Arctic-wide Inuit group wants to recapture North Warning contract

If partnership wins bid, Inuit consortium would become majority owners

The Cam Main station at Cambridge Bay, a long-range radar installation that’s part of the North Warning System. Pan Arctic Inuit Logistics Corp. and ATCO Frontec announced earlier this week that they will bid on a contract to operate and maintain the NWS. (Photo by Jane George)

By Jim Bell

With its non-Inuit joint-venture partner, a pan-Arctic Inuit business consortium said earlier this week they plan to recapture the North Warning System operation and maintenance contract they lost in 2014.

The Inuit group, called Pan Arctic Inuit Logistics Corp., or PAIL, is a partnership formed by most of the Inuit birthright firms within Inuit Nunangat, stretching from Nunatsiavut in the east to the Inuvialuit settlement region in the west.

PAIL and ATCO Frontec each own 50 per cent of Nasittuq Corp. That company won the lucrative North Warning system contract in 2001 and held it until 2014, when they lost it to a company called Raytheon.

At that time, the federal government said that by going with Raytheon’s bid, the government would save $13.8 million a year compared with the previous PAIL-ATCO Frontec deal.

But now, the PAIL-ATCO Frontec partnership says they’re ready to take that contract back.

“In ATCO, we have found a highly competent partner that understands the North and acknowledges the central role of Inuit within it,” said Patrick Gruben, chair of the Inuvialuit Development Corp. and president of PAIL, in a news release.

And in their news release, the two companies said that should Nasittuq Corp. win the contract, PAIL would become a majority owner. That’s under the terms of a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, that the two companies recently signed.

“While Inuit have enjoyed a long-standing association with ATCO, I don’t view this MOU as just an extension of an existing partnership—instead, it reflects an evolution in how we will work together going forward,” Gruben said.

This map shows the extent of the North Warning System, as it was envisioned by Canada and the United States in 1987. (DND image)

In the fall of 2018, the Inuit companies that compose PAIL formed an organization called the Inuit Development Corporation Association, set up for the express purpose of lobbying for federal government contracts. Gruben is chair of that association.

Should they win the contract, Nasittuq would be in charge of operating and maintaining 47 different NWS sites in the Canadian Arctic, and three facilities in Ontario.

They still hold a contract to provide support services to the Canadian Forces signals intelligence and weather station at Alert on Ellesmere Island.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Gerald Saunders on

    Yes, it will be a welcome return for the north.

  2. Posted by Lincoln Elson on

    I would definitely like to work with Nasittuq again. I worked with Nasittuq when they first won the contract and continued working with the company until they lost the contract to Raytheon/CBO. Nasittuq is a great company to work for. Excellent relationship with all employees, logistically always on top of any and all problems that arose from working in very adverse northern isolated job sites. From project start to finish, work was completed in a safe and company/employee respect that would be hard to find anywhere else.

  3. Posted by Jay jay on

    I know nasittuq. The Inuit do not need that company, they can run the sites on their own….

    I dont know how they expect to train new inuit, because they sure never gave other people there a chance.

    • Posted by Johnny McKay on

      Yea, i saw one of the industrial relation board rulings about nasittuq and it described nasittuq as less than forthright, and not above reproach from a labour standard. So i would imagine the company will need to improve itself.

  4. Posted by Space on

    It’s not about radar stations anymore. It’s about space. Local Inuit have made significant contributions going back to the 1800s with fundamental influences on earliest colonial polar scientific research from field operations to HQs. All the way to today in telecommunications, broadcasting and satellite research, local Inuit concepts and ideas were borrowed without attribution and applied, for profit by others. Now, it is time for a return on those investments for locals, starting with real ownership and dividends, and for kids into the future, the real opportunity for ongoing employment in high-value jobs along the whole supply chain and from across all relevant procurements.

    • Posted by Inquisitive on

      What unattributed contributions to polar science, satellite research and telecommunications are you talking about?

    • Posted by Qanu? on

      “local Inuit concepts and ideas were borrowed without attribution and applied, for profit by others.”
      I’m a bit surprised by this comment. Would love to hear an explanation too.

  5. Posted by Northern Guy on

    As opportunities dwindle in other parts of the world, massive multinationals like Raytheon will look to the north more frequently. Unfortunately traditional northern businesses and birthright corporations overly-fattened on many decades of exclusive and monopolistic government contracts that were grossly over-priced have no idea what it takes to compete and therefore will never win a value for money RFP. The reality of the global marketplace is finally coming to the north.

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