Military exercise in Arctic aims to send message without spreading COVID-19

Military exercise in Arctic aims to send message without spreading COVID-19

OTTAWA — Canada and some of its closest allies have kicked off a three-week naval exercise in the Arctic that aims to send a message of unity against potential adversaries in the North without spreading COVID-19 to local communities.

The training exercise known as Operation Nanook has been a mainstay for the Canadian Armed Forces since 2007 but this is the first year that the U.S., France and Denmark will all be participating as well.

Canadian and U.S. naval officers told reporters during a briefing Tuesday that the involvement of those other nations reflected the importance of co-operation among allies when it comes to military operations in an increasingly important part of the world.

Western countries as well as potential adversaries such as Russia and China have been steadily expanding their military footprints and activities in the region as climate change makes it easier to reach and operate in, raising concerns about the threat of a conflict.

“The message is the Arctic is strategically important, it’s becoming increasingly important and it’s important for our collective national security,” said Vice-Admiral Steven Poulin, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Atlantic area.

“And I think the participation is a reflection of a mutual commitment by the partners and allied nations to share goals to that end.”

Yet this year’s iteration of Operation Nanook is also smaller than past versions, which have included personnel and equipment from across the Canadian military, particularly the Canadian Rangers, as well as other federal departments.

Rear Admiral Brian Santarpia, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Maritime Forces Atlantic, said this year’s exercise will not include any land-based forces and focus almost exclusively on naval operations because of concerns about spreading COVID-19.

“Much of Nanook we decided not to conduct this year because we didn’t want to be a vector into our own remote populations, where they’re quite protected from COVID now just by that very fact of being remote,” Santarpia said.

The three Canadian navy ships and four foreign vessels participating will not make any stops in Canada’s Far North. Their only port call will be to Nuuk, Greenland, to refuel. Sailors will not be allowed off their ships.

Canada’s three territories have been largely spared from any COVID-19 outbreak, with only a handful of positive cases reported.

The Canadian and allied warships will focus most of their activities in the Davis Strait between Baffin Island and Greenland, which is considered part of the Northwest Passage.

Canada and the U.S. have been at odds for decades over whether the passage is Canadian or international waters, a question Santarpia, Poulin and Vice-Admiral Andrew Lewis, commander of the U.S. 2nd Fleet, studiously avoided.

“It’s a complex issue that involves more lawyers than naval officers and it has a lot to do with interpretations of international law,” Santarpia said.

“This exercise is really designed to let us work better together than we already do and we’ll let the lawyers worry about the rest of it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2020.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Military

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

2020 Ponoka business awards
Ponoka chamber 2020 Business Award winners

The Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce 2020 Business Awards were held… Continue reading

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owner found

Father and son found miniature horse while out for a walk at JJ Collett

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ponoka FCSS’ Empty Bowls sells out

For the first time ever, Ponoka Family and Community Support Services’ (FCSS’s)… Continue reading

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Most Read