Flaherty said citing the garbage, contaminants and abandoned drums left behind.

The cleanup is no easy task. The extreme weather and the remoteness of the sites makes these cleanups challenging, but Flaherty says it’s worth it in the end.

“(At the beginning) there’s no sign of wildlife,” he said. “No plear bears, no foxes no ptarmigan.”

“But at the end of those nine years you can see the wild life slowly coming back trying to inhabit the island, and this is the most rewarding of all the project.”

To find out more about the challenges of these cleanup projects,  I recently spoke with Harry Flaherty.

To listen to our conversation, click here.

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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