This year's exercise: a rescue effort after a mock cruise ship misadventure off south Baffin

Sequel planned for Operation Nanook


Expect to see hundreds of military personnel descending on South Baffin once again this summer for a reprise of Operation Nanook.

The Canadian Forces, RCMP, Coast Guard and numerous federal and territorial government agencies will be joined by several Coast Guard and Navy ships for an operation that will take place in Iqaluit, Kimmirut and Pangnirtung this August.

"It's very difficult process that we don't get to exercise in a scenario very often unless we're doing it for real," Brig. Gen. Christine Whitecross said. "It's going to be an excellent training opportunity for a whole lot of people."

Whitecross was in Iqaluit earlier this month for a meeting of the Arctic Security Working Group, which brings together military staff, government officials, academics and industry representatives to talk about Arctic sovereignty issues in meetings closed to the public.

This year's operation, which will also include the Canadian Rangers, will see personnel responding to a mock cruise ship run aground off the South Baffin coast. That's a scenario that has become top of mind for military planners, with melting sea ice raising the possibility of a major increase in marine traffic through the North.

Soldiers will play the role of stranded passengers while other personnel figure out how to get them off the foundering ship and taken care of once they reach dry land.

It's not a radical departure from last year's Operation Nanook, which saw the Navy using a coast guard ship to take down a boat hauling drugs through the Hudson Strait.

But Whitecross said the various agencies always need practice working together in the Arctic.

Michael Byers, an international law professor at the University of British Columbia who's a member of the ASWG, agreed there's no point in increasing the degree of difficulty by trying more complicated exercises in more remote locations.

"They want to have an exercise that can actually succeed," he said. "And that makes sense because you don't want to put your personnel into dangerous situations."

"Exercises are in some ways dangerous for personnel and equipment and you have to balance the risk against the actual need."

The general won't get to see this year's Operation Nanook first hand: she's leaving her job in June as the commander of Joint Task Force North after two years for a new post at Canadian Operational Support Command in Ottawa.

She's to be replaced by Col. Dave Millar, a former aerospace engineer with the air force, who has worked with details of CF-18 fighter jets in Inuvik, Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit in the 1980s and 1990s.

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