“Operation Iqaluit” achieves its objectives

Armed forces members enjoy fun tour of Iqaluit

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

Their orders, as read to them by Col. Chris Whitecross, the new commander of Joint Task Force North, were simple: meet, mingle, have fun – and respect your hosts.

So began Armed Forces Day in Iqaluit this past Saturday, a “day” that lasted an entire weekend.

The event actually kicked off the previous evening with a barbecue at Commissioner Ann Hanson’s residence, and didn’t end until Sunday, with a Canada Games torch ceremony and the early evening departure of HMCS Montreal for a military exercise in Lancaster Sound.

In between, members of the Armed Forces conducted displays, attended breakfasts and barbecues, entertained elders and youth, and toured the community.

This included most members of Joint Task Force North. Headquartered in Yellowknife, the JTFN is northern Canada’s section of the Armed Forces, and its 140 or so members include regular forces personnel, part-time reservists, and civilian workers.

Their ranks were augmented by a platoon of “Van Doos,” as the Royal 22nd Regiment is known in English Canada, crew members from the HMCS Montreal, crew members from an Aurora surveillance plane, a brass marching band, and squads of Rangers and cadets.

The JTFN, which is in charge of Ranger patrols and Cadet groups in northern Canada, has seen its role expanded this year to provide better assistance to civilian government agencies in emergency preparedness, search and rescue work, pollution detection, and fisheries patrols.

To that end, most of the Armed Forces units headed to Pond Inlet this week for Operation Lancaster, a multi-faceted exercise that will feature co-operation between the armed forces and civil agencies such as the Canadian Ice Service, Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard and the RCMP.

Operation Lancaster, which complements Operation Beaufort, a military exercise in the Western Arctic that ended last week, started Aug. 12 and will continue until Aug. 25.

It’s the most northerly operation the Canadian Navy has conducted in decades, a feature that Prime Minister Stephen Harper pointed to in his declaration of commitment to Canadian sovereignty in Iqaluit this past Saturday.

“We always need to know who is in our waters and why they’re there. We must be certain that everyone who enters our waters respects our laws and regulations, particularly those that protect the fragile Arctic environment,” Harper said in a speech intended to launch Operation Lancaster.

Harper said there is no question that Canada’s border extends from the northern tip of Labrador to the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, extends along the Queen Elizabeth Islands to the Beaufort Sea, and from there extends to the Canada-Alaska border.

And he insisted that Canada’s jurisdiction extends for 200 miles outwards from that line, as set out in the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention, a document that he urged the United States to ratify.

“I have been very clear in asserting that Canada intends to enforce its rights under the Law of the Sea,” Harper said.

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