Winter warfare centre in High Arctic quietly unveiled by Harper government

OTTAWA – The Harper government says its long-promised army winter warfare centre is finally open for business in Nunavut.

The Resolute Bay facility, first announced in 2007 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is a year-round centre shared with Natural Resources Canada that will serve as the army’s command post during operations in the Far North.

The government announcement, issued today with little fanfare, comes as the prime minister prepares to head north for his annual visit to the region.

Small contingents of up to 100 soldiers will be expected to train at the Resolute Bay centre for cold weather operations.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson says the centre, located 1,560 kilometres north of Yellowknife, N.W.T., provides an important presence in the Arctic and is a cornerstone of the Conservative government’s northern agenda.

Lt.-Gen. Marquis Hainse, commander of the Canadian Army, described the centre as a state-of-the-art facility with enough equipment and communication infrastructure to serve as a forward operating base, if needed.

Defence experts, government officials and even senior commanders have long said there is no military threat in the Arctic, but proponents consider the centre crucial as a warming climate increases the likelihood of search-and-rescue operations and disasters in the region.

Two years ago, a 737 passenger jet was travelling from Yellowknife to Resolute Bay when it crashed just outside the isolated community, killing 12 people and injuring three others.

The Conservatives long ago announced a series of other Arctic initiatives, including a deep water refuelling port for the navy in Nanisivik, Nunavut and light, armed naval icebreakers.

Many of those plans, including the port, remain in the development stages.