Canadian Navy ships sail to the Arctic this week to launch the annual sovereignty and training mission called Operation Nanook.
The operation, which involves forces from the Navy, Army, Air Force, and the Canadian Rangers, focuses on Arctic sovereignty exercises and will continue until late August. Forces from the Royal Danish Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard are also taking part in the Canadian-led mission.
“Operation Nanook demonstrates our Government’s commitment to Canada’s sovereignty and cooperation in the Arctic region,” Canadian Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay said in a statement.
“With world attention on the region on the rise and with an increasing travel into and over the vast territory of Canada’s north, our government has made it a priority to enhance the Canadian Forces’ operational capability in the Arctic.”
One aspect of the operation, an annual exercise since it first started in 2007, focuses on responding to major air and marine disasters. Other groups will be joining the Canadian Forces for this portion of the exercise, including the Canadian Coast Guard, the RCMP, and Public Safety Canada.
“Op Nanook brings together our men and women and those of other military and civilian agencies and provides realistic scenarios, such as the Major Air Disaster and maritime emergencies, in which they hone their skills and improve their capabilities,” General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, said in a statement.
With melting ice in the north expected to make the Arctic more navigable and open up access to resources, the region has become the focus of sovereignty claims.Tensions over the issue were heightened when a Russian submarine placed a Russian flag on the Arctic seabed under the North Pole in 2007.
An opinion poll conducted by Ekos Research for the Munk School earlier this year found that a majority of Canadians rank Arctic sovereignty as the most important foreign policy priority.