Canadian High Arctic Research Station set to officially open
Opening ceremony set for Wednesday, followed by community activities on Thursday
The long-awaited official opening of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay will take place this week, on Wednesday, Aug. 21, two years after it was first promised.
“The CHARS campus, now largely operational, is a state-of-the-art Arctic research facility that is bringing an enhanced level of research and analysis to Canada’s North,” reads the invitation, shared with Nunatsiaq News, sent on behalf of Polar Knowledge Canada President and CEO David Scott.
“The opening of the campus will be an auspicious opportunity to celebrate this national accomplishment.”
Wednesday’s events are open to the public. A free shuttle will run from the high school to the research station, beginning at 2 p.m.
The opening ceremonies start at 3 p.m., followed by entertainment, light refreshments and tours of the facility. Community activities are also in the works for Thursday.
First announced in 2007 by then-prime minister Stephen Harper, the $200-million facility will provide a home for Arctic sciences—whether long-term or temporary. It is fully stocked with laboratories and equipment to carry out a range of studies, as well as providing lodgings for researchers travelling through.
Along with its mandate to support visiting scientists, CHARS is pitched as a community space, with rooms dedicated to local workshops and gatherings, as well as outreach including summer science camps for youth and projects carried out in collaboration with Nunavut Arctic College.
Although an official opening, first slotted for July 1, 2017, had not yet happened, CHARS has been open to a limited degree for some time.
Chief scientist Martin Raillard told Nunatsiaq News that researchers from eight countries logged 2,200 research days in 2018, but the facility’s halls have been notably quiet even while it appeared to be complete.
There have been several complications along CHARS’ path to opening, including the temporary departure of Raillard that left the chief scientist position open.
Another was the transfer of ownership of the building from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to Polar Knowledge Canada, which required the latter to be organized as a Crown corporation.
“Upon completion of construction, we will proceed to the handover of the CHARS campus from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to Polar,” Marie-Eve LaRocque, manager of communications for Polar Knowledge told Nunatsiaq News in April. At the time, no date had been set for an official opening.
This spring, the facility’s 7,900-square-metre main building was offered up to organizations to use free of charge for meetings that aligned with the CHARS’ mandate to further Arctic research and knowledge.
This followed the gradual unveiling of different parts of the sprawling CHARS campus, including weekly public tours that started in January and a community open house that was held last July. Triplex residential units have also hosted visiting scientists during field seasons.
Dignitaries expected to attend the centre’s opening ceremony include Yvonne Jones, parliamentary secretary to the minister of intergovernmental and northern affairs and internal trade, on behalf of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett; Cambridge Bay MLA Jeannie Ehaloak; and Cambridge Bay Mayor Pamela Gross.