Canadian High Arctic Research Station set to officially open

Opening ceremony set for Wednesday, followed by community activities on Thursday

A spiral staircase beckons upward on the first floor of the main science building at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station. This week, Polar Knowledge Canada will celebrate the official opening of the facility, which features Inuit art like that shown on the floor here, the last major piece done by Tim Pitsiulak of Cape Dorset before his death in December 2016. (Photo by Jane George)

By Nunatsiaq News

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.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Pitiful indeed on

    What’s pitiful is that this is coming 2 years late, and with such little fanfare. What’s with public notice of the opening being released only 2 days prior?!! The allegations of harassment against their president in national newspapers and seeing the chief scientist again on long term leave with no explanations to their staff is also a bit pitiful. Despite such great potential it seems like a really dysfunctional place.

  2. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    What about the jobs?

    There is so much nepotism going on down there and never any job postings to be seen.

    Great spot if you can get it. Little does anyone know what else is going on there

  3. Posted by Hmmmm on

    Two days notice in the community, a parliamentary undersecretary, its like this opening is so embarrassingly late no one wants to admit it is happening, i guess we should be glad we are finally getting this official day over with so we can all get on with the function of the buildings. It’s all a bit underwhelming as the halls remain empty of staff and the communtiy is left wondering what’s in it for us.

    • Posted by Westerner on

      It was packed with community members and dignitaries and was an overall great atmosphere for everyone from infant to elder. The notice was sufficient for the community to attend. No need for the negativity my friend.

  4. Posted by Ticked Off on

    Looks like a great empty place. What about all the promises of northern jobs? Nepotism is right.

    • Posted by Ticked In on

      If you get your PhD you’ll have a job for life.

  5. Posted by Research Days on

    Let’s see… Researchers logged 2,200 research days in 2018. 365 days in a year, 261 weekdays in a year, take away another 15 for Christmas and stat holidays, and… that makes an average of about 9 researchers per working day to get to 2,200 research days. Yeah, I’d say the halls seem quiet when you’ve got on average 9 researchers working in a 7,900 square metre facility.

  6. Posted by Mike on

    I wonder how much money they would have saved not putting in the spiral staircase

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